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It’s crunch time for DR

01 Oct 2010

Disaster recovery is a big topic and it’s defined differently by many organisations. It encompasses backup, restoration, replication and automated recovery. However, companies need to consider carefully the types of "disasters” that commonly occur before finalising a disaster recovery strategy. This opens a significant opportunity for resellers to work with customers on the best outcome for their businesses.

In a disaster recovery situation, the ultimate goal is to maintain the availability of applications. That needs to be balanced by using the right set of tools for the specific job. Critical to consider are concepts like data importance or business criticality, budget, time to deploy, operational capability and costs of downtime.

Resellers with expertise in disaster recovery and availability can thrive in this area, if they are in a position to offer specialised strategies and become a trusted advisor for their customers.

While any application availability solution should be based on business requirements, this does not usually attract the attention it deserves. Instead, disaster recovery solutions are often designed and propagated based on inherited requirements that were not originally specified in consultation with the business, have not been adequately reviewed by business-level risk managers, nor be appropriate in the current regulatory, corporate or technical environments.

The unfortunate fact is that disaster recovery, like insurance, is an aspect of risk management and therefore, every dollar spent on backup is a dollar that cannot be spent on IT projects, which have the potential to improve the bottom line. As a result, it is important for IT managers to ensure that resources spent on data protection are not wasted on ineffective and outdated strategies.

In addition to traditional backup, some businesses also save backup data to tape and send them offsite, or replicate mission critical data synchronously to an alternate data centre. The advantage of these data protection regimes is that they are well known and serve as a general ‘catch-all’ solution, so are often signed off by management as ‘standard IT practice’. However, there are numerous examples of their inadequacy – over 25% of enterprise IT organisations report being dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with tape-based backup infrastructures. Also, synchronous replication is renowned for often replicating corrupted data across two sites.

While outages caused by ‘acts of God’, terrorist attacks and utility failures garner significant press coverage, the more mundane, day-to-day causes of downtime go unreported and generally un-noticed. Furthermore, a quick Google search on the phrase, "causes of data loss” turns up far more results on what could be more accurately described as ‘illegal data access’. This kind of reporting results in significant amounts of resources being dedicated to solve problems that may never occur.

So if your real problems aren’t likely to be stray meteorites, crazed freedom fighters, or hackers employed by shadowy organised crime syndicates, then how should an IT organisation determine exactly how and where to spend its disaster recovery dollars, especially when there is good evidence to support that human errors may be the largest cause of data loss in enterprise environments?

Before a disaster recovery plan is implemented, a company should review thoroughly its failure and data loss scenarios and whether the current and proposed methods of mitigation represent the best return on investment for the business. This is where resellers have the opportunity to become a trusted advisor to their customers in an area which is specialised and can be critical to the success of a business. Working with customers to determine their specific business needs, and develop a tailored disaster recovery strategy, is an open market for channel businesses wanting to take the step and become qualified to do so.

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