Business Recovery That’s Here, There and Everywhere
Sun, 10/31/2010 - 8:00pm
Just like a good news story, your plans cover all the Ws – who, what, when, where, and why. Where used to be the easy part, but these days, where to recover is proving to be a complicated question with many potential answers.
Continuity Insights asked some key questions about alternate sites to some key people in the industry. Jim Grogan, senior director of analyst relations at SunGard Availability Services, and Walt Thomasson, managing director, of Rentsys Recovery Services provided the answers.
CI: How far away should my alternate site be from my main location?
Jim Grogan, SunGard Availability Services: That depends. For an alternate recovery location, far enough away to reduce the likelihood that a common event that could disrupt both locations. However, for something like a hurricane, then you would want to have a 100- to 150-mile separation. That said, the alternate site should be inland, not simply 100 miles further up a likely hurricane path. If the principal risk is an earthquake, then you want to ensure that your alternate site has enough geographic separation so as to not lie within the same fault zone. You also want to be reasonably certain that your staff could readily travel to the alternate site in the case of a catastrophic event.
Walt Thomasson, Rentsys Recovery Services: While there are no standard rules that specify what this distance should be, most companies view 100 miles as a good distance when considering latency for synchronous replication or geographical limits regarding travel. Rentsys Recovery has multiple fixed-site facilities, which we locate just outside of major metropolitan areas. This allows companies to access our facilities quickly but be far enough away from the disaster area.
We recommend companies also consider mobile recovery. Mobile recovery comes to you and can get as close as the disaster will allow. Many times employees are affected personally by the disaster, especially a regional event such as a hurricane. Mobile recovery allows those employees to take care of personal and company needs. Our mobile recovery units deploy in as little as two hours once on site.
CI: How has your service changed after major events (e.g. The Midwest Floods, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina)?
Grogan: Every major event raises the bar for our industry, as I have seen during more than 30 years of preparing continuity plans. The Midwest floods redefined how companies prepare for supply chain disruptions. Hurricanes – Katrina and others – placed challenges on the effectiveness of preparation and verifying that plans will work when needed.
Another overarching effect of these major disasters has been the demand for technical staff augmentation and remote support for applications and recovery process. Our service enhancements have reflected these demands.
Thomasson: September 11, 2001 changed the industry…no question. The events of 9/11 helped to change the mindset regarding mobile recovery and really bring it into mainstream recovery. That day and the aftermath highlighted the need to have a local solution, which mobile recovery provides. Mobile recovery is an excellent tool that provides a tremendous amount of flexibility.
Since Hurricane Katrina, we have seen the need to provide clients a solution to backup and recover their data, allowing companies to make their data portable during a disaster. This allows them the flexibility to restore data in a mobile recovery unit, a fixed-site facility, or at a location of their choosing – all while assuaging traditional backup and storage pain points.
CI: How can I win management support for investment in an alternate site?
Grogan: Business leaders make decisions based on accurate and compelling business cases. Any justification of an alternate site needs to address two key elements: what would the impact be if our organization experiences an outage without an alternate site, and what would the recurring benefits be to having the alternate site.
Additionally, not all applications are created equal. Business can certainly evaluate and rank applications and devise a hybrid approach to recovery, such as implementing a solution to recover mission-critical application in fewer than four hours, while allowing other, less critical applications to be effectively recovered in 24 to 48 hours.
A business impact analysis and a risk assessment can provide an organization with a candid look at mission-critical applications. The assessment can be used to prepare a compelling justification for the appropriate level of recovery, either with a dedicated alternate site, or a hybrid solution. Business leaders respond best to the facts, especially when those facts reflect a thorough understanding of the costs, impacts, and benefits of a recommended strategy.
Thomasson: Our services have been likened to insurance – when you need it, you will be glad it’s there. DR planners and BC managers must put real focus and numbers to the impact of lost data, lost productivity, and the impact on the business from disaster downtime. C-level executives tend to be much more concerned with planning when they fully understand the financial ramifications to the business.
With our mobile recovery services, companies can utilize one contract and split the cost between locations, providing addi-tional value. We provide data backup and recovery services with production benefits that can more than pay for the service. The benefits include: backup optimization, reducing the backup window and eliminating failures, reducing the storage footprint, and ultimately being able to meet your data recovery objectives.
CI: How will virtualization affect the future of alternate sites?
Grogan: Virtualization is a tremendous tool for continuity solutions. Interestingly enough, it is not a new tool for business continuity. Twenty years ago, the IBM VM (virtual machine) operating system for mainframes was used in approximately 8 percent of production environments but was used by more than 40 percent of SunGard customers. Today, planners simply have a greater variety of virtualization tools, and they are available on every computing platform.
Virtualization allows an organization to adjust hardware resources to different applications rapidly and at time of
recovery. In the alternate site, virtual machines may allow a user to provision resources, including processing and storage, quickly in order to recover applications where the hardware available may not match exact production configuration. For example, virtualization could allow a user to recover multiple virtual machine images that may have run on separate small servers on a single larger server at the recovery site.
Thomasson: Virtualization can make it easier to recover, allowing companies to focus on the data and applications, not the hardware. It helps to eliminate the historic problem of recovering to different hardware, but this requires more pre-planning regarding applications and communications relative to recovery. We provide data backup and recovery solutions that are VMWare certified and work with any storage on any hardware on any platform (WinTel, iSeries, UNIX).
CI: What are the three most important factors to consider when I evaluate an alternate site?
Grogan: The three top factors to consider are:
1. Is the facility at the right geographic distance based on my primary threats and ability of staff to assemble at that location?
2. Does the facility provide the support for my technology and recovery process – including augmenting my staff expertise if needed – to give me the opportunity to successfully recovery each application within the correct timeframe?
3. Does the facility afford me the most economical options to recover mission-critical applications, along with those secondary and tertiary applications, with a verifiable recovery capability.
Thomasson: The top three are:
1. Low risk, fixed-site locations paired with mobile recovery options
2. Ample bandwidth, plus data and voice options for communication needs
3. In-house support and delivery infrastructure to further mitigate risk
And the three runners up are:
4. Flexibility regarding testing. Can you test frequently and is it affordable?
5. Is DR or BC the primary business of the alternate site provider, or is it a side business?
6. Has the provider experienced multiple declarations in multiple regions?