Coming Back from the Brink

Haiti may not be the most tech-savvy region on the planet, but the scenes of devastation that have been emanating from the country over the past week should offer stark proof of the need for a robust disaster recovery system.

But even though DR has moved up a few notches on many CEOs’ list of priorities over the past few years, the latest research shows just how conflicted much of the industry is when it comes to ensuring continuity in the event of a major outage. Symantec recently issued results of a survey of close to 2,000 mid-sized enterprise managers and found that while 80 percent are satisfied with their DR system, more than a quarter admitted it did not include provisions for remote offices or virtual infrastructure. And about a third said they had not reviewed their current plan in more than a year, with an equal number saying they didn’t even have a fully documented plan in the first place.

What’s surprising is that this comes at a time when the variety and diversity of disaster recovery systems continues to increase, particularly as virtualization and cloud computing bring an entirely new set of capabilities to the table.

Part of that movement has brought greater integration between once-separate concepts like disaster recovery and overall systems lifecycle management. Organizations like newScale are employing an application storefront approach to provide cradle-to-grave IT services management to ensure they remain available even during the worst of times. The company’s newScale 9 solution provides for the capture of continuity and other data each time a service is requested, which provides for more efficient resource utilization but can also refire services quickly and easily should it be lost.

For many organizations, the archiving aspect of disaster recovery cannot be overstated, particularly when it comes to email records and other institutional knowledge sets. That’s part of the reason tobacco firm Alliance One has unified its email archiving system under Mimosa’s NearPoint platform. The company says the move not only gave it a zero-footprint archiving architecture, but a single-click recovery platform for everything from single email messages to entire mailboxes and databases.

Among traditional storage vendors, simplified DR looks to be one of the top trends for 2010. Compellent Technologies recently added automated tiering, virtual I/O and new server mapping capabilities to its Storage Center 5 platform, all aimed at providing a unified storage pool across the numerous drive formats and file protocols that exist in most enterprises. One of the key components is the use of “Consistency Groups” that enable expanded snapshot capabilities for faster, more accurate large-file recovery.

For the typical enterprise, the chance of encountering a Haiti- or New Orleans-style catastrophe is remote at best. But that doesn’t mean services can’t be brought down in other ways, such as power outages or human error. For critical data center operations, a speedy recovery means the difference between organizational survival or oblivion.

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