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When all else fails

01 Oct 2010

Outsourcing disaster recovery (DR) is more effective and more cost efficient than doing it inhouse, because you get access to expertise and best of breed equipment at a fraction of the cost of providing it yourself.

A key aspect of robust DR is that backups have to be held offsite. As businesses in Christchurch have seen recently, you can lose your entire site. Site loss doesn’t have to come from something as dramatic as an earthquake. We’ve seen businesses denied the use of their site due to fires or burst water pipes.

By leveraging a cloud-based solution, businesses can achieve off-site backup more cost effectively than trying to provide it themselves. It’s the same reason so many companies prefer to house their production systems in dedicated data centres. There is a perception that this is robust and cheap, but it’s neither. There are many hidden costs, such as replicated licences, and you’re backing up on something you deemed unsuitable for your production environment in the first place.

A specialist DR provider is likely to have the latest, most advanced hardware. For many of our customers, the hardware they back up to is better than what they use for production.

Virtualisation is also often presented as a DR solution. It does, in fact, provide good cover when the problem is relatively minor, such as a server failure. However, when the site, or even just a SAN, goes down, virtualisation alone is not enough to provide effective DR.

A definite positive of virtualisation is that it enables far more rapid recovery at lower cost, but you need expertise to do it effectively. Providers who are not used to recovering virtual environments tend to struggle, as it does present special challenges.

A key rule for businesses should be never to compromise the quality of the production environment for the sake of business continuity. Put the best equipment you can into production, and leverage a specialist provider for DR. That way, the business customers get the best service and the business gets the best DR.

When businesses select a partner for DR, it is crucial that they find an organisation that is focused on recovery rather than on backup. Only by testing recovery regularly can businesses ensure that their backup is ship-shape. Some integrators may be able to offer backup and recovery services for their customers, but others need to outsource it. This is an important consideration for integrators, especially now that tape backup is in decline. Customers who currently have tape drives will, in time, want to move to online backup.

It is generally not economical for integrators to set up their own cloud, so there is a danger they will lose that client. The way around that is to partner with someone who already has a cloud for backup purposes. That way, integrators can increase their revenue, retain or grow their customer base and improve service to their customers.

Even those integrators who can offer a DR service themselves may run into trouble if a disruption does occur in the production area. How many staff will be available to deal with the recovery? It makes sense to engage a partner who focuses exclusively on DR.

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