Following from our business continuity and disaster recovery (DR) seminar earlier this year, we’ve had the opportunity to speak to a number of organisations about the risk of downtime and data loss. Some were interested because they had recently experienced a disaster and wanted to improve their backup and DR procedures, while others weren’t entirely sure about the risks they were facing and were looking for guidance.
What surprised me was how few businesses had taken basic precautions to avoid a disaster in the first place. For many of them we’ve had to go back to square one and re-evaluate the underlying infrastructure. There’s little value in replicating your systems to a DR site if you haven’t already mitigated the most common risks faced at your primary site.
Some of these risks include aging hardware, server failures and unreliable backups. These are areas where disaster can easily be avoided in the first place, which is much easier than dealing with the fallout of a disaster. So why are these risks so common? Recent advances in virtualisation, storage and backup technologies means that we can now provide much more reliable infrastructure solutions for mid-sized businesses than we could just 5 years ago. Unfortunately, many businesses are unaware of these advances, and continue working to standards from a decade ago.
Here are some things we’re recommending to our clients to reduce downtime, prevent data loss and generally avoid disasters.
- Replace old servers. The life of a server is generally 3-5 years. Extending your warranty beyond that time is usually more expensive than replacing the hardware. Not being covered by warranty puts you at risk of running around to find replacement hardware when that old server finally packs it in.
- Use virtualised HA solutions. High availability (HA) solutions provide protection against server failures, reducing outages to just a few minutes. HA solutions have traditionally been limited to specific systems, been difficult to implement and manage, and added cost and complexity. With new virtualisation and storage systems, we can now easily protect entire environments from server failures.
- Use disk-based backups. Traditional tape-based backups are quite slow, so organisations have had to limit themselves to a single overnight backup allowing for up to 24-hours data loss in the event of a disaster. In comparison, modern disk-based backup systems are very fast and allow for multiple backups throughout the day, including during business hours. This can reduce data loss from a day down to hours or even minutes. Disk-based backups also allow for the fastest possible recovery if primary storage fails.
- Off-site backup is critical. Regardless of what backup technology you use, it’s critical that you have an off-site copy of your data. This will allow you to restore your systems if all your equipment is damaged at your primary site.
Have you taken the right precautions to protect your business against data loss?
If not, then you should think about how long you can continue to operate with your systems offline, or how long it would take you to recover if you’d lost a day’s worth of work. Once you have evaluated your situation I suggest you find out if your infrastructure is able to protect you against the most common disasters. If not, you should consider some of our recommendations. Think of it as your IT insurance policy.