Ready for Disaster?  3 Actions Plans to Help  You PrepareBy Kyle Christopher

In the data storage world, we hear about disaster recovery (DR) a lot. Everyone knows that having a disaster recovery plan is important. Everyone needs a back-up plan in place for when the inevitable disaster strikes, but it can be expensive. The tricky thing, though, is that DR is a lot like insurance. You don't want to pay for it unless you really need it. And when you need it, you REALLY need it. Computer Business Research defines DR as "the process, policies and procedures related to preparing for recovery or continuation of technology infrastructure critical to an organization after a natural or human-induced disaster." In short, DR is a plan that should be in place before disaster strikes.

A disaster can be understood many different ways. For example, one disaster might be a tornado striking your primary data center. In weather prone areas this would be a more likely scenario. But not everyone faces the same vulnerabilities. A disaster can also be a manmade event, such as downtime during scheduled maintenance activity. It is very likely that your business will face this scenario. Are you prepared? Recently, a friend told me that about a web-based dating website that was down more than 24 hours for "scheduled maintenance" on a weekday! For a web-based service, this is an eternity! Imagine the disgruntled customers and loss of business the company faced. I would imagine that a lot of potential new customers were lost during such an extended period of downtime. This type of disaster or unplanned maintenance could easily happen and will very likely affect your company's bottom line. Perhaps my friend would have had better luck trying a less mainstream dating site, such as Farmers Only.

Have you considered all the types of disasters that may strike? None of us want to consider the worst-case scenario. The problem is that ignoring that unthinkable scenario might actually take you there. It's at least worth considering whether you could put a few small safety nets in place to reduce the risk of a worst-case scenario coming to life.

Here are the 3 progressive steps you can take to be prepared for disaster.

1. Prevent

There are certainly absolute worst-case scenarios, like the recent tornados in Oklahoma or last year's Hurricane Sandy. The likelihood that this will happen to you is slim to none, and Slim just left the building. But maybe you've got a scheduled maintenance hardware or software upgrade. It's amazing to me how many web-based companies have no data replication in place in the likely event that maintenance takes longer than expected. An option we've found helpful is to do a storage rental so there's virtually no downtime while you're doing your upgrades. And maybe you don't want to have used storage as your main workhorse, but it is worth considering whether it could come in handy for a DR site you thought you couldn't afford.

2. Detect

Having a simple DR checklist can help you detect areas of vulnerability. Consider the following suggestions to help get your checklist started:

  • A backup plan as to who shall perform the recovery if my system administrator is out of the office.
  • All vendor, third-party, and internal documentation for key applications is quickly accessible.
  • Detailed documentation of the recovery process for each system and core application.

You might also ask yourself a few basic questions to help you prepare. Do you live in tornado, hurricane or earthquake-prone area? Is it possible to find a pre-owned or used storage solution for your DR site? Many times pre-owned and used storage puts DR solutions within reach for companies that did not realize they could afford it. Detect areas of vulnerability while also identifying alternative solutions that may put a DR site within your reach.

3.Correct

If you've gotten this far and planned for correction after a disaster, you are in great shape! But most IT departments are not there. Most departments are just struggling to keep their head above water. Planning for the future is a lost dream. You'd be surprised how much disaster happens among large corporate or government entities with RAID 5. "RAID 5?" you ask. "I thought RAIDs let you hot swap a failed drive without having to recover the data." True, but many companies fail to configure the RAID to give a proper alert when a drive fails. It's only after a second drive fails that a company discovers their system is down. Simply knowing this can help you correct a situation before it occurs.

Be Prepared

Prevent. Detect. Correct. You're only a few hours away from disaster at any time. Will you be ready? Our Data Storage Engineers have started providing complimentary storage and DR assessments to help prepare you for the worst.

Here are a few parting thoughts to help you be ready if a hard drive or array is damaged.

  • Don't use the recovery software if the drive is making clicking, humming or scraping sounds.
  • Don't turn it on if there is physical damage or unusual sounds.
  • Don't try any "homemade remedies" to revive your drives such as turning it off or using free software repairs you found from a Google search. This might cause further damage or result in permanent loss.

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