Virtualization for Disaster Recovery

Virtualization is slowly becoming a popular term with regards to disaster recovery.  This technology is proving to be an essential element for cost effectiveness and reliability.  To understand the many benefits of virtualization, it is important to identify the deficiencies of non-virtualization disaster recovery and how virtualization overcomes these problems.

3 Drawbacks of Manual Disaster Recovery Solutions

Traditional disaster recovery solutions can fall short of expectations because they are expensive, complex, and unreliable.  The high cost primarily stems from the necessity to create a second failover site.  This site requires a dedicated infrastructure as well as software licenses and personnel.  Manual disaster recovery solutions grow increasingly complex because to recover an entire business, the plan must manipulate multiple components and moving parts.  This includes specific applications, networks, and storage.  With the lack of automation options, the disaster recovery procedures are difficult to test and impossible to predict.

How Virtualization Is Different

Virtualization is fundamentally different from manual disaster recovery because it removes the complexity of hardware and software.  This allows for the standardization of recovery processes which opens the door to automating the recovery process.  Combining standardization and automation allows for consistent testing which leads to reliable, repeatable results.

Lowers Costs

Disaster recovery is increasingly more cost efficient when virtualization is adopted and new replication technologies utilized.  Virtualization gives businesses the ability to consolidate infrastructure at the secondary site, this infrastructure is what made manual disaster recovery so expensive.  Lower replication costs allow businesses to leverage lower end, less expensive storage solutions without sacrificing the overall effectiveness of the disaster recovery strategy.

Makes Automation Easy to Implement

Virtual environments allow end-users to avoid dealing with the complexity which stems from managing every step of the disaster recovery process.  It allows businesses to create a disaster recovery solution which can be executed and coordinated automatically.  Utilizing software driven recovery practices, businesses gain the ability to accurately test their recovery plan because the software will follow the exact same steps every time.  Following tests, modifications can be made to the automation process to further enhance the results.

Virtualization Eliminates the Risk of Human Error

A key reason businesses have problems testing and standardizing manual disaster recovery plans is because of the human element.  Leveraging virtualization and automation, the human element is removed from the equation.  This not only makes testing easier, but also eliminates the risk of human error impeding the disaster recovery process.  Virtualization also allows for businesses to test recovery plans more frequently without disrupting day-to-day activities.

Speeds up the Disaster Recovery Process

Comparing the manual recovery process to a virtual recovery process makes it easy to see how much faster and efficiently virtualization can be.  The physical recovery process typically includes a minimum of five basic steps.  This includes configuring hardware, installing the operating system, configuring the operating system, installing the backup data, and starting data/application specific recovery procedures.  On the other hand, restoring a virtual machine is much simpler because all of these steps can be automated.

As technologies and practices continue to evolve, virtualization is proving to be an essential almond of any efficient disaster recovery plan.  The ability to leverage automation and standardization minimizes costs and significantly improves the reliability of each process.

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Developing a Disaster Recovery Strategy

Developing an effective disaster recovery plan is something that many businesses struggle with.  While most strategies vary from company to company, there are fundamental similarities which they all share.  By identifying similarities within an industry, businesses can create a general template to guide the creation and implementation of their specific disaster recovery plan.

Determining a Business’s Exact Needs

The best place for a business to start is identifying their exact backup needs.  To accomplish this, they must determine which data is most important to protect, how to protect it, and how long this protection is required.  This is determined based upon the value of the data for the business as well as how quickly the data needs to be recovered.  Another important consideration is the recovery point objective.  Only by understanding the data restoration requirements can an effective backup plan be implemented.  The specific backup plan plays a central role in the disaster recovery strategy.

Choose a Backup Plan Which Provides an Immediate Solution

During the initial creation of a disaster recovery strategy, the first backup plan must provide an immediate solution.  If this is the first backup plan being used, a stopgap solution should be implemented immediately.  This provides businesses with an adequate level of protection while they modernize their data recovery infrastructure and develop a sustainable, long-term solution.

Reduce the Data Footprint

The single largest hurdle to developing an effective disaster recovery strategy is the sheer volume of data which needs protecting.  Reviewing data access and usage patterns will help identify data which can be archived.  This type of data normally comes from databases, file systems, and e-mails.  The data footprint can be further reduced by archiving inactive data using a real-time compression as well as implementing a de-duplication solution.  Once this has been completed, the focus of the disaster recovery plan can target mission critical data.

Decide Between Upgrading and Starting Fresh

Even businesses without a formal disaster recovery strategy will have some layer of protection naturally built into their network.  To develop a future proof strategy, it is important to decide whether or not the current system can be effective with a few upgrades or if it is more effective to start over from scratch.  In order to decide this, businesses must step back from their current technologies and determine if they can be utilized into the foreseeable future.

Involve Staff Responsible for the Current Situation

Identify the staff responsible for implementing and maintaining the current backup plan and get them involved with the creation of the new disaster recovery strategy.  They are the most likely candidate to know exactly what the current data protection needs are.  They also have insight regarding current strengths and weaknesses.

Developing a disaster recovery strategy is an intense process.  Along with using established metrics such as the recovery time objectives and recovery point objective, taking a closer look at the current infrastructure is essential.  It will lay the foundation for the decision-making process and guide businesses towards a more effective disaster recovery plan.

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