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Disaster recovery: NTT provides advice on building a sound recovery plan

Jul 30, 2013
Originally published in Contingency Today (contingencytoday.com)

From natural disasters to the threat of security breaches, there are no shortage of pressures to the operation of global business networks and their support systems. No pressure was greater in 2011, during the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami which caused widespread disruption to power supplies and network connectivity. This triggered companies to rethink their traditional disaster recovery strategies. Approximately 990 exchange buildings were left without power, 16 trunk lines were severed and 1.5 million cable lines were destroyed, causing major disruption to many businesses, totalling more than £153 billion, ($235 billion). As companies scrambled to recuperate, cloud computing became a hot topic and its services even more relevant; not only as a basic business requirement but for provisioning should a disaster occur.

Two years later and according to a survey by TechTarget, disaster recovery is now a major reason why organisations are moving to the cloud. As the survey suggests, most forward thinking organisations realise that the cloud can go beyond intelligent working when business environments may be challenging, but how do they make disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) a reality? We have identified four key roles that cloud can play should a breach or natural disaster occur:

Back-up and recovery

o Companies can turn to the cloud to back-up data in case of a disaster. Data streamed through a cloud provider can be stored at a variety of locations globally at the touch of a button. Companies can back up files into the cloud and recover them on a file basis as and when required

Cloud archiving

o Industries such as finance and healthcare need to store data for long periods of time to maintain industry compliance, particularly where security and data sovereignty is concerned. Keeping these data files intact can be a challenge especially during a disaster. Archiving long-term data files into the cloud provides a solution, as this can be backed up in multiple locations and moved from server to server

Cloud-based failover

o Cloud based failover is designed to continuously replicate critical servers, operating systems and applications through a secure-hosted cloud. This means that in the event of a server failure, customers can initiate data to be automatically recovered and redirected to other servers (without human intervention), through a secure bandwidth-efficient VPN tunnel

Virtualisation

o Virtualisation can help reduce cost and improve the recovery time of information in a disaster. It is also much easier to recover a virtual machine than a physical device, allowing businesses to store mission critical applications and essential data on these machines. Also servers can be mirrored, known as 'snapshots', so multiple servers carrying the same information can be distributed to various locations using private networks

Many businesses recognize the need to broaden the definition of disaster recovery to embrace the everyday service interruptions we face, no matter how minor, meaning the requirements of DRaaS remain sporadic. But for most organisations disaster recovery is exactly that - recovery in a disaster. For example in 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the eastern coast of the United States and Canada, causing a huge number of hospitals and healthcare centers to be damaged in densely populated areas. The effect of the storm meant that some medical centers had to shut down and others lost access to vital information including medical records and laboratory data.

Changes in how technology can be implemented and improvements in connectivity mean that business continuity and rapid system recovery is now within the reach of many more organisations. Using cloud can also increase return on investment by moving disaster-recovery-related assets off the books. Recent disasters have proven the importance of cloud services and show that the cloud can provide another gateway for businesses in any industry to run their contingency programmes. And whilst other tools such as regular testing and virtualisation will enhance any business continuity and disaster recovery plan, cloud computing can help to protect a business' mission critical applications and data for the long-term.

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