Protect the fort with a DR plan

Protect the fort with a DR plan

Imagine losing all of your data from hardware failure, natural disaster, software corruption or even human error.

That’s the gut-wrenching scenario for many organisations if proper disaster recovery (DR) or business continuity (BC) planning is not a priority. In that vein, companies need to implement proper backup and ensure regular testing and update procedures in order to protect the fort.

Indeed, many enterprises have inadequate BC and DR programs, according to Gartner, and often view it as an insurance policy against which they never need to collect on.

In a recent IDC survey, 38 per cent of respondents gave their DR plans a thumbs down rating, calling it undeveloped or seriously undeveloped.

In a bid to help organisations and government not get burned by natural disasters, technology failures or criminal acts, vendors are rolling out solutions and services tips to resellers.

In short, disaster recovery ensures the environment is available and minimises the amount of time required to bring network systems back to full functionality. So how can resellers help? Veritas’ technical account manager and strategic technical architect, Simon Elisha, said the first step was for partners to simply ask the right questions.

“Partners add tremendous value by sifting out the right information because most organisations don’t know what to do,” he said. “We help partners expand the conversation in this area, which could lead to many up-selling opportunities for the reseller.”

When implementing a formal DR plan, the small details often got lost in the shuffle, Elisha said.

“A lot of organisations focus on the big picture — the scary DR scenarios, but forget about the local aspects,” he said. “They plan for flooding or a datacentre crash, but not the complete system failure of a server.”

This could also be detrimental in terms of lost productivity and downtime.

Veritas recommends the following points be considered when adopting a DR plan: Ensuring regular testing procedures; moving data off-site; ensuring regular update procedures; and setting aside increased budgets for backup.

Business case

Resellers can also perform a fire-drill (a trial fail-over process) for customers, testing the secondary site on a practice run.

Consulting was the key to helping organisations minimise risk, according to Tim Smith, Hitachi Data Systems’ (HDS) marketing manager.

He said resellers could help organisations choose from the backup/recovery, availability (clustering), storage infrastructure and data repository menu.

“The next step is to build the business case, determine the ROI, and uncover the benefit,” Smith said.

Resellers could then offer health checks such as an annual medical of the overall availability of the environment, he said, and targeted consulting for business continuity (what needs to happen to improve the availability). They could also implement the overall solutions.

StorageTek was also touting a range of products and services to all segments of the market, StorageTek’s channel account manager, Mark Edwards, said.

“It’s not just at the top-end anymore,” he said. “DR is becoming something smaller players are looking at and questioning, ‘What do I need to do to stay in business?’ The current state of the world has sparked insecurities and changed the way people view the market.”

Edwards said there was enormous opportunity for channel partners to learn about how a company stored its data and its overall storage infrastructure.

“Companies don’t know how it’s stored or even the amount of data,” he said. “In some cases, companies have more or less information than they thought.”

In that vein, resellers can provide organisations with 10 to 15 tools including data assessment and profiling services. VARs need to ascertain what parts of the business are at risk and how long the company can live without having access.

“Can you imagine a taxi company without phones, without a system or even cars,” Edwards said. “Some channel partners will have complementary products and services and some will have competitive ones,” said Edwards. “We can fill the gaps where they don’t have appropriate products and services and extend their disaster recovery and business continuity offerings.”

Resellers could also be the first line of defence in the data recovery realm (an important component of any DR plan), manager of CBL Data Recovery, Guy Riddle, said.

Pitching the importance of data retrieval, Riddle said resellers could use data recovery as a value-add to their enterprise service offering. “Hundred of thousands of gigabytes of data are lost each year simply because people don’t know that lost data can be recovered,” he said.

According to Riddle, 44 per cent of data loss can be attributed to hardware and system malfunction; 32 per cent of failures are a result of human error such as accidental erasure, formatting, incorrect removal or installation; 14 per cent are caused by software or program malfunction; seven per cent by virus activity; and three per cent are the result of natural disasters.

As such, the newly-hatched Australian arm of Canadian-based CBL Data Recovery is offering data recovery of disk, tape or optical technologies — and the company is trawling for resellers.

“We’d like to put everybody in the data recovery business particularly people implementing network infrastructure managed services or outsourced services,” Riddle said.

While IT departments might have efficient strategies to backup networks, file servers and application servers running RAID systems, for example, only about 60 per cent of companies had an efficient backup strategy for laptops and desktops, Riddle said. Recovery consulting

This was a huge untapped market for VARs.

So what’s in it for resellers? Partners could be the first point of contact for companies, educational institutions and government agencies, he said, sending the work on to the CBL lab in Brisbane for assessment and recovery, and then installing the retrieved data for customers.

Or partners could put CBL in the foreground and pass along customer leads.

“The reseller has the chance to increase the service provided to the end user by suggesting upgrade options and backup methods,” he said. “This can benefit resellers because long-term service contracts can then be initiated.”

Along with recovery consulting and support, Riddle said resellers could also peddle CBL software packages that were designed to recover failures. This was particularly helpful in retrieving data loss due to viruses.

“People look at us like a hospital service — we only hear from people when they need something fixed,” he said. “We’re the last resort and we pull in our specialists — and VARs can be part of the mix.”

Resellers often had little knowledge in the data recovery arena and needed specialised support, Riddle said.

But Hitachi’s Smith said companies needed to look beyond disaster recovery — and a data backup plan — to incorporate a broader business continuity strategy.

Major factor

He predicted this would be a key investment for many firms over the next 12 to 18 months.

The business continuity plan takes into consideration the amount of time a company can afford to be down, and creates a plan that suits the scenario. Other areas to consider under the BC banner include business recovery, business resumption planning, contingency planning, and crisis/emergency management. “There is a shift away from backup — which is the traditional way of doing DR — and a big push towards recovery,” Smith said. “The main difference: a recovery-centric approach could take minutes, whereas a backup approach could take days.”

The major factor associated with recovery is time as there is a direct impact on business when systems are not available.

As part of the recovery strategy, Hitachi is pitching a disk-to-disk backup approach which the company claims augments tape practices.

The Flight Centre was one example, Smith said, where a company had opted for speedier recovery.

In reviewing its disaster recovery strategy, Flight Centre was also using TrueCopy in a bid to replicate business critical data to Hitachi’s data centre in Windsor, Queensland.

Managed remotely by Hitachi HiCommand software, this provided uninterrupted service to business critical applications, he said.

In helping companies roll out business continuity plans, Smith said the channel could help customers at both ends of the spectrum.

“With high availability — resellers can put in a clustered solution at a single site (as an entry-level), or at the high-end with fault-tolerant gear that a bank would use,” he said.

Through the range of packaged storage services, resellers can pitch other continuity features including readiness evaluation, risk analysis and strategic technical planning.

Resellers can get involved in three participation levels: sell only, sell and co-deliver, and sell and deliver integrated storage services.

The issue of compliance, and the need for greater accountability in terms of managing information, was also hotting up the business continuity scene, he said.

“Australian listed companies must maintain continuity and need to comply with the law,” Smith said.

The current regulatory and best practice environment had encouraged many Australian businesses to seek business continuity services, South Pacific manager for business continuity and recovery services, Steve Cartland, said.

HP business continuity services, delivered through resellers, help organisations quickly recover from a disaster or major disruption to their IT infrastructure.

Don’t break the bank

Hitachi’s Smith said that because the technology had matured, companies could now opt for a phased-in approach. “They can start small and then move forward with the high-range solutions.”

Veritas’ Elisha agreed and said that companies could buy bits and pieces.

“It doesn’t have to be a big bang approach,” he said. “Companies can gradually bring more DR functionality on board.”

Customers could mix Net Backup, Cluster Server, and Volume Replicator solutions. “They all integrate with each other and offer a gradual approach,” Elisha said.

What was important to customers was offering them a single-console approach to manage all data assets and server clusters across diverse platforms.

And while rolling out a DR plan might seem expensive, resellers could also help organisations deploy a sound DR plan without breaking the bank, Elisha said.

Helping organisations open a secondary data centre was essential and could be done on a shared basis with other subscribers in order to save cost.

In the event of a business disruption, the secondary data centre site lets organisations switch operations from the affected site to the other site.

“It’s all about being prepared in order to ensure proper recovery,” Elisha said.

10 tips for business continuity management

1. Make business continuity management mandatory.

2. Obtain senior management sponsorship from the beginning.

3. Formalise business continuity processes — establish a business continuity organisation structure including budget management, people process project lifecycle.

4. Understand the consequences of downtime — perform the business impact analysis and risk analysis in the application and business process project lifecycle.

5. Establish a service-level classification scheme; define a standard, repeatvle development, infrastructure and operation architectures to meet them.

6. Develop business continuity plans, bearing in mind additional risks to be included in the scenario planning.

7. Do not ignore even the smallest of interruptions in scenario planning.

8. Adopt technologies that help reduce recovery time objective/recovery point objective, ideally during application design.

9. Engage business continuity experts to help plan, implement and host.

10. Test out your business continuity scenarios religiously to verify recovery procedures, operational readiness and ability to resume normal business functions.

Source: Hitachi Data Systems

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