Think again about your Disaster Recovery strategy

By Martin Brown, Senior Director of Enterprise Sales UK, Symantec

Secondary sites for business continuity and disaster recovery have been part of the enterprise computing equation for decades, but only recently has their importance commanded top-line visibility. Specifically, in the Summer of 2006, the UK floods and previously in August 2005, Hurricane Katrina gave business executives and IT managers a collective shock: these natural disaster severely impacted the IT infrastructure and network facilities across the globe, affecting the primary and backup IT facilities of many organisations. The wholesale confusion that ensued in many cities brought into sharp focus the need for comprehensive business continuity plans, incorporating secondary data centre sites located far enough away so as to be untouched by the disaster affecting the primary data site. However, many IT organisations believe that secondary data centres are inherently expensive and impractical for all but the largest enterprises.

Today, new technologies are available to help enterprises better achieve business continuity in the chaos and devastation that natural and man-made disasters leave in their wake. This disaster recovery (DR) strategy can also be an extension of the local high availability (HA) solution the organisation already has in place, it can address causes of downtime like user error that most IT managers rarely think about when devising their DR plan. Automated solutions for configuration management, clustering, provisioning, and server virtualisation are available now, making secondary data centres a cost-effective option that can operate in a streamlined, cost-effective manner. In addition to automating failover and recovery functions, these same tools can also help administrators meet stringent system availability requirements by helping to minimise downtime.

The following strategies can help enterprise IT organisations implement robust high availability and disaster strategies that maximise system availability for day-to-day operations.

Solve problems faster: Traditionally, one of the key challenges in executing timely disaster recovery was a delay in alerting IT staff to an outage, and subsequent problem diagnosis. Advanced clustering technology notification and reporting capabilities can pinpoint when an outage occurs, and immediately notify administrators of a problem. Clustering technology then takes immediate action by starting up applications at the secondary data centres and connecting users to the new data centre. Administrators can then use configuration management tools to diagnose the cause of the downtime.

Automate recovery processes: For many organisations, system recovery is a manual process. Pressure builds on administrators as time, revenue, and customer loyalty slip away, and the potential for human error rises. An automated approach, such as high availability clustering, eliminates vast amounts of downtime compared to a traditional manual recovery process. If a system fails in the primary data centre, the software can restart the application automatically on another server.

Test your DR plan: Recent studies have shown that few companies test their DR plans on a regular basis, and as a result, most companies have little faith that their DR plans will work when needed. Companies have been reluctant to conduct DR testing because testing often involves bringing down production systems and mobilising a large segment of the work force, forcing employees to work during inconvenient hours such as weekends or nights. With automated failover capabilities, IT organisations can test recovery procedures using a copy of the production data – without interrupting production, corrupting the data, or risking problems upon restarting a production application. This capability means that tests can be run during business hours instead of over the weekend, reducing staff overtime.

Extract value from secondary sites: For most enterprise IT organisations, secondary sites are viewed strictly as cost centres, sitting idle much of the time. New advances in server provisioning software allow more value to be extracted from secondary sites, enabling them to be used for test development, quality assurance, or even less critical applications. If a disaster strikes and the primary data centre goes down, administrators can use provisioning software to automatically reprovision server resources to match the production environment. With the flexibility to dynamically reconfigure and reallocate resources, the secondary site becomes a resource that can be used for multiple purposes the majority of the time, but can be quickly reverted to its backup designation when needed.

Across industries, enterprise IT organisations have been made highly aware of the devastating impact that natural and man-made disasters can have on business continuity. Secondary data centres have long been viewed as expensive and impractical for all but the largest enterprises, but with innovative new high availability and disaster recovery software is available to allow IT organisations to consider a secondary site as a viable choice.

Now, more than ever, the time is right for enterprise IT organisations to rethink DR strategies and enhance their business continuity plans with a secondary data centre.

Symantec (UK) Ltd is exhibiting at Storage Expo 2008 the UK’s definitive event for data storage, information and content management. Now in its 8th year, the show features a comprehensive FREE education programme and over 100 exhibitors at the National Hall, Olympia, London from 15 - 16 October 2008

Source: StoragePR