Does my organization have a disaster recovery solution or a backup solution

By - December 22, 2015

By now, I assume we have all heard the statistics that 80% of organizations that face a catastrophic event, without a solid Business Continuity Plan (BCP), either never reopen after the event or close within 18 months. These statistics are much debated and don’t have a lot of meat to back them up, however, do you really want to be the organization to test that theory?

Many businesses believe they have a great Disaster Recovery (DR) solution, however the reality is their organization probably has a mediocre backup solution and not a true DR solution. Let’s discuss first what makes up a backup solution and a DR solution. Then we will discuss some technologies that can assist with creating a top tier DR environment.

Backup solutions have been around since organizations began storing data onsite. The primary purpose was to make sure the organization has the ability to restore data to a specific point in time where either data has been deleted or a catastrophic event damages the location in which the data resides. Traditionally this has been completed using tape backups and physically moving those tapes off site and storing them either with a third party organization or at another of their own locations. In today’s world, this is a bit more streamlined. Most backup software now support backing up to a remote location over the WAN or even to a cloud solution like MS Azure or AWS. This takes a lot of the risk out of the equation, in that human interaction is not required and thus people cannot fail the system. This also eliminates the risk of tapes failing. However, this does not improve the ability to restore that data. Restoring the data back into production is the main differentiator between a backup solution and a true DR solution.

So now that you have your data backed up to an offsite location, how are you going to restore it? What are you going to restore it to? How long will that restore take? How will your organization access that data once it has been restored? These are all questions that must be answered before an event, and most likely, your senior management will not like the answers given. Most senior management want 100% uptime or at minimum sub 30 minute restoration of their business. This can be done, however your traditional backup solutions will take much longer than this. Consider how long it took to backup that 3TB server. It likely will take twice that to restore it back to production. You need a solution that either mirrors or snapshots those small incremental backups off site to hardware that is capable of running and serving that data. This is what a DR solution provides you, a place to restore to production offsite. In other words, a DR solution has the storage, compute power (CPU), memory and networking, to host your data at your DR site, while you restore your production site or hardware back to working order. These solutions should be considered carefully, as some are not as easy as others to switch back to the production location.

The first questions that you need to ask yourself when trying to choose a DR solution is: Where will my DR site be located? Do my other sites or staff have access to this location in the event that the main datacenter is not accessible? Do I have sufficient bandwidth to that location?

Let’s discuss a few of the solutions that I have found to be very successful at both failing over and failing back to production. If your organization only has a single site, I would highly consider a solution such as Datto or Unitrends. Both of these solutions are capable of quickly spinning up a virtual machine of your backed up systems, either on premise or in a remote datacenter that is not managed by your organization. This will allow your organization to be back up and running within minutes, not hours, versus waiting to restore the data to a physical machine.

If you have more than one location and you have good connectivity to your other locations, I would recommend first a SAN to SAN replication solution coupled with VMware’s SRM and Cisco’s OTV. The SAN to SAN replication will allow for small snapshots of your data to be shipped to the DR site as often as every 15 min, then VMware’s SRM can automatically monitor and bring up servers as needed at your DR site, even in the most complicated environments. Then coupled with Cisco’s OTV or another IP WAN mobility solution, the servers that come up at your DR site will have custom routes broadcasted to the other sites automatically so that the servers that come up at the DR site are accessible at all locations. There are several other very good DR solutions on the market like Veeam Backup and Replication, among others.

Understanding your organizations business needs and developing that Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is critical to developing the right DR solution. RSM can certainly assist with the gathering of this information and the creation of the BCP as well as assist with designing a true DR Solution that meets the needs of the organization.

If you would like to hear more about what the DR capabilities of your storage platform, VMware, Cisco or Microsoft has to offer, please check out our website. You can also contact RSM’s technology consulting professionals at 800.274.3978 or email us.

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