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Disaster recovery: Test, test and test some more

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Understanding BC and DR terms
Business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) terms can be confusing. Here are the definitions of some terms you're likely to encounter:

BC is an overarching term that includes DR, business recovery, business resumption, contingency planning and crisis management.

Business recovery deals with the recovery of human resources and how to conduct business during, and right after, a disaster.

Business resumption deals with resuming business functions between the point when an event occurs and the point

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at which a disaster is declared. For instance, if the e-commerce Web site becomes unavailable, order taking is delegated to designated staff as part of the business resumption plan.

DR deals with the recovery of technology, including facility, infrastructure and IT services.

Contingency planning deals with problems and disasters related to third-party service providers like application service providers and clearinghouses.

Crisis/Incident management is the command center that manages events during a disaster. It includes communication to employees, customers and the public, and ensures that all relevant parties know what to expect.

Data storage
A solid recovery-from-tape DR strategy requires several tape sets to be stored offsite. Meticulously testing the process of retrieving tapes from the offsite location is imperative. The DR exercise needs to include a verification of the offsite contact information, the list of users who are permitted to request tapes, and an assessment of how many and which tape sets are kept offsite.

The DR test needs to challenge and verify policies to avoid unpleasant surprises like the one experienced by Bill Bremerman, global services manager at Cookson Electronics, Providence, RI, who lost two of three tape sets that were in transit and never made it to the offsite location.

You also need to assess to what extent the offsite location may be impacted by a disaster. UNO's Burgard couldn't get to his offsite tape sets for two weeks because they were stored in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. "We changed our offsite tape location to Iron Mountain [in Boston] and we are now storing tapes 80 miles from the data center," he says.

Data that requires a more aggressive RTO and RPO is protected through a data replication product or emerging continuous data production (CDP) offerings. As CDP products become more common and affordable, companies are beginning to use them to protect all tiers of storage. It isn't uncommon for companies to implement a replication or CDP product after a DR test--or an actual disaster--to improve their ability to recover. After a painful recovery from tape after Hurricane Katrina, Chaffe McCall's Zeller implemented a host-based replication product from XOsoft (acquired by CA Inc.), and Burgard installed a host-based data protection solution from Neverfail Group Ltd.

Verification of the consistency and completeness of the replicated data is imperative during a DR test of data protected via replication or CDP. In addition to business-user verification, custom scripts or third-party file-verification tools should be run to verify that the secondary data is in sync with primary data. Although most CDP and replication solutions perform consistency checks, the DR test needs to challenge and confirm independent of the replication or CDP product that data is replicated completely and consistently.

This was first published in September 2006

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