by January 7, 2004 0 comments

Why this sudden focus on DR (Disaster Recovery)? The biggest catalyst of all for the DR bandwagon has been the 9/11event.They proved the need for organizations big and small, to have a viable and actionable DR policy. Governments also started taking note and set up laws that mandate DR policies and infrastructure. The move towards outsourcing IT infrastructure management has also placed some amount of emphasis on DR, with outsourcing agencies being asked to provide DR measures.

DR is an ongoing process. Here, we will outline some macro-level planning and strategy considerations in DR. This by no means is an exhaustive list; the actual considerations would depend on the kind of data handled and the size or type of the organization, amongst other things. 

Requirements analysis
This is the project initiation phase and is also termed as pre-planning. It involves outlining the existing IT infrastructure and projecting its future structure. This is the phase when project teams are chosen in conjunction with a committee in the organization that would be driving the project. During this phase top officials of the organization are also educated about their role in implementing the project. Since, DR is as much a business imperative as it is an IT imperative, the planning team has to have members from the various business and infrastructure units to accurately assess the impact of a disaster to the organization.

Vulnerability analysis
DR planning is not only about recovering from disasters, but also actively preventing disaster as well. This step involves formulation of measures that reduce the probability of occurrence of these disasters. In a layman’s term it is a security assessment of the organization, finding out which are the points of vulnerability for the organization. This will involve physical as well as virtual security, starting from the operational level to the software level. 

This assessment also helps in plugging loopholes in the current setup.

Business-impact analysis
This is one of the most important phases of DR implementation and is carried out by experts. The legal, financial, contractual, operational and regulatory impacts to the organization, should disaster strike, are calculated in this phase. The criticality of each part of the organization is assessed individually. This assessment is further used to do a thorough analysis of the criticality of a particular process and its impact on the organization, if it were to be disrupted. 

Finally, a comprehensive report on the optimum timeframes of recovery from a disaster is prepared. This is the base line for the formulation of the actual strategies for DR. Post 9/11 there has been a bit of stress on keeping strategies for similar kind of organizations at the same level or doing a business-impact analysis for the industry as a whole, since the impact of such disasters is widespread and has an impact beyond one organization.

Based on a comprehensive business-impact analysis, many DR strategies can be chosen from. 

These range all the way from simple offsite backups all the way to building and maintaining parallel infrastructure that can be activated, if and when disaster strikes.

Here, we will look at some of the extreme options, what to do if your most critical facility is made inaccessible and non functional by a 9/11 type of event.

Hot DR
Hot DR sites can be owned or provided by an external vendor. These sites are scaled down replicas of the original facility. These are fitted with servers, applications, networks, PCs, telecommunication and power infrastructure, and furniture and are recommended for absolutely mission-critical applications. Typically, military operations centers, dealing rooms of banks, treasuries and network operations centers of ISPs fall in this category. These are the most expensive to develop and maintain. Owned hot sites can be maintained at a remote facility even using old hardware that can be used to run the most critical tasks at the time of a disaster.

Another version, of hot sites are warm sites. These are similar to hot sites with a minimal amount of data online and minimal number of machines functional. They may require installation of software, restoration of links etc. before employees can move in and start with work.

Cold DR
Cold sites are barebones unlike the hot sites. They just provide a geographically distinct minimal infrastructure that needs to be expanded in order to move in and start working. For example, a cold site may have the furniture and structured cabling ready but the actual machines need to be moved in once disaster strikes. The biggest advantage of these sites is the lower cost.

Also, they can be used with other strategies like quick ship arrangements (discussed below) to have an optimal solution.

Reciprocal arrangements
These arrangements are apt for batch-processing jobs and are the least expensive of all the other arrangements discussed. But there are rarely any cases that require batch processing these days and thus they are not too popular. 

Quick ship arrangements
These arrangements can be made within the organization, as well as with equipment manufacturers and service providers. Should disaster strike, arrangements should be there to relocate new equipment along with the data backup to the DR site and activate it within a given time frame. This method can be used in conjunction with a cold site arrangement.

Geetaj Channana

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