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Tomorrow’s too late

01 Oct 2010

Recovery management planning continues to be an uphill struggle in business. Fortunately, for the reseller, the need to source security solutions that keep pace with explosive data growth breeds a playground of opportunity for tapping into the ‘disaster recovery’ space.

In a June 2010 research report, The Forrester Wave: Disaster Recovery Service Providers Q2 2010, authors Stephanie Balaouras and Rachel Dines stated that even during the worst period of the 2009 economic downturn, more than two-thirds of enterprises cited improving disaster recovery as a critical or high priority: "The increasing cost of downtime drives recovery time objectives to hours instead of days and recovery point objectives to minutes instead of hours.”

Add to this that the provisioning of recovery sites is also developing, with more companies turning to a third party for disaster recovery services, be it a collocation provider, a DR services provider, or a cloud-based DR provider.

"We have traditionally criticised the model of fi xed-site recovery solutions from DR service providers for being too expensive, having infl exible contract terms, and lacking competition. However, despite these challenges, more than a quarter of enterprises provision their backup data centers at a shared or dedicated IT infrastructure at a services provider, and very few have plans to change this,” said Balaouras and Dines.

Rachel Dines, Infrastructure and Operations Analyst for Forrester, spoke to The Channel and emphasised that there needs to be more clarity between disaster recovery and business continuity. "Disaster recovery is just a part of business continuity,” she said. "Business continuity is like the umbrella and DR is a subset under it that just deals with IT.”

If you’re on the lookout for a mature and accepted technology then you can’t go past Bare-Metal Restore (BMR). Gartner’s Hype cycle for business continuity management, 2009, emphasises that BMR products have long been used for the redeployment or repair of PCs, with the majority of organisations having a product for this purpose.

Although the system recovery features of traditional backup solutions have been continually improved by vendors, and system recovery capabilities added to service solutions, "stand-alone solutions should be considered if ease of use is still a problem”. Owing to frequent PC and server hardware changes, Gartner recommends looking for solutions that offer dissimilar hardware restoration.

Cloud-based disaster recovery services can be offered as an inexpensive alternative to traditional in-house recovery and hosted services, making it an appealing option to both SMBs and enterprises with platformspecifi c requirements.

Cloud-based Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), and secondary-storage offerings, definitely have the potential to notably impact the disaster recovery space and delivery economics; however these services are still at a very early stage. In February of this year, a Gartner report revealed that "although cloud-based facilities certainly have some upside potential, the IT operations maturity of some cloud providers is not at the levels needed to support 24/7, mission-critical application services, especially with respect to supporting both server and storage service failover and failback”.

Cloud services were also highlighted in another Gartner insight: Predicts 2010: New IT disaster recovery technologies are emerging but most are in the early stages. Reportedly by 2014, 25% of large enterprises will use a combination of private-infrastructure and public cloud services to improve their recovery and continuity readiness.

By 2015, 25% of enterprises will have signifi cantly reduced or eliminated the use of traditional DR testing, and by 2015, 20% of SMBs will utilise cloud-based storage services as an alternative to the cost and complexity of software-based backup and restore.

Disaster recovery in cloud services is still a relatively new concept; however Gartner confi rms that clients are considering the deployment of private cloud services, as they have the potential to provide suffi cient levels of data backup and testing facilities, while also ensuring the management of required security controls stays in-house versus with an external provider. Combine this with the fact that the public cloud can support many services, including the widely used Software-as-a- Service (SaaS), and it is clear that the private and public clouds will certainly play a role in the future of DR.

Spread your eggs

Despite the rumours, tape is not dead, with a large number of companies still relying heavily on it for disaster recovery. While tape is unquestionably affordable, when pitching DR solutions, resellers should point out that the modern need to recover IT services in a matter of hours, rather than days, following an incident, means tape as a sole backup and recovery solution is no longer sufficient.

Forrester’s August 2010 report, The past, present, and future of replication, explains that most companies still assume traditional recovery strategies, secured by storage replication, to be out of their price range. However, there are alternatives out there that lower cost and are more bandwidth-effi cient. "In addition, with continued price declines, even storage replication is not necessarily out of reach for most companies. It’s time for IT professionals to familiarise themselves with the range of replication alternatives and to revisit DR strategies,” states the report.

There are now multiple replication options, such as storage, appliance, host-based, and database replication. Choose to use one or several in a disaster recovery strategy in order for the client to achieve their recovery objectives across their applications IT systems. Since part of a reseller’s role is to advise CIOs and IT decision-makers, the report suggests asking the following questions to help the client select the right replication solution:

What hosts do I need to protect?

When you are considering the replication approaches that you will incorporate into a holistic DR strategy, you want to be assured that all the IT systems in a company will be protected.

What replication can be used given the storage infrastructure in place?

Most organisations use storage from a variety of vendors, with some even using multiple platforms from the same vendor. This storage setup does tend to complicate DR though, as storage replication requires a storage system from the same product family at the recovery site. While there are a small number of organisations that will want to pursue standardisation or abstract storage hardware with a storage virtualisation offering, the majority will need at least one alternate replication option, such as host-based or appliance-based.

How much data needs to be replicated?

Where the replication process occurs has a big impact on how much data you can replicate without affecting the host performance, or deploying additional appliances. Storage replication is the most scalable but requires "like-to-like” systems and additional bandwidth. What are the availability requirements? Given that not all applications are made equal, the requirements for availability will vary. By recommending a full business impact analysis and risk assessment, a proper replication solution can be more easily selected for that particular application.

Storage replication, in particular, is an area of DR that is a proven and mature technology. The fact that it offl oads replication from the host to the storage system with no performance impact to the host, combined with how it replicates all data on the system, regardless of the host operating system, makes it a potentially easy sell.

Recovery opportunities

The shift away from traditional disaster recovery services is opening the door to more opportunities. The idea that it is becoming increasingly important to manage recovery service levels in an automated and timely manner means that disaster recovery servicelevel management is an exciting area to watch.

"Not only is the market need for more predictable operations recovery increasing, but the required recovery times for the most important mission-critical applications continue to be measured on the order of hours versus days,” confi rms Gartner’s Hype Cycle.

More service-level management options could result in a decrease in the time and effort needed for recovery testing. "Managed services are a lot more hands-on, and you have access to the data all the time. There are defi nitely opportunities for systems integrators there,” agrees Forrester’s Rachel Dines.

Ensuring an organisation can recover from a disaster has resulted in work area recovery being a highly adopted aspect of DR. This is understandable given that without a workforce, there is no business. The Hype cycle illustrates that if a business process is mission-critical, then dedicated recovery space may be required. Consider special equipment support needs and also the workforce operation models of the organisation being worked with, such as mobile, work-from-home or on-site required, when considering work area recovery options.

Gartner points out that making the business case for recovery is the hardest but most important aspect of business continuity management. The way to win the case is by speaking the language of the business. Dines reiterates this, stating: "Resellers can get a lot of mileage out of being as knowledgeable as possible on this topic.” She advises focusing on an area that is hard to set up, such as clustering, in order to have more success in this market, while also aligning IT DRM with business continuity management, reviewing recovery plans against business needs and industry best practices on a regular basis.

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