Disaster Preparedness

There is one universal constant for every organization, regardless of segment or industry, we are our data.  Yes, there is so much more to what you offer, to how you do what you do; however ask yourself, were you to arrive to work tomorrow to find all of your data gone, could you carry on?  The critical importance of our data is no doubt understood, yet in many businesses and institutions it is taken for granted.

There are a variety of levels of preparedness an organization can take depending upon the recovery time objective (RTO) required and budget for implementation.  Among these are; data backup, imaging, replication, high-availability and collocation.

The proactive measures should provide for file or folder recovering, what happens when a file or folder is inadvertently deleted, to the entirety of an organization’s data.  How would you recover in the event of drive array failure or a crypto attack.  For some, the provisions must take into account a circumstance that is catastrophic, such as the wholesale loss of the primary production environment.

For many of our clients, the need is driven by the real-time dollar loss of an event in which business function is crippled.  In other words, what is the cost of a day’s production or work effort.  For others, their requirements are driven by the vendors with whom they serve or the companies that they supply; many businesses are now expected to deliver their disaster preparedness plan or risk losing, or not securing, a significant account.

At minimum, protection should include a sound backup strategy.  This should include all data files, folders and shares, database backups and, if Exchange is locally hosted, Infostore and granular (mailbox) data.  Frequency of incremental and whole backups and the retention policy, the period of time one can go back, requires discussion.  Local backup versus hosted, or cloud, backups or one of the varieties of hybrid solutions needs to be addressed as different options lend conditionally to faster recovery of data.

Having a viable data backup is critical, as described above.  It should not however be your only protection.

Data backup is just that; and although it protects against loss, an organization’s need for expedient recovery should be measured.  A data backup does not preserve the operating system layer, Active Directory, applications, or system configurations; for that you need an additional method of restoration.

If a server is lost through significant failure, such as drive corruption or an irreparable drive array, it could feasibly take fifteen to eighteen hours to reload and reconfigure the operating system and program layer just to ready it to accept the backed up data.  Downtime losses money while engineering time incurs cost.

To minimize this, imaging, replication and high-availability are options for increased levels of preparedness that can have enormous impact on RTO.  Imaging captures the operating layer and server system state so that these can be loaded relatively quickly, ready to accept the data backup.  Replication is redundancy of a server, or server cluster, that is synchronized at a predetermined interval which can be brought into use in the event of a failure.  High-availability creates redundancy of a system or systems.  In a high-availability environment, any individual component, or device, could fail and the environment remains running and available to users.

Beyond these options, when complete functionality is required within hours, even the unseemly scenario of a complete loss of the primary environment, collocation offers redundancy of all systems that can be brought online and remotely accessed.  Collocation in a cloud, or hosted, infrastructure would be established through the contracting of a redundant data center.  In a self-hosted infrastructure, collocation would be in a hosted disaster recovery (DR) facility or via on premise cloud.

The appropriate approach is an important decision.  CSRI has been involved in identifying the right-sized solution for our clients for three decades.  What is most effective and efficient for your organization is a conversation we would encourage.

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