DRaaS Implementation Tips
Whichever DRaaS delivery method might interest you, be sure that you understand these important do's and don'ts. Mark Jameson, general manager at Acronis Disaster Recovery recommends that SMBs start with planning, not technology. DR encompasses a wealth of details such as available phone lines, personnel being able to travel to a new location in the event of a disaster, and a thousand other factors including many on the technology side.
A good example is this paper on small business continuity planning (PDF) developed by the City of Westminster, Colo. It gives small businesses an idea of the many facets you need to consider. All of the elements need to be documented, prepared in checklists, and drilled in with personnel.
During Superstorm Sandy, the Making Headway Foundation in New York State found out just how wrong things can go—despite planning. This small business lost power, phone, and Internet for a week. The company's files were safe because it developed proper backup procedures, but its data could not be recovered onsite until power and Internet service were restored. The point is that you really can't plan enough. You have to address various scenarios and have a plan for each one if you hope to stay one step ahead of Mother Nature.
Testing, too, is a vital ingredient. Once you have a plan in place that's supported by adequate technology, stage a mock disaster and see how your personnel and your systems respond. This always reveals serious weaknesses that you need to address.
"Make sure you put the DR solution through its paces upfront," said Schin. "You should also test your DR response at least every six months."
This is important due to a variety of factors such as personnel turnover. The old receptionist may have known your DR plan thoroughly, but the new one may be clueless. You don't want to find that out in the eye of the storm. Additionally, little details may change that can thwart even the finest DR plan. Maybe the person responsible for IT moved two months ago and has a new phone number or address. Efforts to find him or her may be challenged by the new contact information failing to make it into the DR documentation binder.
"You must constantly maintain the DR plan as the application portfolio and other details change," said Meriwether.
Jameson also recommends employing multiple layers of protection. Always back up files to more than one place. Keep copies on site, as well as at an off-site DR location or cloud. Schin advises making three different copies to keep your options open.
Why? Here's an example from Hurricane Katrina: A small business thought it was safe because it had its backup tapes secured at a DR site on the 12th floor of a building in New Orleans. However, the company could not access that building for many days due to flooding.
Vendor selection also plays an important part. Meriwether said that small business owners must be sure the service provider has the necessary computer resources and storage capabilities to deliver DR data on demand, as well as the capability to start applications in their cloud when needed. In other words, do they have the capability to use their cloud as a temporary work environment until your own systems are back online locally?
Further, you don't want to have to wait all day for a cloud provider to transmit your data back to you, or to find out that service is horrible when you try to run your whole business in a provider's cloud.
"Make sure that the provider can deliver the appropriate quality of service while the application is running in its cloud," said Meriwether.
Drew Robb is a Los Angeles-based freelancer specializing in technology and engineering. Originally from Scotland, he graduated with a degree in geology from Glasgow's Strathclyde University. In recent years he has authored hundreds of articles as well as the book, Server Disk Management by CRC Press.
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