In this third and final installment, we examine the various methods of data protection, and come back to our favorite topic, testing…
Methods of Data Protection
This brings us to the issue of choosing data protection technologies. If you have one of the rare, homogeneous environments, this can be a straightforward matter, as simple as using the replication technology available with your virtualization platform of choice, like VMware’s Site Replication Manager.
More typical data centers with physical and virtual servers, Windows and Linux, and so forth, will need a replication solution with broad OS and application support, like FalconStor’s data protection solution, with host agents for a wide variety of systems. Look for a solution that can do frequent snapshots, as this will determine the recovery point objective (RPO) that’s possible. Any solution can offer a 4-hour RPO, but 15-minutes is the new gold standard, so do your research.
Some critical business applications are starting to build in their own data protection capabilities, and using them might be the best approach. One example is Microsoft Exchange 2010, with its Database Availability Group (DAG) feature. It lets multiple Exchange mailbox servers be configured in a group, with each having both active and passive mailbox databases. DAGs can be configured by some RaaS providers with passive databases hosted by the provider while the active copies are on the customer’s premises. It’s a clean approach that leverages what Microsoft has built, but not all RaaS providers can accommodate it.
The bottom line is that you have choices for how to go about protecting your data center. The best choice of a provider will be the one who can provide a broad array of data protection technologies and accommodate heterogeneous environments.
We come to testing last, but it is the most important issue here. For some companies, it is their DR “Waterloo”, where they lose the war against business disruption. In the past, DR solutions were separate systems, disconnected from the production environment. Managing “change skew” – the continual stream of software updates, hardware upgrades and OS patches, become duplicate work and was often neglected. Without updates, tests become worthless and were discontinued. In the event of a disaster, the recovery site was essentially useless.
Snapshotting/replication technologies have solved the first issue, keeping up with change skew. By automatically and continuously doing block-level replication of protected servers, all system changes are captured automatically. Install a patch, and minutes later, those changes are captured as a delta snapshot and replicated to the RaaS site.
This makes testing the DR plan and the RaaS solution practical, and test you must! The reality of the typical mid-size or larger company is that there are many critical applications, some of which have multiple components running on separate servers (eg: an e-commerce site with separate web, app and database servers). Failing over to the DR site in a disaster isn’t a simple matter of starting everything up all at once. Having a comprehensive and up-to-date run book is key, and so is exercising it periodically. Starting servers in the right order, making sure that all core services like DNS and DHCP work, that IP address assignment happened properly – all of this needs to be de-bugged before the next disaster hits.
Recovery-as-a-Service is changing the business continuity and disaster recovery market. RaaS makes real DR available and affordable to mid-size companies that couldn’t afford it and didn’t have the staff to implement it in the past. There are now multiple RaaS providers with widely different solutions, so customers have to do their homework. It’s not enough to know what RPO and RTO the provider offers, or where their data centers are located. You need to understand some of the core technologies they use and set of services they offer to make their offering a complete, turnkey DR solution.
Acronis is a Swiss company, founded in Singapore. Celebrating two decades of innovation, Acronis has more than 2,000 employees in 45 locations. Acronis Cyber Protect solution is available in 26 languages in over 150 countries and is used by 18,000 service providers to protect over 750,000 businesses.