Be prepared to meet an iceberg


“When anyone asks me how I can best describe my experience in nearly forty years at sea, I merely say, uneventful. Of course there have been winter gales, and storms and fog and the like. But in all my experience, I have never been in any accident... or any sort worth speaking about. I have seen but one vessel in distress in all my years at sea. I never saw a wreck and never have been wrecked nor was I ever in any predicament that threatened to end in disaster of any sort.” E. J. Smith, 1907, Captain, RMS Titanic

When considering disasters, consider yourself lucky if it's not yet happened to you, as it gives you the opportunity to do something. Remember, the only measures you can take to prevent disasters are preventative. Once it happens and it will, you can only rely on the preventative measures you took. After the fact is too late.

The old adage 'Prevention is better than cure' is so true. If you can at all, prevent the disaster from happening or at least take steps to minimise the effect. You can do this in a number of ways.

Firstly, make your mission critical systems as robust as possible, you could mirror system disks, use RAID systems, cluster those systems or any one of a no. of steps. Obviously power protection is a prerequisite. In the region of 70% of hard drive errors are caused by poor or fluctuating power and of course your primary storage is hard drive based so the filtering capabilities of a good UPS are important. You also have the benefit of battery backup in the event of total mains failure.

Secondly, employ technologies that will allow you to recover quickly and easily when disaster strikes. Backing up your data is fundamental. In an ideal world we would all back up all of our data every night. You may have to do full backups at weekends with incrementals in between but do the best you can. A few Backup guidelines would be;

  • Backup all your data. It's all of value. How valuable you wont know until you need it.
  • Backup Regularly. Full backup's daily if at all possible.
  • Take copies off site. I've heard of one company who dispatch their backup tapes daily to themselves by Courier. If the building is still there the following morning they accept delivery of the tapes. If not, they can have them redirected to a DR Site.
  • Keep older backups. Don't rotate your backups too quickly.
  • Test your backups. Was your data really backed up?
  • Secure the backups. Store tapes etc securely. Fire safe, bank vault etc.
  • Ensure the integrity of the backups. Ensure you're not backing Viruses or corrupt files.

A relatively easy solution that most can employ is to use a DR Option from your Backup Software Vendor, which will allow you to more quickly rebuild your system. This will generate a DR Set, which you can then use to recreate your system, either onto a new, or your repaired Server.

You can employ technologies such as Replication to have live or relatively live copies of your data offsite. Remember Replication does not replace backup, as it will replicate deletions, Viruses etc. Replication can help for example if your primary site becomes unavailable. You could replicate to another building in your Campus, another building of yours in an alternate location or contract to replicate to one of the companies specialising in offering Business Continuity solutions.

There are many solutions and technologies, which will help in either building a more robust environment or helping you, recover from the disaster. Your friendly IT providers await your call.

Tom Keane is Technical Director of CMS Peripherals

CMS Peripherals are exhibiting at Storage Expo, the UK's largest and most important event dedicated to data storage. Now in its 4th year, the show features a comprehensive FREE education programme, and over 90 exhibitors at the National Hall, Olympia, London from 13 - 14 October 2004.

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