More and more I see companies who are backing up their data in quality ways, using a combination of good equipment, strong processes, and industry recommended best-practices. Make no mistake – I’m happy about this. But I’m also seeing many of these same companies who are considering their backup to be their disaster recovery plan. Unfortunately, no data backup, no matter how good, is a disaster recovery plan. Now, I’m not trying to preach about disaster recovery…well, okay, that’s a lie. I’m planning on doing a little preaching. But truly, there is a difference between a disaster recovery plan and standard data backup plan. Ultimately, disaster recovery is the means to an end with the “end” being business continuity. And everyone likes business continuity, right? So whether you decide to put together a full-blown disaster recovery plan or just stay with your current data backup, knowing the difference can save your business lots of money. Okay, I’m done preaching. Here’s some valuable information about what makes up a good disaster recovery plan, and how to put one together…
Note: A true disaster recovery plan includes phones, facilities, data, and more. I’m just focusing on the data portion of things in this article.
Generally, “disasters” come in three flavors:
- Hardware failure (bad hard drive, motherboard, network card, etc.)
- Software failure (“bluescreen” is a familiar term for a reason)
- Physical failure (flood, fire, etc.)
So let’s keep things simple. Good disaster recovery generally includes a mix of the following components:
- Quality data backup (preferably onsite and offsite)
Let’s explore each of these in a bit more detail.
- Onsite – use a hard drive backup system (preferably a quality internal/external chassis that has removable drives). In terms of reliability, ability to restore quickly, and length of service, hard drives are simply better than comparable tape systems.
- Offsite – Offsite backup solves a number of security & operational concerns, and is very cost effective these days (about $1 per GB per month is pretty common). Because it’s automated, you don’t need to worry about people remembering to take data offsite and you can control the amount of data that is backed up offsite.
Imaging: Imaging is the process of taking a “snapshot” of an operating system. When applied to server systems, the use of imaging can literally save tens of thousands of dollars in recovery costs. Imaging fails when it comes to restoring data granularly (a single e-mail, a single document, etc.), but for true disaster recovery, imaging can’t be beat.
Redundancy: Creating a network devoid of “single points of failure” is almost always too expensive to employ, but the concept can be used effectively to significantly reduce the chance and effect “failure” can have on your business. Some good uses of redundancy would be:
- Quality server design (multiple hard drives, fans, power supplies, etc.)
- Use of a quality SAN (Storage Area Network) in a virtualized server environment (VMware software is great in these environments)
- Server redundancy (two servers deployed in a fully redundant architecture). Stratus Avance is amazing software that accomplishes this at a price small and medium sized businesses can absorb easily.
- Network switches deployed in a balanced architecture with enough capacity to assume full connectivity should one fail.
The last piece of a good disaster recovery plan is the plan itself. Now that you have all these quality pieces in place, you still need to have a plan in place should a disaster strike. Here are a few good ways to start putting your plan together:
- Know your operational costs (by the day, by the hour, etc.). Granted, this is only half the equation (operational costs don’t include the impact downtime will have on your clients, nor does it include other opportunity costs you may have), but it is an absolutely necessary ingredient for creating your plan.
- Define your tolerance for downtime. Some businesses can handle a day or two of downtime. Others can’t afford an hour of downtime. Determining how your tolerance for downtime will go a long way in putting your disaster recovery plan together
- Define a budget. If you know your operational costs are $25,000 per day (for instance), you then have good information from which you can create an appropriate budget for avoiding downtime.
- Design your network appropriately (data backup, imaging, redundancy, etc.).
- Put it on paper. Just like everything else in business, putting it on paper helps make it happen.