Ten Steps for Ensuring Successful Disaster Recovery

Robert Brower

While the concept of disaster recovery (DR) planning and preparedness has always been straightforward in theory, in reality, ensuring an enterprise is thoroughly protected from every conceivable-and inconceivable-threat can be a time-consuming and complicated task.
As IT environments grow in size and complexity, it becomes harder to develop an overarching data protection and recovery strategy that safeguards data centers and critical information assets from any type of site or natural disaster. The ability to protect and recover data across the enterprise-regardless of where the data resides-also becomes more challenging as data proliferation extends beyond the corporate data center to encompass remote or branch offices and increasingly virtualized environments.
For many organizations, the most common disaster recovery practice involves using tape to move data offsite. Aside from the cost, time and administrative overhead to manage this process, there's a potential risk of data being lost or stolen. Cloud computing continues to gain attention for its promise of reducing ever-increasing IT and data storage infrastructure costs while boosting disaster recovery. The ability to move data into the cloud can lower reliance on costly and cumbersome on-premises and offsite tape management.

Today, enterprises have greater choices for disaster recovery, but ensuring the highest level of data protection requires multiple options. For that reason, it's critical to consider best practices for reducing downtime and minimizing the risk of data loss should disaster strike. There's no better time to revisit corporate procedures and bolster business continuity by incorporating a blend of practical tips and proactive data protection strategies. To that end, CommVault offers 10 steps for improving DR planning and preparedness:

1. Define the business, technical and operational requirements for a successful DR plan. Factors to consider include looking at infrastructure size and physical diversity, projected revenue loss per unit of downtime as well as all costs associated with the required DR solution. Having access to experience-based recommendations on requirements and planning can streamline this initial yet critical phase in the process.
2. Conduct a preliminary discovery of the current infrastructure, including all applications, media management, servers, networks and storage platforms.
3.  Identify Recovery Time Objectives (RTO) and Recovery Point Objectives (RPO) for all critical components, including Active Directory, databases and all major business applications. Determining where a particular enterprise lies on the DR continuum is a calculation based on the cost of operations necessary to expedite effective DR vs. the loss of revenue and functionality associated with an outage.
4. Confirm the process and make sure that a separate, portable and current copy of the backup database is available at all times.
5. Ensure that all data needed for a suitable recovery is available and accessible in the event of a disaster, allowing for the potential inability to access any media assets in the data center. With that in mind, make sure there are auxiliary copies as needed to sustain restores from a DR or alternative site.
6. Coordinate with an outside disaster recovery services provider or internal IT team to ensure that sufficient media resources (e.g., disk and/or tape) are available at a designated DR location to expedite any data recovery. If the RTO is less than eight hours, the consensus recommendation should be to plan on multiple drives or a large volume of disk space from which to complete data restores.
7. Incorporate replication technologies to facilitate the production of offsite data copies while providing multiple recovery points. To optimize recovery for data center and remote office environments, it's highly recommended to replicate server data and magnetic libraries as well as create mountable snapshots or multiple tape copies.

 8. Explore an automated restore option in order to expedite server recovery in the event of a disaster. For example, CommVault offers a 1-Touch system recovery option, which enables customers to quickly and easily restore an entire server, including data, operating environment and system files.
9. Make sure full documentation is compiled and circulated for all selected disaster recovery procedures, including timeline estimates and required operational process changes.
10. Test the disaster recovery plan on a regular basis, taking into consideration that both personnel and system assets change over time and will be compromised in the event of a disaster. In continually testing all aspects, be sure to include both disk and tape backups. Leveraging qualified third-party assistance will go a long way toward achieving best practices-based testing and validation. This type of approach provides everyone with valuable hands-on experience while successfully completing critical practice events.

Keeping abreast of the latest DR tools and technologies is equally important in devising a strategy that reliably and cost-effectively meets business continuity objectives. Real-time replication, snapshot technology and data deduplication can provide a richer repository of recovery points to ensure faster access to critical data for rapid recovery. Replicating data to an off-site location at the moment it's created, commonly referred to as electronic vaulting, is extremely useful for environments that cannot tolerate any disruption to services in the event of a disaster. Additionally, data recovery can be accelerated through the use of software that leverages native snapshot capabilities built into storage arrays to create and manage application-consistent, point-in-time recovery copies across tiers of storage. Meanwhile, data deduplication software eliminates redundant data across backup and archive storage tiers to reduce stored data to ease and expedite recovery.
Whenever possible, companies should seek a singular data management platform with integrated capabilities that ensure copies of data can be managed across tiers of storage to meet retention, cost and disaster recovery requirements. Too often, DR solutions are 'band-aids' that involve disparate products and technologies that force enterprises to manage multiple platforms independently, which can have dire consequences when data must be restored quickly and efficiently in a disaster situation.
Navigating the landscape of disaster recovery solutions and strategies can be overwhelming, so it's advisable to take advantage of professional, proactive planning services, if possible. Guided by hands-on practical advice, business best practices and proven DR experience, organizations can face disasters head-on and be back in business with minimal disruption instead of being out business with insurmountable losses.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Sep 21, 2010 7:09 PM WHawkins WHawkins  says:
A concise reminder of points that so often go overlooked in a data management environment! Without analyzing all critical aspects of data recovery, putting a plan together, and testing the plan on a basis frequent enough to keep it relevant, the data protection environment is merely for show. Thanks for the article! Reply
Oct 5, 2010 5:10 PM Mike Simon Mike Simon  says:
Excellent article on enterprise data backup and disaster recovery. Reply
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