Disaster recovery unfound

Regional enterprises should consider business continuity and disaster recovery from the standpoint of national and international considerations to avoid losing precious data to unforeseen calamities.

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By  Sathya Ashok Published  August 20, 2007

Business continuity and disaster recovery (BC and DR) are sister concerns that are gaining importance among more enterprises in the region. This interest has largely been driven by the emergence of data and information as crucial competitive tools in an increasingly open, trading environment, and the need to protect such data, not only from potential man-made threats, but also from any unforeseen calamity.

In spite of its growing relevance and the crucial and immediate need to provide for data protection, most IT managers in the region find themselves struggling with BC and DR.

This is because the concepts remain relatively new in the Middle East and there is yet no strong base of consultants, experts and technical staff who can guide an enterprise through the arduous task of putting together a BC and DR plan and then implement and maintain it. (Read NME's forthcoming series on BC and DR, which starts in September, for an in-depth look into how to plan, develop, implement and maintain the right strategy.)

Most Middle East enterprises continue to look at BC and DR in a way that would be looked down upon by most firms in more developed markets and often goes against the grain of data protection on a larger scale.

Let's take one of the more basic considerations - the location of a disaster recovery centre. In true DR terms, the site chosen by an enterprise has to be in a geographically dispersed position from the original data centre. It should ideally be in another country, possibly on another continent. This is to ensure that if any national or international calamity was to affect the original, core data centre, it would not do so the DR site which will remain up and running.

This would, of course, entail full mirroring and real time backup as far as possible with archival data stored on tape drives. BC and DR also preaches that multiple copies of information can be stored on tape drives at locations different from the original datacentre or the DR site. And all this is done keeping in consideration the security needs and policies of said enterprise.

Of course, such efforts would have to be backed by a clear structure that elucidates the escalation process over three tiers of personnel, the people responsible at each stage and strict documentation on the processes to be followed in the event of a disaster.

Only a negligible number of Middle East enterprises follow a DR strategy that has these elements in place. Most of these firms, when they do decide to have a DR site, place it mere kilometres from the core datacentre. Often they are in the same city limits and rarely, they are within the same national boundaries. I have yet to hear of any enterprise which has a fully functional disaster recovery operations outside the country, let alone on another continent.

Though most DR sites are fully redundant and have real time backup capabilities, archival data is not often saved on tapes and if so, they are certainly not stored in a separate location. Processes are rarely documented and not every stakeholder is aware of the right people to turn to if and when calamity strikes.

I have yet to understand precisely why enterprises still build DR sites like they would a basic datacentre. It is certainly not a dearth of technology options or a lack of understanding of what technology can do. Many in the industry point to the fact that most enterprises still believe in keeping their data as close to home as possible and fear the security implications of having precious information stored in a foreign location.

Some state that the present attitudes to disaster recovery can be blamed on a rather relaxed way of viewing possible calamities - in other words, most Middle East enterprises believe that any possible trouble they might experience in their datacentres has to be only of local origin and need not cover national or international perspectives.

Whatever the reason though, it is time that regional enterprises break the mould of such restricted thinking for BC and DR and move onto a much more structured, mature and developed strategy for handling calamities that will enable them to utilise the best of technology and available resources to prevent the loss of precious information.

For who knows when catastrophe will strike!

3987 days ago
Mohd Jabir

Yeah, the author said it right. Middle east companies are least bothered bout BC and DR. They are not ready to invest for DR and the very sad thing is that, the companies think about this when an actual calamity affects them. Why not invest now and save their data centres or just wait for the risk to happen and lose millions!!

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