Disaster Recovery Planning Is Simpler, and Harder, Than Ever

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2008-07-17 Print this article Print

=Repeatable, Recoverable, Reportable}

Lew Smith is product manager of virtualization solutions for Interphase Systems in Plymouth Meeting, Pa. The company assists enterprises with planning and managing systems infrastructure and virtualization, compliance/governance and disaster recovery and business continuity.

"Katrina, 9/11, the [Thailand] tsunami--all these events have really raised the awareness of the importance of a good DR plan with our customers," Smith told eWEEK. "Because now it's not a matter of if a disaster happens; customers are realizing that it's a matter of when a disaster happens."

As a result, companies are investing more in disaster recovery software, hardware and services.

One of the biggest drivers for disaster planning was the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks.

"I feel horrible for those businesses [that lost everything]," Smith said. "But it was an excellent lesson for businesses to learn, because they really can't be compliant unless they have a DR system that's repeatable, recoverable and reportable. Those are the big three pieces that have to be taken into consideration."

Prices for servers and storage hardware generally have come down and performance has gone way up in the seven years since the 9/11 attacks. Automation of critical processes has become almost pervasive in the disaster recovery sector, making such systems easier to install and deploy.

"Hardware prices aren't where they used to be. Have they come down a bit? Yes. Has the horsepower increased? Absolutely," Smith said. "But if you look at the technology that's now on top of that horsepower-specifically, virtualization--that's by far the biggest development we've seen in the last 10 to 15 years in the DR sector."

The Virtualization Factor

Virtualization, certainly, is now the prime method enterprises use to consolidate the equipment in data centers, cut bottom-line power and cooling costs, and shrink carbon footprints. The portability of resources that virtualization brings provides IT managers with a lot more options for their disaster recovery strategies.

"With virtualization in the data center [and in the disaster recovery system], you now have a powerful weapon that you can use to move things faster and more efficiently," Interphase Systems' Smith said. "For example, from a hardware independence perspective, I now no longer have to have a physical one-to-one match between the main data center and a recovery site. I can take that virtual machine, replicate it to other locations, and bring it up in a matter of hours--if not minutes. In the past, it would take days, sometimes weeks, to do a one-to-one physical recovery."

When you've got hundreds or thousands of nodes to restore or replicate, virtualization can become a major factor in getting a business itself back up and running.

VMware's Site Recovery Manager, launched in May, has become a hot item in the disaster recovery world. VMware customers were using the ESX virtualization platform for backing up and replicating virtual machines and storage months ago--even before the Site Recovery Manager was released as a formal product.

"Virtualization really has taken DR to the next level. Customers are taking that financial leap to acquire the technology now because of the benefits on the back end, due to the extreme portability of virtualized applications and storage," Smith said.

Systems such as Site Recovery Manager will ease a lot of the worry that comes when auditors knock on your company's doors: Site Recovery Manager offers a CIO or data center manager an electronic record they can show auditors on the spot-a report that can be run in a few minutes that outlines all the disaster recovery testing that has been run, including the parts of the system that passed and failed, plus all the tests that were run after fixes were put into place.

"Being able to say, -This is how we do it here,' and print out this report while they're sitting there with you, that's an incredible weapon in your arsenal," Smith said.  "That versus pulling out a 250-page -big binder' and going through every single page with them--by far, I think I'd take the first option."

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on Salesforce.com and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and DevX.com and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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