Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery
It is a common, but deadly mistake, to use the term Backup (B/U) interchangeably with Disaster Recovery (DR). This misunderstanding could cause any number of data security and data recovery issues that could potentially destroy a company or at least its IT guy. There is an additional concept in the same vein known as Business Continuity (BC) – let’s do a gut check. To start with, a business continuity assessment is a high-level assessment of a company’s IT enterprise and systematically identifying and then eliminating single points of failure (SPOF) – such as a single core-network switch, standalone server, or a single connection to the internet.
When designing a high-availability IT environment, each component in the compute, network and storage areas are designed and implemented with layers of redundancy. The more critical your IT systems (I don’t know of any organizations that haven’t become totally dependent on their IT stuff) the more business continuity needs to be addressed. Backups and disaster recovery plans are subsets of a business continuity plan.
Many people believe that just a backup alone is sufficient to prevent the loss of data in the event of a disaster, however backup is merely one aspect of a business continuity plan. In order to ensure that a backup can be “stood up,” there also needs to be a disaster recovery plan which identifies and provisions the actual hardware and software to run the backup and bring the company’s IT systems back into operation.
What is Backup?
Backup is the process of making copies of files to have a historical record of data as it existed at a certain point in time. The specifications of backups call for the definition of the following:
- Retention – the length of time data must be retained
- Recovery Time Objective (RTO) – designates the amount of “real time” that can pass before the disruption begins to impact business operations
- Recovery Point Objective (RPO) – the variable amount of data that will be lost or will have to be re-entered during an outage
Making backups of files these days is very simple, if the IT is virtualized – it is literally as easy as taking snapshots of files. It is one of the major advantages of virtualization- but that’s a separate discussion. Just because it’s easy to make a backup doesn’t mean recovering data from those backups is easy. “Standing up” a backup requires the ability to restore the backup (snapshot) on a computing platform (hardware and software) capable of duplicating the operational parameters of the existing computing platform with the existing IT infrastructure. It doesn’t sound simple? It’s not – backing up is easy – restoring isn’t. That’s where verification testing comes in. Verify your backups.
But what happens when the whole existing IT infrastructure is gone? That’s a disaster.
What is Disaster Recovery?
Disaster Recovery (DR) is a set of procedures, hardware (computers, network, storage) and software (OS and applications) that allow a company to restore operations in the case of such a disaster.
Darryl Vidal, VPLS’s Director of Operations, stresses the importance that VPLS places in having both backup and disaster recovery. “You have to do both; if you have a backup but no disaster recovery plan, your backup could be sitting in a cloud with no resources to make it operational.” VPLS offers a variety of services to ensure that our customers’ data is secure if a failure, hack, virus. or natural disaster occurs.
Disaster Recovery must be considered in the context of. “what will we do if the data center office burns down?” Any and all types of backups can be rendered useless in the case of some disaster that takes out the whole building. For instance, if the building housing your data center were destroyed, what would be required to bring “critical” systems back online? Finance, manufacturing, email, and database systems would need to be back online first. Is there a complete backup of data, applications, operating systems, that could be brought into production on some standard hardware? Are the backup recovery procedures documented? If not, that really means that in a disaster, your company couldn’t come back up in weeks or even months.
To be clear, backups and disaster recovery is a subset of business continuity planning. BC seeks to identify all likely single-points of failure (SPOF), and implement equipment, processes and procedures to address each one – including backups and DR provisioning.
To begin the business continuity assessment process, take a systematic top-down approach, and review each potential point-of-failure. Then address each according to its level of criticality. Obviously, this means an assessment of criticality comes first. Start with a BC and DR plan. Then create the backup and recovery plan.
The best news is that today, these can be purchases from a Managed Services Provider (MSP) like VPLS. Backup as a Service (BaaS) is the service to have VPLS run your backups on our enterprise infrastructure. Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) adds the extra layer of actual hardware and software infrastructure to “stand up” your backup images in our Data Center infrastructure in the case of an attack, outage, or natural disaster.
Add to that the benefit of procuring BaaS or DRaaS without any capital outlay – a true opportunity to move from a CapEx to an OpEx IT finance model.
Verify Backup and DR Practices
Finally, verification of backup and DR practices are often not performed because of the huge resource draw and potential down-time caused by such an exercise. But, by having these services provide by an Managed Services Provider, DR verification testing should happen at least twice a year, if not quarterly. We don’t need to discuss why it isn’t done – convenience, opportunity, downtime -but the risk of not planning and documenting a full recovery operation only insures that when, or it, this disaster happens, the organization really doesn’t know if the processes and procedures will actually work. A situation best described as untenable.
To learn more about how VPLS can help businesses with business continuity and disaster recovery, visit VPLS Backup Solutions.