Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Data Recovery: What? How? And Why!

Last month we discussed some of the more common causes of disaster and spoke briefly about disaster recovery. If and when an IT disaster occurs it can be one of the most crippling experiences a business can go through. Not only will the down time cost your company money every second the IT infrastructure is not up and running, but you may have lost irreplaceable data.

Data is not an abstraction. It is actually the nuts and bolts of any business operation. This can include, but is not limited to: inventory, payroll, tax and accounting information, project management, Human Resources databases, sales and orders, deliveries and a variety of client information. Can you afford to lose any of this vital information in the current economic climate?

There are numerous causes to an IT disaster and subsequent data loss/recovery: excessive heat, physical damage, wear-and-tear on moving parts, system errors, power loss, corrupt file systems, overwritten data, software crash, vendor bankruptcy, natural disaster, theft, hacking, sabotage , worm, and viruses. But where and how the threat appears doesn’t matter. What does matter is how can you turn a major disaster into a small speed bump on the path to business growth?

Disaster Recovery Planning has roughly seven tiers of solutions for data recovery. Some of these tiers are not mutually exclusive and can be used in conjunction with capabilities from higher and lower tiers to produce the right solution for a company depending on time, budget, and importance of electronic data in day-to-day operations.

All these solutions focus on the two most critical factors for a business: recovery point and recovery time. This is to say, the maximum acceptable level of down time allowable, and the amount of information at risk that has not been backed up yet.

Tiers 0-4: These are basic solutions that tend to be cost effective for many businesses but do not provide the quickest or most complete solutions.

The first tier (Tier Zero) is very simple-- you have no business continuity plan. And this is the last place you want to be if your business relies on any type of stored data (which nearly all businesses do). There is no information backed up elsewhere, no back up hardware in place and no contingency plan.

Tier 1: Data backup with no hot site. This is a hard copy backup physically taken off site. This is time consuming without proper training and experience to create backups daily, but it can easily be stepped up to Tier 2. Recovery is only as good as the last system backup. You will lose both time and data.

Tier 2: Data backup with a hot site. This is essentially the same thing as Tier 1 but with hardware at an alternative location to continue running the same amount of data loss as Tier 1, but quicker time to back to normal.

Tier 3: Electronic Vaulting takes advantage of cloud computing and high-speed communications. Instead of physically removing hard drives and data, it is securely transmitted over the internet. This brings recovery time down to hours rather than days. Also, data loss is minimized. Back Up My Info! Specializes in this type of data backup and is one of the most secure, reliable and cost effective ways for a business to protect their business-critical information. This is the lowest tier solution that does not require continuous physical removal of back up tapes and drives.

Tier 4: Point-in-time copies is a full picture at a given point in time of your server. This provides data recovery of all the underlying information systems and applications at given points in time the snapshot is taken. Combining an electronic vaulting solution with point in time copies of your full system are usually meet the needs of many small-to-medium sized businesses. Paragon Software provides top of the line service for point-in-time copies to Dataccount clients. Paragon’s solution is excellent for getting the onsite server up and running as quickly as possible.

Tiers: 5-7: These are advanced tiers for companies with large amounts of mission-critical business processes tied to IT. For these tiers the cost of back up must be closely examined versus the cost of possibly going down for a few hours or days.

Tier 5: Transaction integrity: Systems that keep transaction integrity intact are vital to businesses with large order-taking and processing functions. Transaction integrity requires an off-site machine running a live parallel connection recording each change to the system entered. With a parallel server set up minimal data loss occurs, and time to recovery is usually shortened to under a day. The parallel system goes live when the primary fails.

Tier 6: Zero/near-zero Data loss:. On this top tier of data recovery systems, recovery point and recovery time are very close to the time of the disaster. A near-zero data loss solution will normally incorporate disk mirroring hardware, based on RAID or via network to remote location providing instantaneous recovery while allowing for emergency restart at off-site. One of the major benefits of this type of solution is that it is automated with little-or-no human intervention required.

Tier 7: This tier is very close in concept to Tier 6, instantaneous recovery, with zero down time, fully automated and customized. While this is the most protected form of back up, it is extremely expensive to maintain and the cost needs to be justified as an integral part of your business and business continuity. Example: Google

A business continuity plan addressing how to deal with a disaster is a must if your business depends on any type of electronically stored information. The best way to determine the level of protection your business needs is by analyzing the difference between time down (recovery point and recovery time) and the expenditures while the data and infrastructure is recovered.

Cost: what is the cost of the recovery point and the recovery time? What is the value of the data and amount of time that resorting the data worth? Consider the costs of: continuing operations without the data (which may not be possible), recreating the data, and notifying users in the event of a compromise. Remember, every second that data loss is preventing your business from running is time and money spent while losing revenue.

Dataccount works closely with some outstanding vendors to manage our clients’ potential for disaster and to make sure that operations are up and running as quickly as desired for our clients. We recommend BUMI- Back Up My Info! for data protection and Paragon for system restore.

If you are in the bottom tiers of planning for data recovery to save money, the real costs may come later when it has to be recovered. Planning ahead is the best defense for catastrophic business loss.

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posted by Dataccount Inc. @ 10:02 AM   29 Comments