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Disaster Recovery – Sometimes the Devil Really is in the Details

September 2nd, 2014

Disaster recovery planners are often recommended to take a holistic view of their IT organisation. They should work to deal with potential outcomes, rather than possible causes. That certainly helps businesses to greater overall DR effectiveness and cost-efficiency. However, there’s no denying that a number of practical details must also be respected. Otherwise, the best-aligned DR plan may never get off the ground. The old rhyme says: “For want of a nail, a shoe was lost…” and finally the whole kingdom too. Here are a few such ‘nails’ that disaster recovery planning can take into account to get those mission-critical apps up and running again after an incident.

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Software-Defined Storage and Business Continuity – One Up on Virtualisation?

August 28th, 2014

There’s no doubt that virtualisation has been a boon to many enterprises. Being able to rationalise the use of servers by spreading storage and applications evenly over a total pool of hardware resources leads to higher cost-efficiency, as well as improved disaster recovery and business continuity. Yet in practical terms, businesses are often still tied to one vendor for any effective storage strategy. To break free of that constraint, software-defined storage (SDS) lets IT departments mix and match the physical storage devices as they want. And there are further benefits too.

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Beyond Data Back-Up Requirements to E-Discovery Compliance

August 26th, 2014

Your data backups are there to help you recover information, applications and files if required, hopefully both effectively and efficiently. But they and any archiving you do may also be there for external parties to use as a result of e-discovery. That’s the retrieval of electronically stored information (ESI) for use in legal proceedings involving your organisation. The US has led the way in this field, defining ESI as any information that is “created, stored, or best used with any kind of computer technology”. Now in Australia, all court dealings above a certain size must be conducted completely digitally. But is e-discovery good news or bad news for legal rulings and ultimately business continuity?

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Living Dangerously with Virtual Machine Mismanagement

August 21st, 2014

Virtualization is a business continuity answer to the vulnerabilities and foibles of physical servers. By spreading applications virtually and horizontally across vertical stacks of computing power, service can be ensured even if one stack goes down and the same application elsewhere picks up the slack. In principle, that’s fine – as long as IT administrators remember they’re dealing with virtual machines and manage them correctly. War stories grow daily of catastrophes or near misses concerning faulty perceptions and handling of virtualisation. The following can help you conserve business continuity and avoid the need for disaster recovery.

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IT Governance, Business Continuity and Missing Links

August 19th, 2014

The main challenges in properly implementing business continuity management in an organisation can be expressed in four words: engagement, understanding, appropriateness and assumptions. In other words: senior management needs to be involved and committed to BCM; business continuity managers need to understand the essentials about IT operations; BCM processes need to link business objectives to operational realities; and any assumptions in BC planning need to be closely scrutinized. If this sounds like IT governance, you’re right. IT governance gives some good hints about how to make business continuity a practical, valued reality.

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Disaster Recovery Services and Multi-Tenancy in the Cloud

August 14th, 2014

Historically, vendor solutions for disaster recovery have been created for on-site use for individual enterprises. The client company concerned was the sole owner of the user data involved, and disaster recovery could be implemented without having to worry about anybody else. The cloud computing model changes that situation. It’s possible to use cloud services to have your own dedicated servers and instances of applications, or to share physical space but still have your own application (as in multi-instance setups). However, multi-tenancy (perhaps the defining feature of cloud architectures) makes the application of disaster recovery solutions rather more delicate.

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Agility, Business Continuity and Communications – a New ABC (for Some)

August 12th, 2014

Agile project methodologies have their roots in the software industry, but the overall principle of staying close to market requirements can be applied in any sector. When risk management becomes difficult because of uncertainties like the weather or the economy, short agile cycles encourage a focus on objectives. This may make more sense than detailed planning that tries to put everything in place for the mid to long term. Efficiency and business continuity can be improved, on condition that communications remain open and productive with all stakeholders. So with these advantages, why don’t all organisations and projects jump on the agile bandwagon?

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Disaster Recovery as a Service and the New ‘Not Invented Here’ Syndrome

August 7th, 2014

The ‘not invented here’ syndrome was something that forward-looking corporations set out to beat about 20 years ago. If a different product or service could be more cost-effectively bought in rather than being designed and manufactured in-house, then it was bought in. The challenge was to overcome misplaced pride and internal turf wars, where being asked to give up control over development could be construed as an attack on credibility, status or both. Some departments resisted by refusing to work with something that was ‘not invented here’. Now, Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) may be plagued with a similar issue, where companies cannot look outside what they already have – but for a different reason.

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Continuous Data Replication – Is This ‘Goodbye’ to Your RPO?

August 5th, 2014

Traditional data backup happens once every so often – once an hour, once a day, once a week, for example, depending on the recovery requirements associated with the data. It’s typically the recovery point objective or RPO that determines the frequency of the backup. If you cannot afford to lose more than the last 30 minutes’ worth of data, then your RPO will be 30 minutes and backups will happen at least every half an hour. Continuous replication on the other hand changes the model by backing up your data every time you make a change. But what does that do to RPO, disk space requirements and network capacity (assuming you’re backing up to storage in a different physical location)?

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The Crisis Management Call Tree – Manual or Automatic?

July 31st, 2014

Ensuring employee safety by rapidly disseminating the right information, and keeping communication lines open in a time of crisis are both priorities for businesses. Traditional solutions for this have relied on the manual ‘call tree’ or ‘phone tree’. Key employees are contacted first to inform them of whatever situation or crisis has arisen, with remaining staff to be contacted as soon as possible afterwards. However, even for smaller organisations of 100 people for example, the manual call tree rapidly demonstrates its limitations. For larger enterprises, there is no doubt – a better solution is required.

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DDoS is Often More than a Frustration – It’s a Sign of Attempted Theft

July 29th, 2014

If you’ve already experienced a distributed denial of service attack, you may have simply seen it as an attempt to cripple a company or organisation by blocking connections to its servers. Indeed, that’s what DDoS is designed to do. Hackers use a multitude of computers, some without the real computer owner’s knowledge, to generate more traffic than a server can cope with. Legitimate users are unable to connect to the server or experience very poor performance (slow connections). However, DDoS often indicates more than one stand-alone cyber aggression. Organisations experiencing this kind of attack should be on the lookout for other risks too.

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Crisis Communications and When No News is Not Good News

July 24th, 2014

No news is good news, or so the saying goes. But when equipment malfunctions and services are interrupted, no news can mean intense frustration for customers and end-users. In today’s quality and satisfaction-oriented business world, you might think that major corporations had understood the importance of good crisis communication. And to be fair, many now make efforts to keep customers informed of the causes of business interruption, the solutions being put in place, and the estimated time when normal service will be resumed. That’s what makes behaviour around a recent outage by one of the top IT and cloud service vendors so hard to fathom.

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Fines for Business Continuity Problems: Adding Insult to Injury?

July 22nd, 2014

Business continuity problems often carry their own penalty in the form of lost revenue, customer churn and reputational damage. In some cases, outages also mean stiff fines that go beyond the penalties that are part of any service level agreement. Thus, SingTel, the Singaporean telecommunications company, received a 6 million dollar fine (about 4.81 million USD) from the ICT regulator in Singapore for a breakdown in service in October 2013. The disruption affected government agencies and financial institutions and had an impact on 270,000 subscribers. But what is really behind fining a company whose business continuity fails like this?

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Owing to Cloud Problems, the World Economy has been Cancelled

July 17th, 2014

Could it happen? With the growing popularity of cloud computing services and the increasing dependence of companies and operations on them, it’s clear that online services need at least a minimum of safeguarding and protection. But aren’t cloud services supposed to be distributed, redundant and robust enough to protect themselves? After all, that’s what many enterprises rely on when they choose the cloud for data storage, backup, applications and databases. The number of high-profile outages suggests that assumption may not be as valid as either vendors or customers would like. A case in point was the recent unavailability of the Adobe CS cloud service and the resulting paralysis of a major media activity in the UK.

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Tape Backup Developments – Death-Defying or Simply Better?

July 15th, 2014

Considered by some to be obsolescent, obsolete or virtually flat-lining, tape backup is still around. Even new hard drive technology and solid state storage cannot match the price point per terabyte stored. Now IBM and Fujifilm have pushed the envelope even further with new tape cartridge that can hold 154 terabytes of data. By comparison, the last time market leader Seagate discussed progress on hard drives in 2012, its objective was for a 6 terabyte 3.5-inch desktop drive, with ‘eventually’ a 60 terabyte version. Does this mean tape is once again snatching itself from the jaws of death – or could it be (gasp) that tape is simply better for volume storage?

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