What you will learn in this tip: When considering tools to help assess disaster recovery readiness, you must know there's no software that can scan your disaster recovery plan and produce a score card-style report, or rate your state of DR readiness. Nevertheless, there are some disaster recovery tools that can help you document your IT environment, automate the discovery of hardware and software dependencies, evaluate the quality of backups and, ultimately, improve your DR readiness.
To get started with assessing your DR readiness, at a high level, areas to be considered are as follows:
- IT risk and single points of failure
- Impact of an outage
- Data backup performance (failures and omissions)
- Application and systems dependencies
- Disaster recovery strategy and plan quality
Beyond the obvious—which would be to conduct a disaster recovery test based on a plan—there is much more that needs to be done to assess your disaster recovery readiness, such as conducting a business impact analysis (BIA), and ensuring all dependencies between applications and systems are documented. This is where a number of tools can help.
Tools to help you with your business impact analysis
While performing a business impact analysis doesn't guarantee DR readiness, it can help identify applications that support critical business processes, the impact to the business when they are down and the possible losses caused by an outage. It also points you in the right direction with respect to developing the right disaster recovery strategy and, therefore, increases DR readiness. There are numerous software products that can assist with the preparation of a BIA, including the SunGard Continuity Management Solution BIA Professional, and eBRP Solutions' BIA Utility, to name only a few. A word of caution though: These tools require a certain amount of diligence in the collection of data that will be entered and analyzed in order to be effective and provide realistic impact data.
Dependencies, discovery and mapping
Another area that must be assessed for DR readiness is to ensure that all dependencies between applications and systems are identified and documented. This is required to make sure there are no gaps in the DR plan. This is where discovery and dependency mapping software tools come in handy.
This includes tools like BMC Software's Atrium Discovery and Dependency Mapping, Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co.'s Discovery and Dependency Mapping software, and EMC Corp.'s VMware vCenter Application Discovery Manager, to name only a few examples. These products collect information on applications, systems, hardware configuration, links between systems, etc. to produce a map of the IT infrastructure and its linkage. These tools can also be integrated with Configuration Management Database (CMDB) software for easy reference.
Proactive and predictive infrastructure monitoring
IT environments are constantly changing, and the effectiveness of change control can vary widely across organizations. Predictive infrastructure monitoring software can help you identify gaps that could seriously affect DR readiness. These tools are designed to proactively identify single points of failure, inconsistencies between production and DR environments or high-availability clusters, data replication inconsistencies, or performance and threshold events from other monitoring software, etc.
Some examples of these tools include Continuity Software’s RecoverGuard, which scans the IT infrastructure and compares information collected with gap signatures stored in a knowledgebase to identify and flag possible issues. BMC Software's ProactiveNet Performance Management collects data from applications and infrastructure components to identify anomalies and can also communicate with a CMDB to identify changes. These tools effectively contribute to IT risk mitigation, which is closely related to DR readiness.
No DR readiness assessment would be complete without looking at the data backup environment performance. This can be performed using the native reporting capabilities of your backup software, or by using specialized monitoring and reporting software such a Aptare Inc.'s StorageConsole, Bocada Inc.'s Prism or EMC Data Protection Advisor, to name just a few. These tools usually offer features that go well beyond what's included with backup software; they can also report on multiple backup and replication platforms from a single management interface. The proactive backup monitoring tools allow administrators to identify areas where backups are failing, providing yet another way to assess DR readiness and improve upon it.
Even though there are no specialized disaster recovery tools that can help you predict your DR readiness 100%, the good news is there is some specialized software that can help.
About this author: Pierre Dorion is the data center practice director and a senior consultant with Long View Systems Inc. in Phoenix, Ariz., specializing in the areas of business continuity and DR planning services and corporate data protection.