Ensuring continuity in the age of 'always-on'

Veeam Pty Ltd

By Charles Clarke*
Wednesday, 12 November, 2014

Ensuring continuity in the age of 'always-on'

If you want your business to recover quickly following a data disaster, it’s not enough to simply have backups - you need a complete disaster recovery plan that is regularly tested and audited.

Global IT budgets have been rising roughly in line with inflation, but the volume of data that businesses have to manage continues to grow exponentially. In addition, technology leaders are no longer tasked with simply keeping systems running but are expected to use IT to drive the business forward.

The increasing reliance on technology in a global marketplace, which expects near-infinite access to data, products and services, means that 24/7 access to information and applications has become critical. Having the right IT tools to support the ‘always-on’ business is no longer an option but a necessity to remain competitive within the market.

Self-evidently, the implications of the always-on business era, due to the increasing amount of data being produced by organisations, increasingly complex IT systems and the heightened risk of IT outages and potential data loss, means business continuity is more important than ever.

If we are to bridge the availability gap between being always-on and the cost and complexity of delivering that outcome, we must evaluate a number of considerations.

Backup is often considered an afterthought in many projects and honestly, it can be boring - therefore, it needs to just work. And having a solid recovery strategy in many ways frees an organisation to be more daring with its technology portfolio. Data protection must be a priority.

The right skill set for executing backup and recovery is indispensable for the business that never sleeps. In this case, recovery is strategic. Apply the golden 3-2-1-0 rule to keep valuable data intact. That is, you should have 3 copies of data with one in production, on 2 different media and 1 stored off-site, with zero error in recovery.

Having a backup plan will not suffice; it has to be completed with routine recovery testing that ensures all operations are functioning the way they should.

When putting together a disaster recovery plan, it is important to have a thorough understanding of the impact an outage will have on infrastructure. Before an actual outage occurs, you should have already predicted the specific workloads that can successfully be assigned as a priority. It is also critical to know the impact those workloads might have on surrounding infrastructure and plan for capacity shift. This planning will help determine which virtual workloads should be given priority in the event of an outage.

Once you have enough knowledge to identify the effect of an outage, you must be ready to do an audit of events to identify user and system-generated changes, and analyse performance statistics to discover what caused the outage. While outages are conventionally viewed as beyond business control, the use of monitoring tools and analysis of the IT environment can help mitigate risks of an IT failure.

Hardware and software often show signs that they might fail. For example, they will rapidly fill data stores, write errors to a disk or have high CPU waiting times. Doing an autopsy is not about assigning blame, but rather about understanding the circumstances that brought about the outage so that it can be avoided in the future.

Implementing a business continuity strategy requires more than employing a backup tool. It is about modernising the approach to data protection, through extensive planning and monitoring, while understanding the virtualised landscape of the business. Business continuity requires an approach designed for the modern data centre built on cloud and virtualisation. Stringent planning and best-of-breed tools for disaster recovery can enable the always-on business.

*Charles Clarke is the Technical Director for Veeam Software in the Asia Pacific region, based in Sydney. He has over 20 years’ experience in the IT industry working with a wide range of technologies and organisations around the world. Clarke joined Veeam in 2011, and previously held senior roles with Quest Software and QA.

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