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The changing expectations for backup and disaster recovery

By GeoConnexion - 13th June 2013 - 10:35

It is fair to say that business pressures are dictating Recovery Time and Recovery Point objectives in such a way that traditional disaster recovery solutions are struggling to keep up - and change is happening says Gurdip Sohal, Sales Director at Covenco Disaster Recovery Services.

Traditional disaster recovery ensured that on average it would take anything from 24 hours to three days to get your data back on to new servers and that it would be done from tape. It was also based on the provision of shared hardware supplied within hours of a disaster and that the tapes didn't have any errors; or the recovery process was straight forward where everything restored without any issues.

Today, however, if you said it will take three to four hours to perform a recovery on a critical server, many business directors would have great difficulty accepting that; such is the changing level of tolerance or intolerance in our intensely competitive world. The traditional tape backup method is not dead; it's just that most businesses are now expecting high availability with instant fail-over.

The big issue though isn't making the technology work - it works. The major threat is changing some long standing attitudes among IT staff. Many IT managers have a perception that high availability systems providing such instant recovery are too expensive for smaller businesses, which used to be the case. Now it is becoming increasingly affordable.

There are reasons that the price of these faster recovery technologies have dropped. In the 'high-availability' market you would have to purchase licenses for a primary (Production) and a secondary (DR) Server often with all-or-nothing licensing models all contributing to the expense of such a solution. Vendors figured that if instant recovery was a must-have, the customer would pay a high premium.

However, in our industry nothing lasts for long where young companies arrive with new ideas and innovative technologies and break the monopoly of the major players. New ideas such as virtualised backup and recovery; the ability to backup to a dedicated virtual clone of each critical server that sits in an 'always-on-ready-to-run' mode have changed the industry.

Some people may ask why do you need such an instant Recovery? When risk managers and auditors begin to take a greater interest in the commercial impact of downtime, you begin to see the importance. This is the sort of technology Banks and other financial institutions have relied on for some time. Now we have a situation where smaller businesses can also afford it.

Four or five years ago we witnessed the rise in momentum of the disk-to-disk backup vendors who successfully sold the simple concept that recovery at LAN speed from disk was eminently faster and more reliable than tape, which indeed it was. It set a new standard in recovery time expectation of five to eight hours. However, although disk-to-disk was a major step forward, even these are now too slow for many demanding customers and, they cost the same as the instant recovery systems that are now available.

The new type of backup & instant recovery systems provide support for both physical and virtual servers, even right down to the granular file level as every server is treated as a physical. This is important because many IT managers still maintain a number of stand-alone physical critical servers.

As well as the speed of recovery there are many other features such as Exchange message level recovery, data de-duplication, compression and bare metal restore (BMR) where you can restore to new dissimilar hardware that has no software on it all.

Disasters never happen at convenient times or when you have a full complement of IT staff sitting there ready to handle the problem. Therefore it's not surprising that one of the most compelling features for many IT managers is the simplicity of the web-based management consoles that allows them to manage these situations from any remote location. These are quite impressive and are designed in such a way that anyone in the IT department could handle any day-today recovery issue, or even a serious disaster recovery crisis. This ability, coupled with the notion that you can get an alert on your Smartphone while you sitting on a train or out to dinner, and resolve it in two minutes, is sheer heaven to any IT manager. Gone are the days when they would have had to recover all their tapes from the bureau, find their group of recovery experts and get them all to assemble on site before anything could be recovered.

One of the biggest reasons that technologies like these are selling is because it delivers on the fail-over expectation for those who are intolerant of the notion that it takes five to eight hours to get back in business. It's the simple idea that critical servers must be fully operational in five minutes or less, no matter what time of day or night that disaster strikes. When this happens it's not about fixing a broken server, but simply having the ability to instantly switch to your disaster recovery backup that has all your data, system state and ready to run applications.

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