Peter Eicher is the Senior Product Specialist for Data Protection at Syncsort, a global software company. He can be found on Twitter at @Peter_Eicher.
According to the analysts and assorted experts at Wikibon, one of the biggest IT challenges this year for organizations of all sizes is data protection and disaster recovery. There is no question that the increasing occurrence of natural disasters in the past few years has pushed business continuity planning to the forefront of many organizations’ minds. They recognize the importance of having plans in place before a disaster strikes. A critical aspect of these plans is disaster recovery.
While business continuity can refer to anything in a business – legal, personnel, facilities, etc. – disaster recovery speaks directly to the IT function. The challenge that many organizations face with current systems is that they are not made to withstand the data deluge that has occurred in recent years, resulting in the need for a technology review and overhaul.
Data Backup & Data Recovery
But, let’s start by identifying some terms and technologies.
When discussing disaster recovery, there can be a disconnect between data backup and data recovery. Many organizations view backup as copies of data locally, while disaster recovery is defined as copies of data in a different location. By keeping these two processes separate, different technology and products need to be used. To join these processes, many organizations have turned to making tapes locally and then trucking them to an off-site location. This formula allows an organization to use the same backup solution, but can cause a lot of headaches.
In recent years, the answer has been to back-up at a different location using some form of electronic transport like data replication over IP networks or leveraging cloud technology. Electronic transport is safer, efficient and faster, but it results in using two separate processes (and usually separate products) to backup and recover data. If an organization has one process for backup and something completely different for disaster recovery, then it’s not maximizing efficiency in terms of time or money.
Organizations have looked to cloud as the cure-all when it comes to recovery, but this belief was quickly thwarted when massive thunderstorms earlier this year caused outages at one well-known cloud services provider. Organizations should look for technologies that work to join the two processes together, making disaster recovery a seamless part of the backup environment.
When determining the requirements of a backup and recovery solution, it’s important for organizations to understand how fast critical data and applications need to be restored. The gut reaction is and should be “as fast as possible,” but in all seriousness, there is a finite answer and business requirement for how fast applications and data need to be recovered. Once this is determined, an organization then needs to find ways to recover the data faster than is needed. The reason for this is that during a disaster event –- whether it’s a natural disaster, an outage or other occurrence - there will also be operational challenges that come up and accounting for this will ensure during times of crisis that recovery goals are met, even if there are operational hiccups along the way.
Snapshots and Catalogs
There is very little debate that the very best technology for fast recovery today is snapshot technology. In fact, it’s the fastest choice available by far and only one of a limited number of options for fast recovery. Snapshot technology captures data at a moment in time, similar to a camera. This means data can be captured and recovered quickly by providing an identifiable image of the data. However, it’s important to have a catalog of the data because without one, you could end up having to look through hundreds of snapshots to find the data you’re looking to recover.
Once recovery requirements are determined, it’s important to test your recovery environment. By doing so, you will raise your confidence level about being able to recover in an emergency situation. When looking for a solution, look for one that specifically allows you to test your recovery without interrupting ongoing protection of data. A few key things to look for are how easy it is to test your recovery and how long it will take. For example, you don’t want to find out that it takes days to test your recovery after your organization has invested in the technology.
Data protection and disaster recovery are serious concerns that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s easy for organizations to become overwhelmed when creating a disaster recovery plan as it can require an overhaul of technology, particularly in today’s Big Data environments. By looking for technologies and solutions that not only streamline the process but also provide quick and easy recovery, organizations can effortlessly create a disaster recovery plan and be confident in the wake of any disaster.
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