What a Disaster! – Part 3

 

Part 2 of this article outlined the two primary fundamentals to be thinking of when assessing your Disaster Recovery Plan – Recovery Time Objectives and Recovery Point Objectives.

In this final part we will give you some ideas on how to achieve this if you are a small to medium sized business.

Whether you have what is commonly called “Physical” servers (Operating Systems and Applications installed directly on the hardware) or “Virtual” servers (multiple servers run on a single physical server using technologies such as VMware ESX or Microsoft’s Hyper-V). The primary objective is to use a server imaging software solution.

For Server Imaging or Snapshot software, these images need to be saved, at least weekly, onto a large fixed storage device, such as a Network Attached Storage (NAS) Device. NAS Devices are recommended for their larger capacity and that they are always “available” and directly connected to the network, ensuring backups occur with no human intervention.

The software will take a complete image/snapshot of the server, which includes all data, software applications, settings and operating system. The most time consuming part of recovering a server is the reinstallation of the operating system, applications and then configuring all the settings in order to restore the latest data backup. Good server imaging software used for “Physical” servers will include the ability to recover to “dissimilar” hardware. This recovery feature is critical, as the chances of getting exactly the same replacement/loan server hardware is very unlikely when you have a hardware failure.

Server “images” can be taken offsite by simply copying the files to an external USB Hard Drive and have your IT partner rotate offsite, if they offer this service.

Data is critical to ANY business, so when putting you plan together to protect this valuable information, you need to consider how long you need to retain the data, i.e. 7 Days, 14 Days, 30 Days and so on. The most important is to review this on each of your business applications and data types, for example accounting data will have a different requirement to Documents and Spread sheet files.

Data backup and server imaging are two very different strategies, and must be treated as such. When doing data backup, the traditional way has been to backup to Tape Cartridges, this is generally unreliable and prone to human error on forgetting to change tapes. That said, Tape is typically still the cheapest mass storage backup solution that allows for ease of offsite rotation.

Many small businesses believe that having a simple backup of the data to an external USB hard drive is sufficient, but by not understanding the entire process around backup and disaster recovery, does leave them short of having a comprehensive solution that gives the shareholders in the business “Peace of Mind”.

Our recommendation is to implement an automated cloud (remote internet) based backup solution that requires no user intervention; however it must be effectively managed by your IT partner to ensure that the offering is being managed correctly. Cloud based backup solutions have the intelligence to only backup the changes within the file and not the entire file every time. It is also imperative to ensure that only the critical data is being backed up, as the costs associated with the remote backup storage and bandwidth costs may escalate.

Based on how important your data is to your business, including your obligations from a corporate governance or industry vertical compliance, always implement the two separate strategies and measure their effectivenes separately.

Your IT provider should be testing your data backups on a monthly basis, and full disaster recovery testing (fire drill) of the server images/snapshots should be done every 6 months to ensure compliance.

Most of important above all is to document and sign-off on the above goals and expectations, not doing so will only turn your expectations of backup & recovery into a dream.

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