Disaster Recovery, Business Continuity and Hurricane Season – Part II

By Robert Lupo, GM, TierPoint Jacksonville Facility and Operations

Last July, we wrote a post about the opening of the 2016 hurricane season. We explained that this year is expected to be a “near normal” season, with 10 to 16 named storms in the Atlantic, including 1 to 4 major hurricanes. We talked about what this means for businesses on the Atlantic Seaboard and the Gulf Coast, and how they should prepare themselves for possible hurricanes.

Hurricanes aren’t the only reason IT systems are compromised. Most parts of the United States are at risk for some kind of natural disaster.  But it doesn’t take an earthquake to bring your business to a grinding halt.  There are many more common occurrences in daily life that can cause an outage.  Some of the ones we see most frequently include:

  • Power loss
  • Premature system failures, resulting from a variety of reasons including overheating or poor ventilation
  • Water from sprinklers or other sources
  • User error
  • Viruses or other security breaches

When outages do occur, the costs can be devastating most importantly for personal safety but also to the life of an organization.

Hurricane Season Sign With Stormy Background

According to NOAA, we are now entering the peak of this year’s hurricane season.

As part of our ongoing series on this topic, we’ll explore some basic elements of a Disaster Recovery (DR) plan and a Business Continuity Plan (BCP). In general, you should take a primary/secondary approach to your DR/BCP plans. Whether it’s protecting your IT systems and mission-critical data, or having a secondary location where your employees can work remotely following a disaster, it’s always best to have a backup plan.

Keep in mind the difference between a DR plan and a BCP. DR is an IT-based solution for keeping your critical systems and data safe, and restoring them after a disaster. BCP is the plan for how your entire organization will respond to a disaster, and how your business will recover. Many companies have one plan but not the other. You need both a DR and a BCP plan to ensure your business will survive if a disaster hits you.

Backup and Replication

Disaster Recovery solutions enable your organization to recover some or all of the data that gets lost or damaged in one of your servers.  The best DR plans have a mix of backup and replication.  A backup is a snapshot of your data at a point in time.  Backups are ideal for long-term storage and for situations where recovery time of a day or more is acceptable.  With replication, copies in real time or close to real time get distributed via the Internet to a new location.  In a situation where a facility goes down due to a hurricane, flood or other natural disaster, failover to a replicated site can keep a business running.  This is vitally important for organizations that have a high-volume transaction load for applications like e-commerce, customer service and enterprise resource planning.

Even though replication solutions are important for dealing with potential disasters, the bigger challenge for organizations can be the need for a second or sometimes a third data center. Many organizations do not want to operate a single data center much less invest in the real estate and the people to operate multiple facilities.

TierPoint and similar companies have begun to offer several different types of DR/BCP services to help clients minimize the costs and many of the burdens associated with proper DR/BCP.

Some sample services include:

  • Colocation: With colocation, a client puts their server equipment in a provider’s data center, which generally has the right connectivity, power and cooling capabilities and is designed to withstand hurricanes as well as tornadoes, blizzards and other natural disasters.
  • Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS): DRaaS, a top buzzword today, encompasses various services that provide clients with flexibility.  With DRaaS, workloads/data can be backed up/replicated to a private or multi-tenant cloud from a cloud or one of your servers.
  • Backup-as-a-Service (BaaS): BaaS complements DRaaS. BaaS makes a backup copy that can be restored at a later point.  This is ideal for data protection.  DRaaS concentrates on application and server replication and continuity to keep operations running from a different location.
  • Recovery Workspace: When many organizations put their DR/BCP plan together, they consider things like their data, servers and facilities.  We find that they often forget to plan for where their employees can work during an outage, especially for those who work in a call center or in business application support. Some types of businesses are suited to allow employees to work from home.  Others need workers close to their data.  As a result, more and more data center companies are offering workspace options where people can keep working during an outage.
  • Managed Services: There are many ancillary services that a provider can help a client throughout their DR/BCP planning.  One key area is failover testing.  Every forward-thinking plan should include regular fire drills where a system is intentionally brought down to test how well a failover and failback works. When a damaged system returns to normal and is ready to continue as the primary system, the failback is the process of restoring the data and the server to its normal state.

Next Steps

There has been tragic flooding in Louisiana, but so far, we have been spared major hurricanes.  However, NOAA reports that we’re just entering the peak hurricane season.  Lately, outside our Jacksonville office, we have observed afternoon thunderstorms accompanied by winds exceeding 100 miles per hour.

There is no better time to evaluate your organization’s DR/BCP plans and to ask yourself, what you would do if a disaster did hit.  Disaster Recovery service providers will ask you the critical questions, will uncover potential holes and can help ensure that your business is fully prepared for an outage.

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TierPoint's Robert LupoRobert Lupo is GM, TierPoint Jacksonville Facility and Operations.  He has more than two decades of experience in infrastructure support design and implementation leadership.  At TierPoint, he focuses on helping clients receive a first-class experience by keeping the Jacksonville data center operating at peak performance and efficiency.  Additionally, he counsels clients on the best infrastructure solutions to help them reduce business risks and cut CapEx costs.