Disaster Recovery and the Agile Data Center

cloud-disaster-recoveryIf there was one time that a data center and an IT group absolutely need to be agile, it would be the time immediately after a disaster strikes.

Disaster recovery planning is a challenge for every organization. The challenge doesn’t come from understanding the ‘what’ of disaster recovery; everyone knows what should be done to appropriately protect for disasters. The challenge for most organizations comes with the ‘how’ and the ‘when’ in disaster recovery planning.

Understanding (and implementing) the “how” of disaster recovery involves a great deal of thought and preparation to ensure that data is backed up to the appropriate location at the appropriate time to ensure disaster recovery processes work without a hitch when the time comes. Also, backup systems must be implemented and prepped to be able to take on the burden of systems that are lost during a disaster.

In addition to preparing data and systems for disaster, the “how” of recovering from any disaster must be considered. How will data and systems be restored? How will staff access systems and data in order to recover from any disaster? While these questions might be considered basic disaster recovery questions, they are the important ones to answer before disaster strikes.

A challenge that arises along with the “how” of disaster recovery is the “when” of disaster recovery. When should data be backed up? When should data be replicated across multiple locations to ensure redundancy? When should restoration procedures be tested? When is your disaster recovery plan ‘good enough?’

Adding to the many challenges of disaster recovery, IT professionals have a very keen focus on getting their systems and data (and organization) as quickly as possible. In the times of disaster, the IT group needs to be able to bring their business back online as quickly as possible. To do this, the key driving factor for IT and disaster recovery must be agility.

The cloud has brought a level playing field to the IT professionals for many aspects of business but it especially shines in the realm of disaster recovery. With the flip of a switch, organizations can have fully redundant systems and backups for all aspects of the business. Additionally, when disaster strikes an organization’s data center, it is fairly easy to flip another switch and recover their systems, data and functionality from these cloud-based systems.

While the cloud isn’t the answer to every disaster recovery problem, it is an answer to those organizations looking to enable or expand agility within their data center, IT group and disaster recovery plans.

An effective disaster recovery plan requires an agile data center requires and an agile IT group.   How effective (and agile) are your disaster recovery plans?

This post is brought to you by Symantec and The Transition To The Agile Data Center.

Does your Disaster Recovery Plan Include the Cloud?

Disaster Recovery and the CloudIn years past, companies have relied on multiple data center locations to act as their main disaster recovery (DR) systems and data in case of disaster. This has generally worked well for those companies that have planned and tested their DR systems and plans appropriately.

In recent years organizations have been looking for more robust solutions for disaster recovery than storing their data in separate data centers. With the growth in popularity, functionality and capabilities of cloud technology and cloud vendors, CIO’s and IT Managers began to investigate the use of public, private and hybrid cloud systems for disaster recovery solutions.

It’s taken a while for many companies to feel comfortable with the cloud as a platform that is an integral part of their business systems, but most CIO’s and IT professionals have come to terms with the capabilities and impact of cloud technology. While secondary sites still dominate the disaster recovery planning for organizations, cloud deployment of disaster recovery solutions continues to grow. With a cloud DR deployment, companies can ensure geographic diversity for their data and cloud DR can allow a company to use multiple cloud vendors to ensure diversity of networks and systems for building a very robust disaster recovery plan.

Cloud-based disaster recovery makes a lot of sense, but there are still plenty of people worried about moving to the cloud for their DR. Many people get hung up on a few old myths (e.g., downtime doesn’t cost that much, disaster recovery means long-term contracts,  etc) that keep them from moving their disaster recovery systems and plans to the cloud while others believe their on-premise DR systems and plans will work just fine.

Cloud-based DR can provide an enormous amount of value to an organization. In the event of a disaster, a cloud-based system can help a company recover quickly and efficiently. Not only can data be stored safely and reliably in the cloud but systems and applications can be replicated in the cloud to allow the organization to bring their systems online quickly after a disaster.

Many clients that I work with have cloud-based disaster recovery systems in place or they’ve put them on their roadmap for the coming years. They’ve been able to look past the myths about the cloud and cloud-based DR and see the value. They see the benefits of the cloud for disaster recovery and have started shifting their disaster recovery planning and budget initiatives to the cloud.

From my experiences talking with CIO’s and other IT leaders, there’s quite a lot of interest in cloud technology these days. Many companies are looking at cloud-based disaster recovery for their next iteration of disaster recovery. Thankfully, people are starting to move past the concerns and myths about the cloud and are seeing it for what it is: a great platform for building agile, flexible and cost-effective solutions for their business.

What about your organization? Does your disaster recovery plan include the cloud?

This post is brought to you by the VMware vCloud Air Network.

Disaster Recovery – are you prepared?

Hindenburg disaster By History In An Hour on flickrThe events in Japan over the last week are heartbreaking….but there’s lessons to learn from these events.

Elliot Ross has a great post titled Disaster Preparedness And Recovery with some excellent links to a write-up of a first person account from Japan called Some Perspectives on the Japan Earthquake. In that article, a description was given on how quickly the disaster recovery plans were put in place.  Apparently this team had their disaster plans in place and working within 15 seconds.  15 seconds….that’s a short amount of time.

What about your disaster recovery plans? Do you have them? Have you practiced them?

I know many IT groups that have a business continuity and disaster recovery plan in place, but few have actually practiced this plans regularly.  Sure…there are quite a few meetings held to discuss the disaster plan and perhaps there are a few exercises at first to ‘practice’ what teams will do in a disaster – but few undertake regular, ongoing practice to make sure their teams are prepared for the worst.

In the story described above, it was made extremely clear that the entire country of Japan was well drilled in what to do in case of disaster.  I’d bet money that the emergency services in the US are well prepared for emergencies – that’s their job. They’ve shown their ability to respond in many instances across many disasters.

But…are we – those of us in business – really ready for a disaster?  Are you confident that your company will be able to run smoothly after a natural disaster?  You may have a plan in place and perhaps you’ve practice a few times…but have you drilled your team to be truly prepared?

What if you don’t have a team? What if your entire IT is outsourced to the cloud….what’s your cloud provider’s disaster recovery plan(s)?   Do they have one?  Have you talked to them about it?

So I ask you this….if you have a small business or a small team, do you have an emergency preparedness plan? Does your outsourced vendors have a plan?  Have you practiced what you would do in case of an emergency?  Have you asked your vendors to practice with you?

Do you know what you will do if something disastrous happens and you don’t have access to your financial systems, your website, your email or your customer management system? Will you be able to survive a few days, weeks or months without your primary systems? If not…what can you do today to make sure you can get by in case of disaster?

Take some time to think about it and prepare.  Because its not a question of “if”….its a question of “when.”

Image Credit: Hindenburg disaster By History In An Hour on flickr

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