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Five key business continuity technologies to support BC planning in 2010

Read about the five most important technologies you should have in your data storage environment to help with BC/DR planning in 2010.

Paul Kirvan

By Paul Kirvan, CISA, CISSP, FBCI, CBCP

During 2010, business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) professionals will have a wide array of technologies to choose from to support their DR and BC programs. And while there are many technologies that are important to BC/DR professionals, this article will examine the top five technologies that are most important to factor into BC/DR planning for 2010.

Storage and server virtualization

Virtualization has grown in popularity and use over the past few years. Virtualization helps substantially reduce the number of physical servers required while increasing the utilization levels of remaining servers.

Server virtualization partitions physical servers into multiple servers so that each has the appearance and capabilities of running on its own dedicated machine. Each virtualized server can run its own full-fledged operating system, and each server can be independently rebooted. Server virtualization benefits include:

  • A lower number of physical servers. With a lower number of physical servers, you can reduce hardware maintenance costs. However, you must carefully plan how to distribute applications, operating systems and data across the available server infrastructure.
  • Increased space utilization efficiency in your data center. Implementing a server consolidation strategy saves space in your data environment. This also gives you a good opportunity to address the issue of disaster recovery.
  • Less impact on applications. By having each application within its own "virtual server," you can prevent one application from impacting another application when upgrades or changes are made. But each application must be evaluated for its criticality and, hence, the need for it to be recovered at another server or alternate service arrangement.
  • Virtual server build. You can develop a standard virtual server build that can be easily duplicated which will speed up server deployment. Be sure to examine each server arrangement in terms of its need for recoverability and how it will be recovered.
  • Multiple operating systems. You can deploy multiple operating system technologies on a single hardware platform (i.e., Windows Server 2003, Linux, Windows, etc). Be sure to address the failover and failback requirements of each OS.

According to Gartner Inc., 64% of respondents in a 2007 survey use server virtualization. Nearly 70% of survey respondents said they plan to add more servers to their virtual farm as well as more virtual machines (VMs) on servers. Key products are VMware Inc.'s ESX Server, VMware Server, and Microsoft Virtual Server. Xen hypervisor, a popular open-source industry-standard for virtualization, supports virtualization of x86, x86_64, IA64, PowerPC and other CPU architectures.

Similar to server virtualization, storage virtualization involves the pooling of physical storage from multiple devices via networking into what appears to be a single storage device managed from a central console. Storage virtualization is commonly used in a storage area network (SAN)as it facilitates the ability to connect multiple storage devices using a specialized network. To improve storage device management, storage virtualization helps storage administrators perform data backups, data archiving and recovery more easily and in less time. Users can implement virtualization with software and/or hybrid appliances within a storage area network. Among the proponents of storage virtualization are EMC Corp., Hewlett Packard (HP) Co., Hitachi Data Systems, Red Hat Inc. and VMware.

Editor's Tip:

Learn more about disaster recovery and server virtualization in this podcast.

Cloud disaster recovery

Predicted to be a "hot" technology of 2010, cloud computing is the provision of dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources as a service over the Internet. With cloud computing, users do not need to have knowledge of, expertise in, or control over the technology infrastructure in the "cloud" that supports them. Cloud computing services often provide common business applications online that are accessed from a web browser, while the software and data are stored on the servers.

Current cloud computing offerings consist of services delivered through data centers and built on servers with virtualization technologies. They can be considered managed services. Also, cloud-based disaster recovery services are accessible anywhere there is access to networking infrastructures. Clouds often appear as single points of access for consumer computing needs.

Key features of cloud disaster recovery include:

  • Ability to recover all workloads in the cloud
  • Unlimited scalability with little or no up-front provisioning
  • Pay-per-use billing model
  • Highly secure and reliable infrastructure vs. DIY
  • All users should be able to recover everything they need

With cloud disaster recovery, replacement assets are always standing by, but you only pay for it when you need it, and only for as long as you need it. You can be back up and running within a few hours, without having to select, order, pay for and wait for new equipment to be delivered to your data storage environment.

Editor's Tip:

Learn more about cloud disaster recovery in this tutorial.

Green technologies

With a continued focus on environmentally friendly technologies, adding "green" to IT infrastructures can be beneficial. Green facilities can reduce the need for expensive infrastructure upgrades to deal with increased power and cooling demands. Additional savings can be achieved by reducing the need for floor space, cooling equipment and servers and related devices. Existing data centers can achieve substantial savings by making just a few basic changes, and consolidating servers is a good place to start.

Editor's Tip:

Learn more about green storage in this e-guide.

Email continuity

Email users generally want seamless and full-featured use of their normal email clients during a failover. Email continuity solutions that provide only limited Outlook features during failover or which don't support cached/online mode clients can lead to major support issues as well as business process interruptions. Before choosing an email continuity solution, be sure to verify whether native and full Outlook support is available. As Microsoft Exchange is the platform of choice for many email systems, ensure that the selected email continuity solution supports Exchange applications used by the business. These special applications must continue to function without interruption during an email server failover. This is essential to maintain end user productivity and assure regulatory compliance.

Email continuity solutions, such as Email Management Services from Dell MessageOne, MailWise Rescue from MailWise, or Ontrack Data Recovery services from Kroll Ontrack Inc., typically recover Exchange components at an alternate location.

Editor's Tip:

Learn more about how long emails should be retained in this expert response.

Data deduplication

Data deduplication can reduce data backup volume by factors of as much as 20:1. Deduping services are now available through data backup hardware, software and service vendors as a strategy for streamlining backups and saving storage dollars. The main function of data deduplication is to eliminate redundant data. As data is stored to disk, duplicate blocks of data are identified. Instead of writing the duplicate block to disk, a much smaller pointer is inserted in its place. An index of the data blocks is maintained so the single instance of data may be retrieved for multiple different file requests. Keep in mind that deduplication differs from incremental backups -- deduplication will only copy over unique new data to the backup disk, whereas incremental backups simply back up data that wasn't backed up before. There is no distinguishing between new and duplicate data. The benefits of deduplication include:

  • Reduced disk storage requirements. Depending on the nature of the data being backed up, enterprises are seeing 10:1, and sometimes even 20:1 reduction ratios. The disk cost per gigabyte of backup is reduced by 95%.
  • Reduced bandwidth requirements for site-to-site backup. Enterprises typically use a combination of WAN optimization and incremental backup for off-site disk-to-disk backup. If only unique new data is being transferred to the remote site, then the required WAN bandwidth will be significantly reduced.
  • Shortened recovery objectives. By reducing the amount of data that has to be protected, you may be able to shave hours off your data backup and recovery times.
Editor's Tip:

Learn more about data deduplication in this tutorial.

Each of these technologies should be factored into a business continuity or disaster recovery plan in 2010. Not only will these technologies reduce the amount of complications you might see in your data storage environment, but they may even reduce your costs, especially if they help prevent a disaster.

About this author: Paul Kirvan, CISA, CSSP, FBCI, CBCP, has more than 20 years experience in business continuity management as a consultant, author and educator. He is also secretary of the Business Continuity Institute USA Chapter.

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