Making Contingency Plans for Disaster Recovery

Published: 02nd May 2008
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There are many kinds of disasters which may visit upon an area unannounced. And even if people get an inkling of their approach, there is little they can do about it. Companies whose offices lie in their path suffer massive destruction of their assets. Worse, they suffer total data loss and find it impossible to continue with their operations.



Examples of natural or man-made disasters include:



Fire: This can start naturally or be a result of arson. It melts and burns all objects in its path. The soot of smoke causes additional damage to data storage devices, as does the foam water sprayed by the fire brigade to douse the flames.



Water: Water damage to data storage devices may result from floods, cyclones, Tsunamis and even leaking taps or sewage backflow. Dirty and muddy water creates more damage to hard disks due to the sediments it carries.



Volcano: Volcano eruption is truly a cataclysmic event. The flowing rivers of molten lava and the super-heated para-plastic flow which heralds them wipes off everything they encounter. Everything gets buried under tonnes of ash.



Terrorist Strikes: These range from massive bomb explosions to commercial jetliners smashing into buildings. Terrorist incidents can cause the collapse of entire structures and set off fires, causing massive damage.



Earthquakes: These arrive without warning and turn entire buildings into huge piles of rubble. It is almost impossible to extract damaged data storage devices from the debris.



Lightning Strike: Lightning which accompanies thunder storms carries a massive voltage. When it strikes a building, it courses through the electric or telephone wires and destroys all integrated circuits inside computer hard disks.



Many companies go bankrupt every year when they are hit by such disasters because they lose all their data abruptly and are simply unable to bear its consequences. Such closure of business is neither good for the economy nor for the owners and workers.



Many companies, therefore, employ what is called disaster recovery planning or business continuity planning. This is a strategy carefully crafted by the management to ensure a quick and flawless recovery of essential resources related to information technology and communications such as business-critical data, accounts, emails and faxes, so that business activities can be resumed immediately without any delay. Usually, such planning is conducted by experts and taken very seriously by companies.



At the fundamental level, disaster planning starts by doing everything possible for protecting your premises from the unthinkable. The buildings are made earthquake-resistant, surge protectors guard against electricity spikes while fire-fighting equipment such as sprinklers help bring fires under control immediately. Over and above this, arrangements are made to regularly replicate critical data and send it to another far-away location. This can be done through various ways.



Many companies prefer to copy all data on tape drives and send these daily to some safe off-site storage. Others use storage area networks technology where storage devices located far away in another location appear as local drives to computer users. The latter keep storing data on the remote drives through the network.



However, the most convenient technology that is becoming very popular is that of automatic remote storage. In this, professional service providers offer their servers to clients for storing their data. All data transfer takes place automatically through a software that resides on client computers. The designated files and folders are sent once or twice daily to the servers over a network such as the Internet. There are strict security measures in place at the remote servers and all data can be accessed only by the client through a password. Whenever a company suffers data loss due to a disaster, it simply buys new computers, logs on to the remote servers, downloads data and immediately gets back on its feet.



Remote backups have many advantages. They are automatic without any user intervention. There is thus no need to have dedicated staff whose job is to spend hours every day taking data backups. The backup can be taken daily or even hourly, thus ensuring that the backup data always remains fresh, which translates into a minimum loss of man-hours. Remote backup servers can be accessed from anywhere in the world and the backup data can be downloaded instantly at any location.



The downside is that many companies are not comfortable with their valuable data leaving their premises every night to reside on remote servers over which they have no control. They fear that the data may be a victim of industrial espionage or may get stolen by a hacker, leading to massive losses for them. However, most reputed remote-server companies offer good security with multiple firewalls and hacker-proof passwords, so it seems that remote data backup is here to stay for a long time until some better alternative comes up.





James Walsh is a freelance writer and copy editor. If you are concerned about data loss and would like more information on Data Recovery see http://www.fields-data-recovery.co.uk

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