Sep 13 2007

Beyond Backup

Lee Copeland
Photo: Orlando Copeland

Can your business recover if disaster strikes? For many IT managers, the answer is “yes.” But the better question isn’t can your business recover, but when will it recover — in a day, in a week or sometime in the not-too-distant future?

There are a lot of ways to peck at the technology-driven aspects of disaster recovery, such as focusing on the systems and the data. Luckily, most systems are replaceable, and it’s possible to duplicate system requirements to make a smooth transfer part of your backup plans. The bigger challenge lies with the data. Although systems remain fairly constant, data evolves and multiplies at exponential rates, which beget another set of trade-offs.

So, what’s hindering consistent and better backup plans? Here’s what BizTech’s review team had to say.

The Process Is Painful: Whether or not you throw money at your backup process, you’ll face managing a bulky tape library or navigating sometimes complex disk-based backup systems that require fine-tuning. “You tear out your hair,” says Connor Anderson, senior director of IT services at Effective Networking.

No one we spoke to really loved waiting for backups to run or creating a tape archiving calendar. Still, we’ve rounded up several options that offer continuous data capture, such as Symantec’s Backup Exec (see Douglas Schweitzer’s Peer Review here) and ProStor’s Removable Disk Storage (check out Anderson’s Peer Review here).

The Problem of Will: According to Jeremy Dotson, an IT administrator at Tronair, will is probably the biggest hurdle when addressing backup and developing a rock-solid disaster recovery plan. Either the people holding the corporate purse strings believe that backup is a good investment in time and budget, or they don’t.

“You have to have a corporate mentality that is proactive rather than reactive, and that is a rare gem indeed,” Dotson acknowledges. “To spend money on preventing a disaster that has never happened is against the logic of some accounting departments and strategic corporate planners because it eats into the bottom line without any tangible result.”

But there can be a payoff. In “Thwarting a Disaster”, BizTech highlights Colbert Packaging, which found that maintaining incredibly well-documented and tested disaster recovery plans is important not just for ensuring business continuity but also for driving business with the company’s large pharmaceutical partners.

The Problem of Resources: This is what holds most small businesses back from maintaining ironclad backups. Notice the use of the word “maintaining” because — as Jeff Gross, an IT manager at Tucker Industries, notes in “Rethinking Your Backup” — numerous companies develop a backup tape rotation, burn tapes daily or weekly, and then don’t perform checkups to see if the backups actually worked. Running disaster recovery simulations takes time for testing. If you’re swamped with day-to-day tasks, a disaster recovery plan won’t make the priority list — unless, of course, your server fails during a peak sales cycle or lightning hits your warehouse. Fortunately, technology can help before disaster strikes.

Throughout this issue of BizTech, you’ll find articles that address some of the technical challenges of backup and disaster recovery if you’re willing to endure the pain, find the will and carve out the time required through better technology options.

Lee Copeland
Editor in Chief