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Disaster recovery readiness monitoring applications

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Planning, developing and implementing disaster recovery plans can be complex, but a new class of apps can help you determine if DR plans are synchronized with your IT operations.

Disaster recovery (DR) planning is typically a significant undertaking that requires many work hours and often a considerable budget. But creating a plan is only part of the process; the plan must be tested frequently enough to ensure it will work as expected. But testing is a time-consuming and often disruptive activity, so it’s often not done as regularly as it should be. A new category of applications -- DR readiness monitoring apps -- can facilitate the testing process.

DR monitoring applications address one of the key causes of recovery failures: configuration drift. Configuration drift occurs when storage and other IT gear is upgraded or replaced, but the DR documentation and procedures aren’t updated to accommodate those changes. With the DR docs out of synch with the real-world setup, recovery efforts are more likely to fail. The purpose of monitoring applications is to find those discrepancies and improve the odds of a successful test or actual recovery.

What should be monitored?

From a disaster recovery perspective, the logical first point of focus would be protecting critical data. This means backing up data on-site and off-site using a variety of methods, including disk-to-disk (D2D) and disk-to-tape (D2T) backup; data mirroring to an

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off-site location or cloud service; and shipping backup tapes to an off-site storage facility.

The next focal point would be hardware and applications. You want to ensure these assets are regularly monitored for proper performance. After that, but not necessarily in order of relevance, are network-based assets, such as local-area networks (LANs); wide-area networks (WANs); storage-area networks (SANs); premises- based systems such as routers and switches; and voice systems such as PBX systems and Voice over IP (VoIP) systems.

In a typical data center, operational assets are linked together in a variety of ways, mostly via networking assets. The links and relationships among the various resources may be complex, making it even more difficult to detect configuration drift or other discrepancies.

Successful disaster recovery plans are worthless unless they’re regularly exercised to ensure everything that’s critical to the business is being addressed. But the majority of organizations typically exercise their DR plans only once a year, or even less frequently.

To maintain a careful vigil over your critical data protection activities, as well as systems, applications and networks, you’ll need timely performance data from all critical assets. If you know the health of your IT infrastructure in real-time, you’ll be better prepared to respond quickly and effectively when something disrupts operations.

Existing performance monitoring systems

If your organization is in the medium- to large-scale range, chances are you have already invested in a variety of performance monitoring tools. You may have applications that scan only one system and others that may monitor a broad range of activities, such as network performance or information security monitors.

But if you add disaster recovery on top of your existing monitoring activities, you’ll have to determine if the existing performance monitors can integrate with the DR plans. Even more important is the need for performance data to be optimized for DR plan requirements, such as validating that data replication activities are being completed as planned. And what if you have hundreds or thousands of applications distributed everywhere? How can you determine that everything is performing normally? If a critical system begins to malfunction, it needs to be brought to your attention as quickly as possible.

This was first published in November 2011

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