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Create resilience with automated disaster recovery

By Ralph Wynn.

Among the hard facts IT leaders don’t want to hear is this one: traditional data protection and backup tools can’t ensure business continuity. That has never been truer than it is today, when the average data center / centre is a complex, hybrid landscape of virtual and physical servers, cloud-based applications and miscellaneous network connections. In such environments, the manual process of bringing not just data but complete services back online can take hours, days or even longer depending on the extent of a disaster. That disruption translates into productivity and revenue losses that can imperil the future of a business. True disaster recovery – the kind that gets data centers back up and running in minutes – must be automated to create resilient IT operations.

Virtualization has inherently changed the data center. Unfortunately, the traditional data protection and backup solutions upon which most organizations continue to rely cannot accommodate those changes. For example, single-point protection solutions like single-server replication, virtual tape libraries, physical tape or image-based backup fail to take into account the services and the application infrastructures upon which data resides. The result is that data centers that rely on single-point protection have disaster recovery and business continuity plans that are only as good as their last backups or images.

In the meantime, organizations that rely on traditional DR approaches essentially have no plan to restore applications or services. When they are forced to do so with their outmoded solutions, their teams must complete any number of manual steps, which can range from just a few to hundreds. Each step can require reboots of the servers, applications and infrastructure. That process itself is daunting in terms of time and personnel hours, but IT teams who do it must also grapple with the repercussions of missed steps along the way, which often happens when teams, under the strain of downtime, make simple mistakes.

What downtime means to today’s businesses

When IT gambles on traditional DR fixes, it’s playing with a lot more than Monopoly money. That’s because data and IT services represent the lifeblood of every company. When a server, application or data center goes down, employees become unproductive. Customer inquiries go unanswered, and the help desk is overwhelmed with requests. Worse yet, revenues dip – often precipitously.

Most businesses report that they can’t afford more than four hours of unscheduled downtime without taking painful hits to their bottom line. Whether that downtime stems from data loss or corruption, equipment failure, or complete site outage due to natural disaster, the results are the same: lost productivity, tarnished reputation, steep technical costs and hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars lost per hour.

Protecting services, continuity through automation

A data center is more than just data; it’s a collection of services, and comprehensive DR must account for that reality. To create a resilient IT infrastructure, companies must identify the most essential applications, systems, servers and data in their environments and protect them with technologies that ensure high availability. These include deduplication and continuous data protection technologies that allow companies to take snapshots of data, back it up more often and replicate it to offsite data centers, reducing data loss to almost nothing.

By automating DR, data centers ensure that services come back online in the specific order and under the correct processes and procedures, without relying on staff to complete dozens or hundreds of manual steps. With a single click, automated DR can take information from crashed A and B servers at C location, send it to D location, and reinstall it on the virtual E machine using the relevant computer language. This approach brings back not just data but complete services, eliminates the risk of human error and gets companies back to business-as-usual in minutes rather than hours or days.

Automation also enables IT to test complete services before an actual disaster happens. Such testing highlights potential DR flaws so data center managers can address them, and the process doesn’t affect the production site or data replication occurring between various sites. Data center managers gain the peace of mind that business continuity won’t be compromised if a disaster were to occur. Instead of getting overwhelmed by the incremental but necessary steps of recovery, IT leaders can instead focus on the strategic work of configuring and testing their DR plans; determining the best locations for hot, warm and cold DR sites; and future proofing the IT environment.

IT teams might take months to create their continuity plans, but they need to be able to execute those plans in minutes. With hundreds of steps required to get application, hardware, network and storage assets back online, manual recovery is not only too slow, it’s also too prone to human error. By contrast, automated recovery performs all of these steps in a risk-free, predictable and rapid fashion, curbing downtime and ensuring service continuity.

Author

Ralph Wynn, technical director of product marketing for FalconStor Software, is a storage professional with more than 15 years of experience in product management, marketing, support and deployment. Prior to joining FalconStor, Ralph worked at Bocada, Synscort and Symantec.

•Date: 14th May 2013 • World •Type: Article • Topic: ICT continuity

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