Hoping a disaster never happens is not a strategy for dealing with company IT disasters that, for many modern organizations, means business screeching to a halt.
Tape backup has traditionally been a solid option for disaster recovery with approximately three quarters of the world’s data protected by copying it to magnetic tape and shipping it off to some secure offsite location for storage. But it could take hours, days or weeks to restore the data from tapes – which is often more than a company can stand.
If done correctly, Disaster Recovery as a Service can decrease the time and effort it takes to store and retrieve data, and, in the event of a DR event, quickly reunite it with the systems businesses rely upon. Overall, it can often be cheaper.
IT solutions and managed services provider Logicalis recently released a whitepaper (PDF) on the technologies that are making developing a DR plan “less scary.” What’s really scary, afterall, is that despite the options that exist, many businesses lack a DR plan.
Logicalis US Protection Services practice manager David Kinlaw provides some insight into the new challenges and opportunities surrounding DR, and why companies should understand how DR fits in with their changing business requirements.
The Changing Role of Tape Backup
Magnetic tape backup has been the traditional choice for many organizations. For some, it’s become ingrained. “It’s culture,” says Kinlaw. “People believe that tape is where it needs to be and it’s their unit for long-term storage retention.”
Many new businesses consider the benefit of cloud options, but older enterprises may simply use whatever method has already been in place. Tape could be adequate for long-term storage but all the proper procedures and protocols must be in place, and meet with an organization’s changing needs.
Kinlaw also notes that the price of disk-based retention has come down significantly over the past five years, so tape isn’t necessarily a cheaper option.
As Data Proliferates, Retention Shouldn’t Cause Confusion
Email is relatively easy to archive because there’s usually only one version of each message, but not all business data is so easily archived.
For instance, a business may depend on complicated spreadsheets that are sent around or stored in multiple locations. If the old versions are never deleted, this can easily create multiple iterations of the same spreadsheets with out-of-date data.
Without an archiving solution with a single retention policy, these multiple copies of data can create confusion – and the impact of this across an organization could be easily exponential for each spreadsheet.
Now, as more businesses deal with images, video, embedding and more, this problem is further complicated.
Kinlaw says, “We live in a society where we think we have to keep everything,” and yet not everything, from a DR perspective, has to be – or should – be saved forever.
DR is about Knowing what Data a Business Needs to Run
Kinlaw says it’s important that DR is treated as a critical business decision, not just a technical one.
Some of the key factors in a DR plan are determining what data needs to be retained (known as the Recovery Point Objective or “RPO”) and how quickly it needs to recover from a data loss event (the Recovery Time Objective or “RTO”). An organization will have different requirements based on what data it uses to operate, but also regulatory, statutory and legal requirements specific to their industry.
This sometimes creates a difference in how the data retained for operation and the data retained for regulatory obligations is treated. Kinlaw says, “Not all organizations, other than for compliance regulations, have an information lifecycle management policy in place that identifies the full-scale data retention policy for all data.” And this is an issue because business needs could, in fact, take precedence over or exceed those of regulatory requirements.
DR is Still Relevant in a Cloud World
As we increasingly see services such as cloud storage as a way to supply crucial business information, it’s important to note that data backup is simply not a comprehensive information and application recovery solution. “If you’re running in the cloud, it doesn’t give you an automatic disaster recovery scenario,” says Kinlaw.
“When doing DR in the cloud, you’re not just buying a landing point; you’re buying a service.” says Kinlaw, who characterizes Logicalis’ solution as a “virtual big red button” that you press when a disaster happens. When they press it, the DR team starts failing over their IT environment and bringing their systems back online.
The Logicalis cloud is also fortified to ensure no data is lost, says Kinlaw. “Every piece of data that comes into our cloud is backed up 100 percent both for our protection and our customer’s protection.”
Even while running in the cloud, hoping a disaster won’t happen is an extremely risky venture.
In a recent survey of 356 IT managers, VMware admins and systems admins, more than a quarter of respondents had experienced some kind of technology outage in the last year.
A DR plan that makes use of new cloud services where needed should deal with the scary and unpredictable nature of disasters, and should inspire confidence that the organization will recover from any incident.