Data Continuity – The True Essence of Disaster Recovery
Introduction to Data Continuity
Data Continuity planning which encompasses disaster recovery, paves way in minimizing the impact of a catastrophe on an enterprise, by making sure that alternate processes are in place to carry out key operational functions. It helps in not only preserving the assets in an enterprise but also enhances the ability of the enterprise to achieve its goal, retain acceptable levels of productivity, maintain high level of customer service and ensures it stays in the business. The Data Continuity has also being referred to as Business Continuity.
Where do I start?
In reality, data continuity is essential for every enterprise as it provides business systems resilience in every aspect. It is a fact, that the clients of an enterprise are the ones who greatly suffer most in the event of data continuity plan failure. Loosing access to data, emails and the premises or phone calls are some of the reasons which can cause potential damage to a business. So, in order to be satisfied enough, with a data continuity plan, the enterprise leader needs to invest on a failover system in multiple locations and must have a healthy base working system along with a standby power generation on-site.
What are the options?
An IT based data continuity plan has to address both the hardware and the data contained in the system. So, the below points will be highlighting some of the ways which can build a robust protection around the system. As a part of comprehensive planning, the use of highly resilient servers, secondary power supplies, dual internet connections, redundant storage and uninterruptable power supplies must be in hand. It will be prudent, if the enterprises start to use thin client technologies such as Citrix and Microsoft terminal services which will help in remote access. Virtual servers also offer a provision of flexibility and resiliency.
The main focus while building a resilient system is to eliminate any single point of failure. It is evident that Hard disks, which are used as storage media are prone to failures and so the major focus must be on them. The best option to attain storage resilience is use of Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks (RAID). With the deployment of RAID, the system will be giving an option to replace the hard disk, without downtime and this paves way for data continuity.
For building up a resilient system the enterprise IT manager should also address the potential failure of power supplies. This can be addressed by having a hot-spare power supply where power can be received from different sources. With this implementation, in case of one power source failure, then another power source can take its place and achieve zero downtime. Another alternative is to put all servers on an uninterruptable power supply (UPS), which automatically detects power outage and offers another power alternative.
Traditionally servers were structured and optimized for the hardware and Operating systems, they were running on. However, due to technological developments in Virtualization, virtual servers are being deployed. A virtual server with the adequate hardware resources can host multiple OSes. Each hosted OS is called a virtual server and can run their own operating systems independent of the host and from the other virtual servers.
Since, they no longer depend on the hardware they are hosted on; they offer a flexibility to transfer the virtual servers from physical host to another dissimilar physical host. Previously, restoring a server onto dissimilar hardware was a daunting task, but now with the presence of virtual servers the process has become easier.
Other advantage of a virtual server is that it is possible to run multiple virtual servers on a physical host server and full utilization of spare processing capacity on the server. In the scenarios related to data continuity, there is a possibility of having few powerful physical servers hosting a number of virtual servers at a remote location. Virtual servers can be easily replicated and restored onto these hosts at other location which is get ready in tackling the scenarios related to business continuity.
With the distributed work force and tele-computing employees accessing company’s data centers remotely is a norm for today’s global enterprise companies. As an example, the remote access of server is made possible by utilizing a Citrix server hosting thin client sessions for each of your employees. Users can reside in the main office, a branch, or home office and access their work functions via internet. Hence, with the help of thin clients, one can also achieve the advantages of data continuity planning. The best example is, if Citrix Servers were used on both office and at the branch offices, in the event of a catastrophe the server traffic can be diverted or redirected to other Citrix Servers. So, this enabled the workforce carry on their work functions without an interruption, even after the occurrence of a disaster.
For reducing the time in recovering the server or data, replication is also termed as an apt solution. It is a fact that there are number of ways in replicating servers and data to other storage devices or servers. In the case of storage devices, the data still needs to be backed up, which will be useful for disaster recovery. If the data is replicated to other standby servers (in different location), i.e. by running a data set to another server which is on a standby, the standby server can provide continuous work functions for the work force in the event of catastrophe.
Traditional Tape Backup
In the IT world, the tapes are said to be the best media for data backup. During off-time, the data is backed up to the tape. When the tape backup process is completed then backed up tape data are sent to an off-site location for storage which will ensure protection of data from any kind of disaster.
Tape backup is termed to be a cost- effective solution, but it comes with its own limitations. If large amounts of data are written to the tape, it will take hours to do so. So, the time factor involved in a tape backup may prove negative to its deployment. The other limitation is that tapes needs regular maintenance and so it will add up to the work of the IT manager.
Continuous Data Protection
The importance of Continuous Data Protection lies in its name itself. When a system data is continuously backed up, then it removes the issues related to traditional tape backup. So there is no question of downtime in the event of disaster as a backup copy is always available. For enabling this solution, adequate disk storage needs to be in place in order to store the most recent revised data. Snapshot technology can be implemented to tape, for long term storage.
Organizations which are not willing to face downtime driven monetary losses, must and should deploy effective data continuity planning. It will surely prove worth of its investment when a disaster strikes the organization in financial, manufacturing, distribution or sales.