Friday, 27 August 2010 15:44

The first rule of data protection


Disaster recovery starts with moving your data off the premises, according to a senior technical specialist.

"Get the data out of the building" is the first rule of disaster recovery according to Jason Buffington, Microsoft's senior technical product manager for System Center Data Protection Manager.

Once the data is being transferred to a second location, you can start working on a strategic plan for disaster recovery. What you really need to avoid is the possibility of a disaster occuring while you're still in the planning stage and your data is still in the building that's been destroyed by a fire or other calamity, he explained.

Buffington suggests there are two distinct sides to data protection. The immediate availability aspect (getting up and running very quickly after a system failure) is built into products such as Exchange, SQL Server and - through Distributed File System Replication and Distributed File System Namespaces - Windows. "The platforms themselves are natively resilient," he said.

Data preservation, on the other hand, is addressed by Data Protection Manager (DPM). Even a very small business can put DPM to good use in a relatively affordable configuration that puts a second server in another location (typically the business owner's home) to provide offsite backup of the primary server and the PCs connected to it.

This sort of arrangement also provides opportunities for hosting providers and channel partners to provide the second server. Companies such as Iron Mountain and JASCO can also be called upon.


Good disaster recovery planning is important to SMEs because they typically provide 'commodity' services that are available elsewhere. So if a business can't get up and running quickly following a disaster, customers will go elsewhere and may not return. Furthermore, SMEs rarely have deep cash reserves so they can't afford to do without a couple of weeks' revenue or to pay for specialist assistance to get their systems running again.

Even if your IT environment is complex enough to require more than one server, the secondary site may only need to house one or two servers running virtualised copies of the primary servers and therefore needn't be expensive.

Buffington observed that 43% of US SMEs never reopen after a disaster, and another 29% go out of business within two years. This shows the importance of having a system for getting data out of the building and back again as required, he said.

"No one has as much interest in your data and your recoverability as you do," said Buffington, so consider carefully what you will do for yourself and what you will let others do for you in the context of data protection.

If you are using an outside provider as the secondary site, think about the types of disaster you are trying to protect your business against. A building two blocks from yours will probably be adequate if your office burns down, but a cyclone or flood calls for a backup site in another city. But in the case of a disaster on that scale, you probably won't be worrying about being open for business the next day.

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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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