Assuring Business Data Continuity

Given the fact that the recent terrorist attacks have had their greatest impact upon businesses, particularly financial companies, it is apparent that network managers and IT departments are being put to the test this week, and will continue to do so in the coming months. Businesses that do not have a continuity plan in place will find themselves hard put to recover from a disaster of this magnitude. We cover the impact that the attack on the World Trade Center has had to data centers, and what precautions you need to take for your business.

By Jim Freund | Posted Sep 13, 2001
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In light of the fact that the recent terrorist attacks have had their greatest impact upon businesses, particularly financial companies, it is apparent that network managers and IT departments are being put to the test this week, and will continue to do so in the coming months. Businesses that do not have a continuity plan in place will find themselves hard put to recover from a disaster of this magnitude.

Few aspects of business will remain unchanged by recent events. Issues of privacy which were formerly taken for granted may well become a thing of the past as companies get increasingly concerned about their welfare. Security issues, dealing with both the physical plant and monitoring of data will become more stringent.

Network managers will be called upon to assure that if disaster strikes, particularly to the entire physical plant, there will be a way for the enterprise to get back on its feet as soon as feasible. One way is by making sure you have sufficient redundancy as part of your back-up plan, according to Henry Goldberg, Senior Analyst at Cahners In-Stat Group. "It's a good idea to back up all your critical information in an off-site data center," he says. It is clear that in this way, your information assets can survive whatever the circumstances may be. Of course, this does not let you off the hook for maintaining your own redundant back-ups; if for no other reason, to assure that if disaster strikes the data center itself, you are still protected.

Laurie Vickers, another Senior Analyst at Cahners In-Stat Group who works with data and voice networking, concurs with Goldberg. "There are three key elements for assuring recovery: redundancy, back-up, and geographic disbursement," she said.

The redundancy is called for in your network topology. Switches and Storage Area Networks (SANs) typically have used star configurations for their connectivity. Mesh configurations (sometimes referred to as fabric design) use multiple switches to connect to one another and their assets instead of only one so that there will be no single point of failure.

Vickers further imparts the advice that backups should be reviewed and assured that they exist on long-term media. Some of the older media may well have degraded to the point of not being able to recover it. Many companies still maintain boxes of paper-based backup of data, only to find that the ink has faded from the page. (Businesses that depend on paper-based information, such as conventional law offices where nothing less than a certified original will do, are in deep trouble.)

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