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How to Create a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan

When technical disasters occur, how do you ensure your organization maintains uninterrupted access to data?

In IT operations, there is a constant threat of equipment failures, site outages or chaos erupting after work hours. Keeping IT operations uninterrupted is vital to maintaining the security and accessibility of sensitive company data for small businesses and large organizations alike. Doing so requires new business continuity measures, especially as data storage devices continue to grow in volume, type and location.
 
In heterogeneous IT environments that rely on the resilience of a variety of computing systems and processors, business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) plans tend to fail in times of natural threats or cyberattacks. Dissimilar coprocessors have difficulty integrating specialized processing capabilities for particular tasks—meaning what works for one storage system may not work for another. Their incompatibilities can make implementing an effective BC/DR plan more difficult.
 
A software-defined storage (SDS) solution manages data storage independently, with fail-safe data replication and backup principles in a uniform system for your new or existing distributed and diverse SAN and HCI environments. Your organization can avoid major storage downtime and benefit from uninterrupted data access without missing a beat.
 
Using the BC/DR principles offered within an SDS for your new or existing SAN and HCI environment, you can reduce the risks of site outages and equipment failures—or avoid them altogether.

Why You Need a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan

Hardware failures account for about 45% of unplanned downtime on average. The average recovery time after a disaster is three months for 52% of small businesses. A significant data center outage costs an estimated $100,000 to $1 million. Implementing a BC/DR plan will help minimize data loss, avoid downtimes and save money.
 
Implementing a BC/DR plan with software-defined storage will also allow your organization to bounce back in times of disaster with:
  • Uninterrupted business operations despite equipment failures
  • A fast recovery from any major outages
  • Readily available existing storage
  • Parallel high-end data services across diverse storage equipment
  • Nondisruptive technology modernization 
With an effective BC/DR plan, your organization will be protected against potential fires, floods or cyberattacks. Without one, your organization can face serious disruptions like immense financial damages, impact to your corporation's image or potential shutdown.

Questions to Answer in Your BC/DR Plan

Ask yourself, how do you:
  • Rate your BC/DR plan in its ability to adapt to changing conditions?
  • Protect your organization against diverse storage component failures?
  • Continue business operations amid threats such as fires, floods or power outages?
  • Restore your data to its last known good state?
  • Keep track of data state and when was it last in a known good state?
  • Replace any failing or outdated storage hardware and reduce its impact on the flow of business operations?

Defense Lines to Include in Your SDS BC/DR Plan

All organizations can face failures or outages, and no organization is completely safe against such threats. When one does occur (because it can and will), IT teams will face the pressure of resuming business operations swiftly and effectively. Software-defined storage enables IT teams to be prepared and equipped when experiencing such disastrous events.
 
Once implemented, a BC/DR plan will help prevent downtime and maintain uninterrupted data access for continuous business operation. Here are a few methods:

1. Bypass failures (HA)

Bypass failures can address smaller conflicts such as system or component failure. By replicating data within a site or metro cluster, the automatic failover to the second copy will ensure continuous data access without experiencing any real-time data loss.

2. Recover remotely (DR)

This addresses the larger outages that can be caused by a flood, fire or power outage that can impact an entire region of your organization. Creating replicas in a DR or remote site can effectively restore access and lessen the loss of in-flight data from that particular remote location.

3. Point-in-time restore

Also known as “Fall Back to Last Known Good State,” point-in-time restore (PITR) provides recovery from any unwanted changes. This can be due to accidental data deletion, bugs or external attacks. PITR backups and snapshots work together to restore data from a trusted copy.

4. Circumvent storage failures and outages

To eliminate the risk of data loss and to achieve continuous data access, your SDS will copy data in multiple locations. Appearing as active-active copies to these physical locations, these replicas are known as fault domains. Automated failover will ensure nondisruptive access from its redundant copy in the event of an outage of one fault domain or parts. Upon isolating and resolving the cause of the event, mirrored copies will be automatically resynchronized on the failed system so that it can continue to provide data services.
 
Failover and failback processes, referred to as a zero-touch process, require virtually no manual intervention or scripting. Recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO) values are kept at zero so no data loss or application impact is experienced due to its real-time speed.

5. Remote secondary/DR site recovery

Asynchronously replicating data over a WAN between primary remote/DR sites can reduce the impact of regional outages due to an occurring disaster with data redundancy. To prevent synchronous data copies from happening, longer network latency extends over these long distances. When conditions switch over to the contingency infrastructure, data that is replicated to the DR site becomes readily available. The failover, resynchronization and failback can be automated once the original problem has been fixed.
 
Data redundancy can be achieved by asynchronously replicating data between the primary site and remote disaster recovery site. RTO and RPO both can experience longer wait times. RTO is longer due to production applications at the DR site needing to be restarted. RPO also has a downtime period that typically lasts a few minutes, in which in-flight data that was never replicated to the DR site would be lost.
 
Asynchronous replication and site failover can be achieved with controlled site switchover for planned site maintenance or scheduled power outages and construction activity. RPO and RTO can be kept down to zero since these are planned events.

How to Start Your BC/DR Preparation Today

Your business continuity plan should take full advantage of diverse equipment and facilities you have at your disposal. Strategies should ensure that your business can operate with virtually little to zero downtime—all while delivering continuous access to secure data. Include techniques for technology upgrades and nondisruptive hardware decommissioning.
 
Your disaster recovery solutions should implement methods that ensure your organization's data access is quickly restored if you experience a threatening event, such as if your storage, data center or other essential infrastructure is damaged or destroyed.
 
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