Defending your business from disaster

January 6th, 2015, Published in Articles: EngineerIT

It’s not pleasant to dwell on, but disaster can strike any organisation at any time; be it a natural disaster (fire, flood, lightning strike and so on) or man-made (such as power failure or hacking). A disaster recovery plan (DRP) is a documented process or set of procedures to recover and protect a business’ IT infrastructure in the event of a disaster. Given organisations’ increasing dependency on information technology to run their operations, a DRP is increasingly associated with document archiving and the recovery of information.Companies cannot always avoid disasters, but with careful planning the effects of a disaster, downtime and data loss, they can be minimised.

actnet-055-01-2015--Gavin-Hi-res-photo-4

Gavin Dunlop

One of the most important aspects of disaster recovery is to have a location from which the recovery can take place. This location is known as a backup site. In the event of a disaster, a backup site is where your data centre will be recreated. Historically, backup sites were physical locations; today, however, they are frequently hosted in the cloud.

There are three different types of backup sites, with the main difference between them being the costs and effort required to implement them: cold sites,  warm sites and hot sites.

Cold site

A cold site is the least expensive type of backup site for an organisation to operate and is little more than an appropriately configured space in a building. As it does not include backed up copies of data and information from the original location of the organisation, nor does it include hardware already set up, everything required to restore service to your users must be procured and delivered to the site before the process of recovery can begin.

The lack of provisioned hardware contributes to the minimal start-up costs of the cold site, but as you can imagine, the delay going from a cold backup site to full operations can be substantial.

Warm site

A warm site is, as the name suggests, a compromise between hot and cold. These sites will have hardware and connectivity already established, though on a smaller scale than the original production site or even a hot site. Whilst the site may have backups on hand, they may not be complete and may be between several days or weeks old. Bearing this in mind, the recovery will be delayed while network connectivity is established and data is recovered from a remote backup site.

Hot site

A hot backup site is the most expensive approach to disaster recovery; however, it is a virtual mirror image of user data.Real time synchronisation is used to completely mirror the data environment of the original site using wide area network links and specialised software. Following a disruption to the original site, the hot site exists so that the organisation can relocate with minimal losses to normal operations in the shortest recovery time. Ideally, a hot site will be up and running within a matter of hours. Hot sites are popular with organisations that operate real time processes such as financial institutions, government agencies and e-commerce providers.

When deciding which type of backup site to use, a cost versus benefit analysis must be undertaken, and the type of business you operate borne in mind.

How to implement?

Backup sites can come from three different sources:

  • Companies specialising in providing document archiving and disaster recovery services;
  • Other locations owned and operated by your organisation; or
  • A mutual agreement with another organisation to share data centre facilities in the event of a disaster.

Each approach has pros and cons. In the end, the selection of a backup site is a compromise between cost and your organisation’s need for business continuation.
Contracting with a document archiving and disaster recovery firm gives you access to professionals skilled in guiding organisations through the process of creating, testing, and implementing a disaster recovery plan.While traditional document archive solutions may prove to be complex and costly, the secure storage of key documents does not only makes good business sense, but in many cases is also compliance requirement.

The good news is that there are now document archiving solutions that also offer hotsite disaster recovery; thus ensuring that all documents are stored cost-effectively in a convenient and highly secure cloud-based repository,within an encrypted database, ensuring 24/7 operational accessibility in the event of a disaster.

Contact Janine Buckley, Actnet, Tel 011 267-6444, janineb@actnet.co.za

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