The new face of disaster recovery

Jason Hamlett was caught by surprise last December when an oil refinery explosion destroyed his company's new office space in Hemel Hempstead, England, and caused its existing offices and data center to go offline for 48 hours. The ferocious Buncefield fire burned for several days and was the largest to hit Europe in peacetime.

Fortunately, Hamlett, IT manager for drug manufacturer Fulcrum Pharma Development, was able to keep his business operating using a new disaster recovery means -- a combination of wide-area file services (WAFS) and continuous data protection (CDP).

With offices in the U.S., and Tokyo, Hamlett is well aware of the threats posed by hurricanes, earthquakes and other disasters. He and many others have adopted new software or hardware technologies to protect their companies' business-critical data.

Customers have traditionally deployed remote replication hardware, software or services and tape-based backups with offsite storage to protect their enterprise data and provide business continuity for their organizations. They're now complementing replication or replacing it entirely with CDP, WAFS or business continuity appliances or software.

These technologies help them recover data faster and meet their recovery-time objective -- the period within which systems, applications or functions must be recovered after an outage. Applications and data critical to the operations of the business, such as transaction-intensive databases, ERP and CRM systems, may need almost instant recovery to keep the business running. Other systems, such as e-mail or less-critical SQL databases, may fit into a secondary recovery scenario.

Reliance on replication

Enterprise-size businesses typically look to replication or mirroring technologies to protect their most business-critical data. Using these technologies, customers can deploy equipment and software in local and remote locations that replicates or saves changes to data off-site, where it is protected and can be recovered in the event of a disaster.

Synchronous replication software, which requires an acknowledgment to each transmission of data and often requires expensive equipment, fits at the top of the data-recovery continuum, where recovery needs to take place in minutes or seconds.

New to the replication market are products from XOSoft and Topio.

XOSoft's software, WANSync HA and WANSync lets small and midsize businesses replicate their data between local and remote sites.

Topio's Roadrunner is a replication appliance that costs less than US$100,000. In a typical installation, the appliance would sit at a remote location and receive and store data replicated from the primary data center.

Replicating data may not be the first choice for the money-strapped IT manager, because it is costly and complicated to implement. Synchronous replication may be the gold standard for disaster recovery, but there are other technologies that fit the bill depending on a customer's circumstances. Among them are CDP software or appliances, data vaulting, managed backup services and snapshot technologies. Newer technologies such as disk-to-disk backup and virtual tape let users get at their data in minutes rather than hours, not in the sometime-in-the next-day-or-two fashion common to tape library-based systems or off-site storage.

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