Survivor's Guide: 10 Disaster Recovery Tips

1. Start with the basics. Audit your internal backup plans and implement procedures where none exist. The best disaster recovery plan can't recover data that hasn't been backed up. Ensure that your plan covers all aspects of your environment that are critical to the ability to address a disaster as the first step.

2. How far do you need to go? Determine whether you need wide-area disaster recovery -- this will provide the ability to recover data and resume operations at locations on another coast or even another continent, as opposed to just within your metropolitan area. You can maintain application and data availability during fires, floods and power outages without breaking your budget.

3. Support from above. Secure senior management support of the plan to ensure that disaster recovery is a priority throughout the enterprise.

4. How wide do you need to go? If you do need wide-area recovery, make sure that the system combines mirroring with IP-based networking that connects two storage-area networks in the event your organization needs to recover from a widespread disaster.

5. Redundancy, redundancy, redundancy. Make sure that your recovery system contains no single points of failure. Disaster prevention begins within the server and storage platforms -- consider redundant hot-swap components, such as disk drives, fans and power supplies. External storage arrays should be connected to multiple host bus adapters and configured with redundant management modules where applicable. Other reliability features to consider are Error Checking and Correcting memory, uninterruptible power supplies to help protect against unexpected power failure and hot-swap devices to facilitate repairs while still keeping the system online.

6. Staff locally, manage globally. If an administrator is in a remote location during an outage, then remote management capabilities will play an important role in troubleshooting and diagnosing problems from a remote location in order to bring the server back online quickly. Make sure your recovery system supports remote administration.

7. Backup starts with the client. Determine if the recovery system includes support for desktop and portable computers. Vital data is stored on PCs -- regular backups are essential and often overlooked.

8. Choose your partners wisely. Partner with a hardware/services provider that can provide full service support before, during and after a disaster. This allows you to maintain your business operations by turning over the IT disaster recovery functions to the partner so you can focus on your employees, customers and business operations. Make sure this partner can deploy, track and deliver the mission-critical parts you need to keep your business running.

9. Clearly define roles. Make sure your disaster recovery plan considers the effects of an event on your employees -- they should know exactly what is expected of them. Specifically, your IT staff must know what to focus on vs. your outsourcing partner during and after an event. Make sure everyone has appropriate contact and escalation information.

10. Leave yourself some room. Ensure that your recovery system can scale with your future needs and that it doesn't lock you into a particular technology or vendor. The benefits realized from constant innovation in server and storage technology will be hampered by a disaster recovery system that isn't flexible and standards-based.

Asthana is director of enterprise storage marketing at Dell Inc.'s Storage Division.

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Preparing For The Worst

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