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Disaster Recovery: Re-Thinking Your Strategy
Secondary sites are now cost-effective recovery tools

For many years secondary sites have been a part of the enterprise computing equation. Recent natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina opened the eyes of many IT administrators to the devastation that can compromise primary and backup IT facilities. The widespread confusion that followed Hurricane Katrina brought into sharp focus the need for comprehensive business continuity plans that incorporated secondary data center sites located far enough away so as to be untouched by the disaster affecting the primary data site. However, many IT organizations believe the costs involved in establishing secondary data centers are out of reach for all but the largest organizations.

New cost-effective options are available to help many enterprises achieve business continuity in the chaos and devastation that natural and man-made disasters leave in their wake. This disaster recovery (DR) strategy can also be an extension of the local high availability (HA) solution an organization already has in place and can address causes of downtime that most IT managers rarely think about when devising their HA/DR plan. Automated solutions for configuration management, clustering, provisioning, and server virtualization are available now, making secondary data centers a cost-effective option. In addition, these same tools can also help administrators meet stringent system availability requirements by helping to minimize downtime.

The following five strategies can help enterprise IT organizations implement robust high availability and disaster strategies that maximize system availability for day-to-day operations.

1. Immediately Identify Problems
In the past, one of the key challenges in executing timely disaster recovery was a slow alerting process that informed IT staff to an issue and the subsequent problem diagnosis. Now, advanced clustering technology notification and reporting capabilities can pinpoint when an outage occurs, and immediately notify administrators of a problem. Clustering technology then takes immediate action by starting up applications at the secondary data centers and connecting users to the new data center.

Administrators can then use configuration management tools to diagnose the cause of the downtime, such as identifying a change made by another administrator. The tools can display the nature and time of the change, increasing the speed with which a problem is identified and resolved. When the change is reversed, the normal operating environment can then be restored. With configuration management tools, data center administrators can be confident that their systems can prevent similar outages in the future.

2. Reduce Downtime with Automation
For many organizations, system recovery is a manual process. It often requires time-consuming troubleshooting to identify and solve the problem. An automated approach, such as high availability clustering, eliminates vast amounts of downtime compared to a traditional manual recovery process. If a system fails in the primary data center, the software can restart the application automatically on another server. The administrator may be notified by a text message or an e-mail and has visibility into problems at all times, but the series of activities required to maintain business continuity is handled by the software; with limited action required by IT employees.

If a disaster threatens to cripple an entire data center, an automated approach can eliminate human error and reduce downtime by triggering failover of the critical applications to the secondary site. The failover solution should determine which replicated data the application needs to continue operations. Then a single click starts an automated procedure that restarts the application and connects the users to the secondary site.

Automated failover also addresses a common weakness in many disaster recovery plans – the assumption that key employees will be available to physically enter the data center and manually restart applications. If the employees are unavailable, business continuity suffers. Automation helps reduce this potential point of system failure.

About Dan Lamorena
Dan Lamorena is Director, Product Marketing, Storage and Availability Management Group, responsible for Symantec's Storage Management and High Availability products. He has spent the last five years with Symantec working with customers to help them optimize storage and improve application availability and is a frequent contributor to industry trade publications related to storage and disaster recovery.

Prior to joining Symantec, Dan held product marketing, business development, and strategy management roles with Cisco Systems, Electronic Arts, Ernst and Young, and mobileID.

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Reader Feedback: Page 1 of 1

Disaster Recovery is always a thorn in the back. Everyone wants it but nobody has the money to pay for it. I came across a new idea of a self contained mobile rack that allows me to house mission critical servers. I would highly recommend a look into the technology. Just google "spear mobile rack". Company is based in Arizona and seems to be at the beginnings of something here.




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