Databases: Prep for Disaster Recovery and Continuity Planning (Part 2) - Page 2

 By Kevin Medlin
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It is now much easier to implement virtual servers than it has been in the past. Today, many applications, operating systems, and databases support server virtualization software. This has changed since many of the virtualization vendors have tried to work closely and cooperate fully with the other software vendors.

Pressures from customers have also driven software companies to work with virtualization companies to certify and support their products. Through virtualization, a physical server can be imaged and reproduced in a virtual environment. A production system consisting of a web server, application server, and a database server can all be imaged and virtualized on a single physical server. This effectively consolidates three physical servers down to one without losing any functionality. Capacity may not be equal, but it may suffice perfectly in a disaster recovery scenario. This does not mean that all applications will work together on virtual servers. "For example, one would not configure a SQL Server, an Oracle server, and a Lotus server to fail over to a common target. As a basic rule of thumb, if the applications would not peacefully coexist on a production server, then they will not peacefully coexist on the target." (Buffington, 2005)


A step beyond cross training is mentoring. A mentoring program allows subject matter experts to work directly with management-identified employees who are interested in becoming experts in a different field than the one they are currently in. This can become a large financial gain for employers while increasing employee morale as well.

"On average, companies with mentoring programs have a 19 percent lower turnover rate than those without such a program. That retention boost can translate into a substantial cost benefit. A mentoring program could save a 1,000-person company nearly $9.5 million a year, based on a $50,000 average turnover cost, according to Interim's 1999 Emerging Workforce Study." (Southgate, 2002) Mentoring can also work well for employees who wish to cross train to qualify for positions on other technology teams that have unfilled vacancies.

By identifying and opening career opportunities across teams, individuals feel a sense of empowerment and are not stuck in their current roles. For instance, a database administrator position may be difficult to fill externally. A current developer with talent, ability, and desire to become a database administrator could miss an opportunity to make a lateral move due to lack of experience. Through mentoring, the developer could continue in her current role while cross training in a potentially new career path. In this way, mentoring programs can help manage expected retirements and workflow fluctuations while providing alternative career paths for qualified candidates.

When an employee and mentor begin the process, they should meet with a manager. During this initial interview, they will identify the goals and objectives of the process and develop work plans. The primary focus of the mentor and employee should be to capture institutional knowledge. The employee should document the mentor's position and job in the form of process diagrams and standardized procedures.

As part of the mentoring process, learning employees will identify, learn, and record undocumented processes and procedures. This assists in preventing the loss of institutional knowledge that occurs when a subject matter expert leaves a position that has not been well documented. It also insures that the employee understands the mentor's job functions.

A review of the documentation by the mentor will give an excellent indication of the understanding and progress of the employee. This provides opportunities for standardization and improvements through process engineering. The employee and mentor should also look for training opportunities to supplement the learning process. Future mentoring times, communication, and work product delivery can be managed by the employee and mentor in alignment with approved work plans. The work plans can become subject to review in the annual review of the participants.

By establishing a mentoring program, senior technical staff is recognized for their accomplishments and junior staff is given the opportunity to learn from them and develop into the next generation of subject matter experts. Senior technical staff is the primary source of institutional knowledge. By spreading this knowledge within and across teams, the ability to provide support when subject matter experts are inaccessible or incapacitated is greatly improved.

This is a critical consideration with respect to disaster recovery. By documenting processes and procedures through a mentoring program, the ability to respond quickly to outages or disasters is dramatically enhanced.


Buffington, Jason (2005). Leveraging virtual machines for business continuity. Continuity Central. http://www.continuitycentral.com/feature0272.htm.

Maiwald, Eric & Sieglein, William (2002). Security Planning & Disaster Recovery. California. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

McCarthy, Ed (2007). Tech Tools for Disaster Recovery. Journal of Financial Planning. Vol. 20 Issue 2.

Southgate, David (2002). Streamline mentoring program administration with these new online tools. http://articles.techrepublic.com.com/5100-10878-1051412.html.

Staimer, Marc (2005). Pros and Cons of Remote Mirroring for DR. http://searchstorage.techtarget.com/tip/1,289483,sid5_gci1069175,00.html.

Kevin Medlin has been administering, supporting, and developing in a variety of industries including energy, retail, insurance and government since 1997. He is currently a DBA supporting Oracle and SQL Server, and is Oracle certified in versions 8 through 10g. He received his graduate certificate in Storage Area Networks from Regis University and he will be completing his MS in Technology Systems from East Carolina University in 2008. When he's not trying to make the world a better place through IT, he enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, hanging out by the pool, riding horses, hiking, and camping.

Article courtesy of Enterprise IT Planet

This article was originally published on Sep 8, 2008
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