Data Backup and Recovery

Next to employees, a company’s most valuable asset is its computer data; inventory, payroll, financials, emails and customer activities play a critical role in the day-to-day management and sales activity.  As technology advances, more companies utilize computers as telephones, video conferencing and a plethora of marketing activities.  It’s no wonder, data backup and recovery has become the focus of most business continuity programs.

When assessing data backup and recovery, there are several things to consider:

  1. What is your mission critical data
  2. How long before missing that data really starts to hurt
  3. How much can I afford to spend to protect “the family jewels”
  4. What options are available

Questions 1, 2, and 3 can only be answered by you, after a careful analysis of your company.  This article will focus on questions #4 – available options.

Option 1: Backup to a removable device

DVD, thumb drives, USB drives and tape are the common technologies used today.  They require relatively little technology knowledge, and for a desktop computer inexpensive to implement.  The drawback is the human intervention to run the backups and then carry it offsite (it doesn’t do you any good to backup a computer then leave the tapes in the computer room that burns).  Also, once the backup is offsite, security becomes an issue, especially if personal or credit information is involved.  There is also the concern the media might become damaged and render recovery impossible.  Another consideration is that your data is only as current as your last backup, so timing is important.

 Option 2: RAID storage

This is a hardware solution that protects your data from a hard drive failure.  Depending upon the type of RAID level implemented, the data is scattered across multiple devices and then replicated to other drives.  The coverage is limited to a disk failure and there is a one-time cost associated with purchasing the equipment.  However, when needed, it provides a recovery that is imperceptible to the users.

Option 3: Electronic offsite backup of changes

This popular option takes the changes you’ve made and copies them to an offsite location, usually hosted by a third party.  Many companies offer this service.  As a SunGard partner I have found them to be among the best in the business.  The advantage to this solution is getting the data off of your premises and into a secured location.  The data is typically encrypted so privacy is maintained.  The method can also be scheduled for off hours, so no human intervention is required.  Efficient software has reduced the amount of data being transferred, but adequate bandwidth is something to consider.  This solution also carries a subscription cost that may be offset by reduced labor costs and increased reliability.

Option 4: Live – Mirrored – Offsite Servers

This is the Cadillac of the backup and recovery options.  Here, you have a computer identical to the one you use in capabilities and capacity.  When a user presses the Enter key, any data that is saved is immediately replicated on the mirrored server.  This also happens during a batch process, such as payroll processing or customer billing.  This mirrored server can be located within your live data center, but a more effective solution is location in a secure, offsite data center.  Again, SunGard and other companies offer this service.  As you might imagine, this doubles your hardware cost and requires higher bandwidth.  However, it is the most reliable to recover since no data is lost.

Option 5: Virtualization

Virtualization is a method of technology that typically provides costs savings in the daily operating environment and greatly enhances IT disaster management.  This technology allows for the consolidation of multiple physical servers onto one physical server (called the host).  The host allows each of it’s virtualized computers (guests) to appear as a separate computer to the network.  Each guest runs its native operating system and applications.  The financial savings are realized through lower hardware, maintenance, and utility costs.  Another nice feature is the ability for each host to actually serve as a “desktop computer”, meaning all processing and files are stored on the host computer.  This allows for less expensive “thin clients” to be used by end users.

From a disaster recovery scenario, there are significant benefits:

  1. Hosts can be replicated in real time to remote or local data centers (Option #4)
  2. Failover from the primary to backup host can be almost seamless, with little or no perceptible downtown
  3. Thin clients allow for automatic data backups and allow for access from any network connected devices
  4. Virtual Local Area Networks allow for better network segmentation and security

Some virtualization caveats exist with the expertise required to implement and manage this sophisticated technology.  Also, some applications, (especially “home grown” or older legacy systems) may not be compatible with a virtual environment.  Therefore, it is strongly recommended that a virtualization expert be used to help analyze, configure, and implement a virtualized environment.

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If you need help in exploring your data backup and recovery options, feel free to contact me at gturner@TechValleyContinuity.com.

Tech Valley Continuity works with companies to help them prepare for the next ice storm, hurricane, computer crash or other event that can jeopardize their future.  If you would like to learn more about Tech Valley Continuity, visit the website at http://TechValleyContinuity.com.

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