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Prepare remote access for disaster recovery

Test to make sure it will work when you need it.

It's 7 a.m., there's three feet of snow in your driveway, it's coming down so hard you can't see across the street, the weatherman says you shouldn't drive except in emergencies and your pager just went off, indicating a problem at the data center.

Now is a lousy time to find out if the remote access features of your storage management package work as advertised.

Although we tend to think of disasters as events that destroy systems or data, cutting off physical access to your systems can be a disaster too. A snowstorm, flood, chemical spill or other situation that keeps administrators away from the data center can be just as devastating to business continuity. That's why consultants such as Gartner and IDC recommended in the wake of Sept. 11 that you be sure you can manage your systems remotely.

Insuring remote access for critical personnel involves several things. For one thing you have to make sure that they have the means to access their systems. That includes making sure they have computers that have the capability not only to tie in to the enterprise system but have enough processing power, storage and the applications they need to do their jobs.

Insuring access also means making sure that your people have the appropriate passwords and permissions to do what they need to do remotely. This can involve a balancing act with security considerations, especially in the case of administrators, because it means a direct pipeline into your systems from outside the enterprise offices. You may want to explore having a special mechanism to grant remote administrative privileges that can be turned on in the event of an emergency.

Finally, insuring remote access means planning and testing to make sure you can use the remote access features when you need them. As part of your disaster-recovery planning, you should decide who needs remote access, on what level, and test to make sure they have that access and keep the list and the permissions updated as needed.

Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last twenty years he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.

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