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Guiding customers in DR planning

05 Oct 12

Resellers need to take an active role in guiding customers in their own cloud disaster recovery planning, says Charles Clarke, Veeam Asia Pacific systems engineering manager.

As the cloud market matures, resellers who engage with businesses on the cusp of transitioning need to understand the importance of effective disaster recovery in this kind of environment.

In particular, resellers need expert understanding of the supporting technologies of cloud infrastructure, namely virtualisation, so they can work with customers to ensure adverse circumstances are mitigated with minimal damage to the business, reputation and bottom line.

Resellers (looking to transform their business to offer cloud services) or customers (building private cloud environments) will not profit from applying physical world management techniques to virtual world problems. Without adapting to the virtual environment, performing traditional management tasks such as disaster recovery and backup becomes extremely slow and cumbersome.

Any lag both increases the potential for failure (eg slowing the ability to identify and remediate a problem occurring in a vast sea of virtual servers) and is costly in terms of the number of administrators needed to effectively service a cloud infrastructure. ROI will quickly erode if you need to keep employing more people to build and maintain a cloud as the business grows.

More than just back-up

A second thing to consider is that disaster recovery in a cloud environment extends beyond the mere implementation of a back-up tool. Customers should develop a plan for disaster recovery as well as a nuanced understanding of their own virtual environment, its fallibilities and the threats posed to it.

This plan, in turn, should be grounded in solid management tools and techniques. Resellers should assist customers in understanding and planning for any ‘capacity shift’ that might occur in the event of an outage.

This planning helps determine which workloads can be brought up with priority in the event of a failover. As resellers assist customers to configure their virtual infrastructure, they should also help them map it out so that they gain an understanding of the environment at a host, storage and network layer.

This gives customers the lay of the land before and after any outage: it’s much easier to put together a jigsaw puzzle if you can see the picture on the front of the box.

Once customers have enough knowledge to be able to identify the impact of an outage, they must be ready to do an autopsy. This will involve going through audit events to identify user and system-generated changes, and analyse performance statistics to see if failing hardware (or something else) caused the outage.

This is not so much about laying blame as it is about ensuring problems do not occur.

Ultimately, disaster recovery in a cloud environment requires virtual specific tools and extends far beyond traditional back-up. It requires planning and forensic knowledge of the customer’s virtualised landscape and a willingness to be the trusted advisor, guiding them through disaster recovery planning and outage preparation and analysis.

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