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Remote site monitoring often missing from disaster recovery plan

After replicating data to a remote site at great cost, it's a good idea to actually check to see if it's all working before having to recover from a disaster.

This is the last of a five-part series on enterprise data storage management tools. In the fourth part, we looked at how data storage performance monitoring goes beyond storage arrays.

There are plenty of options for replicating data to a disaster recovery (DR) site. Far less common are tools that can monitor the remote data center to help insure the recovery is ready to go in the event of a catastrophe.

"If storage is the poor relation in the IT department, then disaster recovery is the poor relation's poor relation," said Valdis Filks, a research director of storage technologies and strategy at Gartner Inc. "People don't want to spend anything on disaster recovery until things go wrong."

Read our 5-part series on storage management tools
Enterprise data storage performance monitoring goes beyond storage arrays

Thin provisioning, virtualization aid data storage configuration

Enterprise data storage capacity management tools still found lacking

Improved enterprise storage management tools are needed, especially for data backup

One of the few monitoring tools is Continuity Software Inc.'s RecoverGuard. The product scans and compares the IT infrastructure of the primary data center and the DR or failover site on an ongoing basis to flag any configuration drift that might prevent a company from meeting its recovery point objective (RPO) or recovery time objective (RTO).

Symantec Corp. OEMs the RecoverGuard software from Continuity. In April, Symantec announced the availability of the tool under the brand name Veritas CommandCentral Disaster Recovery Advisor.

"You're buying an insurance policy, so that if something does go wrong, you know you can come up cleanly," Filks said.

The risk of even a single configuration change having an unintended adverse reaction is great for a hot disaster recovery site that needs to recover within minutes, Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Bob Laliberte said. The bigger and more complex the environment, the more necessary monitoring tools become.

Laliberte said he's amazed that companies will spend millions of dollars to create a secondary or tertiary data center for disaster recovery without putting checks in place at a fraction of the cost to make sure "it's actually going to work."

"Things change over time, and as a result, when you go to implement or test your DR plan, something's broken," he said. "Do you want to find that out when you test it once or twice a year? Or, do you want to know proactively and fix it?"

Continuity CEO Gil Hecht said RecoverGuard doesn't eliminate the need for disaster recovery testing become companies also need to make sure that its personnel and processes are prepared.

Software-based data replication tools

Software-based data replication and/or recovery tools may also help, although they don't do the gap analysis with the DR site and typically lack extensive monitoring or reporting capabilities. Products include CA Inc.'s XOsoft Replication and XOsoft High Availability, EMC Corp.'s Replication Manager, InMage Systems Inc.'s Scout and SteelEye's Technology Inc.'s DataKeeper and LifeKeeper. IBM's Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) Extended Edition includes a module that can help customers with planning.

One large financial institution that has long used EMC Corp.'s Symmetrix Remote Data Facility (SRDF) for replication recently started using its NetApp Inc.'s SANscreen tool disaster recovery monitoring purposes. The company licensed the SANscreen Replication Assurance module tool to check that the data has been replicated and the storage is properly configured at its DR site.

"At any given time, when my auditors look over my shoulder, I can show them that, yes, I'm replicating," said Ryan Perkowski, manager of storage operations at a financial firm he asked not to identify. "I'm assured that everything's ready to go. When I do have to flip the switch, my storage is already mapped, masked and zoned."

The SANscreen tool is set to poll the environment at 15-minute intervals, identify problems or violations of the company's pre-set DR policy and trigger alarms until any flagged piece of infrastructure is updated.

Aptare Inc.'s StorageConsole Replication Manager, Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Storage Essentials and Symantec's Veritas CommandCentral Storage also can check that the replication software is working and data is mirrored, according to Laliberte.

Taneja Group senior analyst Jeff Boles said the complexity associated with keeping production and DR infrastructure in sync causes some companies to turn to online hosted services, such as Simply Continuous Inc. or SunGard Availability Services.

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