Disaster Recovery Making Sure It's Business as Usual

What happens if your company's system cracks under pressure due to natural disasters, man-made mishaps, or technical interruptions? How does one deal with these unexpected circumstances and resume with business?

Phoebe Magdirila, Rafael Mejia Apr 10th 2012 A-A+

Summary:

What happens if your company's system cracks under pressure due to natural disasters, man-made mishaps, or technical interruptions? How does one deal with these unexpected circumstances and resume with business?

In this day and age, information technology has become an important tool for companies, both small and large. They depend on it to lighten manual workloads, raise data accuracy, and improve efficiency. And truth be told, for most companies, IT lies at the very heart of their operations. Any enterprise seeking to go further in the market and revenues need a flexible information storage and retrieval system and an accompanying technology with a strong backbone. But what happens if your company's system cracks under pressure due to natural disasters, man-made mishaps, or technical interruptions? How does one deal with these unexpected circumstances and resume with business?

WHAT TO PREPARE FOR

Company mishaps and service interruptions are not exclusively due to natural disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes. Disruptions may be caused by anything from a simple faulty human error, a crash in hardware, an upgrade in the system, or even problems in the office building itself.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) Company vice president and head of Corporate Business Corporate Solutions, Vic Tria cites an instance when their company provided disaster recovery assistance to a client due to building problems. "In the past, one of the more prominent MNC's local branches developed a building problem that was estimated to last a whole week," he relates. "But since their operations could not afford disruptions, their skeletal force invoked a DR so they could operate continuously."

Meanwhile, both small and big enterprises can learn from Globe Telecom's preparations for disaster recovery. They already have measures in place such as having risk assessment exercises, recovery management plans, and incident plans to ensure that the workforce will be ready. "Exercises such as emergency drills for earthquake, fire scenarios, and DR tests were conducted a nd will continuously be conducted to keep teams mentally-prepared to activate the plans," a Globe Telecom official says.

MAKING SURE IT'S BUSINESS AS USUAL

Enterprises, regardless of size, understand the need of their customers for their services to be always available. Businesses cannot afford long hours and days of downtime. Telecommunications firm Globe Telecom realizes the effect a service disruption can bring to their company. Over the years, text messaging and data access via mobile devices have greatly expanded in the country, and as a result, enterprises and individuals have become accustomed to having telecommunication lines up and running 24/7. "Threats to our critical resources such as people, premises, and technology could result in severe business disruption," says Globe Telecom head for Infrastructure Services and Operations Division, Edwin Soliman. To avoid these, a company should start with an agile data center. "You have to make sure that the data center has the proper tiering," Globe Telecom chief information officer Henry Rhoel Aguda points out. The company uses tiering to classify applications from the most to the least critical, providing various needed services to individuals in the process. Applications that have commercial implications are given a Tier 1 priority. "If those applications go down, you lose money," says Aguda.

VENDORS TO THE RESCUE

Since disruptions may vary from case to case, having a business continuity plan (BCP) is a must for every company. These plans differ in only two key points: when the BCP is needed and what specific features will fit the profile of a particular company. Tria notes that "any company that values their business and the service they provide to their end-users will benefit from having a business continuity plan."

Long-time telecommunications player, PLDT, through its VITRO Data Center, offers basic business continuity solutions in three forms, all geared towards making sure that the customer gets exactly what they need, when they need it. "The most basic solution we provide are disaster recovery seats with a server rack similar to what is set up at the client's primary site," says Tria. The telecommunications giant has developed packaged solutions for business continuity, in a way tailor-fitting BCPs for their clients. They have a package where they provide the space for the servers and the cold shell for the BCP seats. Under another package, they offer all the hardware and software solutions to complete the whole BCP set-up on an amortized arrangement.

Meanwhile, international player, Hewlett- Packard, gives special focus on storage and backup with their HP D2D Backup Systems which is powered by their HP StoreOnce data deduplication. With D2D Backup Systems with HP StoreOnce data deduplication, client companies are able to store more data because of the system's 20:1 ratio where they can backup their data on a 20TB storage while taking only 1TB. They can also discard duplicated data via the StoreOnce feature. "Data Deduplication is a common data reduction technique where only unique data blocks consume space on disks," says Hewlett-Packard Philippines product manager for HP Storage and Enterprise Business, Charles Patrick Ty. "This process eliminates duplicated date blocks, ensuring that data is only written once, hence the name StoreOnce." Fast backing-up of data and elimination of duplicated data works well when a company is upgrading its system or has a lot of data to manage. "Being able to store more on disk allows customers to have higher data retention policies on fast disk for quick and easy recovery," Ty points out. "And since only unique blocks are being written to disk, HP's StoreOnce Data deduplication enables our customers to do low bandwidth replication across sites." Software provider Symantec also puts importance on growing data within enterprises today as it has evolved integrated backup solutions. "Backup is a critical part of an organization's protection strategy," says Symantec Philippines senior country manager, Luichi Robles.

Following the enterprises' shift to virtualization, Symantec transformed data backup by also enabling backups in 100% virtualized environments with Backup Exec 2012 which allows both SMBs and large enterprises to have multiple backups in a single software. This innovation can better help companies with their disaster recovery and business continuity plans by protecting valuable private company data, Robles says.

"The features in Backup Exec 2012 are focused around three key themes which are important to SMBs: eliminating complexity, providing virtualizationcentric protection, and offering SMBs one product for seamless, cost-effective, and complete recovery," says Symantec regional technical director for Asia South Region, Raymond Goh.

FOLLOW THE LEADERS

To have a better grasp of disaster recovery and business continuity plans, the relatively small players in the business industry can learn from the big ones. Globe Telecom, which was awarded by business certification body, BSI Group, with the Business Continuity Management System (BCMS) certification, has set plans to ensure on a regular basis the immediate activation of a disaster recovery structure in the event of any unprecedented circumstance. Through this, Globe is able to implement a multistage planning procedure that helps in further understanding an organization's needs on a corporate-wide level.

"BCMS ensures that we have a crisis management organization, and tested and maintained business continuity processes that will help the company rise above the disaster," says Soliman. Embedding the BCMS, a standard that emphasizes the formation and maintenance of a proper control framework within an organization, has been Globe Telecom's key in coming up with these planning strategies. Truly, both the internal policies and technologies from service providers, when put together, become a crucial element in having a well-founded disaster recovery structure. Despite knowing that putting up such reliable technologies can be a drain on the company's resources, Aguda still encourages other emerging companies to do the same and to put in place stringent policies to prepare for the unknown. "The company should reserve some of its budget for disaster recovery," he stresses. "It's all about methodology."