Disaster Recovery

Hurricane Katrina taught us a lesson. Disaster recovery is important! Hopefully we will never again have to experience the devastation that this natural event wreaked upon us. However, that event got many businesses thinking – “How safe is my data?” This article provides some basic steps that will help you recover your business’s data in case of a disaster.

How much data are you willing to lose? It may sound like a dumb question but it will help you determine your disaster recovery strategy. For example, many financial institutions use a technique called data mirroring or data shadowing . Every time a transaction is written, that same transaction is written to another disk at another location. For example, if your business is in New York City, a copy of your data is written or mirrored to a site in Philadelphia or wherever your backup site is located. If your business suffers physical damage, you have up-to-date data at another location. In theory, only the transaction being processed at the time of the disaster is lost.

This process is costly; you need to either purchase or rent extra computer equipment. You also need to enter into a contract with a company that provides data storage. Obviously this may not be cost-effective for your company. So, how much data are you willing to lose?

How often does your business backup its data? Every hour? Twice a day? Once a day? Once a week? Your backup schedule answers the previously asked question. If you backup twice a day you are willing to lose half a day’s worth of data. If you only backup weekly, you are willing to lose a week’s worth of data.

Backing up is extremely important. However, if your office is damaged, what about your backup media?

Store your data at an off-site facility. There are many companies that provide archiving and storage services.
Be smart. Choose a facility at least 50 miles or so from your office. If there is a flood in your community, you don’t want yourÃ?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ storage facility in the same town or city.

A main concern is resolved; you have your data. However, depending on the disaster, your office may be gone. Data is no good unless you have the technology available to put that data to work.

How long can you afford to be out of business? One day? One week? One month? Not at all? The answer to this question determines the type of off-site facility, if any, that you have.

There are three types of off-site facilities. They are: hot, warm, and cold. Many financial institutions, health care companies, and other critical companies use a hot site.

A hot site is a complete off-site replica of your data center. It includes all of the computer equipment, networking equipment, and any other technologies that are part of your data center. You are quite close to being up and running. This site is also the home of your off-site data storage. The data is ready to go. In some scenarios, there are desks, phones, and other office equipment ready to use.

A hot site is expensive. In addition to the cost of renting or purchasing the technology, you are also incurring a monthly rent. This type of site is like insurance; you pay monthly and hope that you never have to use it.

A warm site has the technology but is not as up-to-date or ready to use. You may have to supply some additional equipment to make this a replica of your office. You may also have to install programs and data because your off-site storage may not be part of this site. This type of site is less expensive, but it requires more time and work to have it run your business.

A cold site is a bare bones facility. You will need to bring in equipment, restore your data, and so on. It is the least expensive of the three solutions, but it incurs the more down time.

Certainly there are other solutions. If you are a small business, you may be able to quickly purchase some computers, restore your data and temporarily rent space until you can rebuild or relocate. The key is to have a plan. Don’t wait until the disaster strikes!

A good plan is documented. This fact is often overlooked. Don’t let your employees convince you that the information is in their head; they will know what to do. They may not be working for you anymore, or God forbid, depending on the type of disaster, they, the company, and you may not be alive.

Your plan includes all the instructions necessary to rebuild your business. It includes: how to hook up your equipment, instructions for installing software and restoring data, how to rebuild your email system, how to rebuild your phone PBX system, and so on. It includes contact information, who declares a disaster, and it may even include phone scripts that employees use to reassure your clients that your business is still feasible.

Include walk-throughs to ensure that your instructions are correct. Ensure that people read the document, or at least the sections that pertain to their responsibilities.

A disaster recovery plan is the best written-document that you pray will never have to be used. Be prepared. You never know when a disaster may occur but you can know what to do if one does.

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