Not if, but when: preparing for disaster

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For everyone who livesPrepared or Not - Concept along the East and Gulf coasts of the Unites States, the local news station’s tropical report is the highlight of the season. That’s the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.

For those six months, coastal and even inland residents follow the tropics so they can quickly put their disaster plan into action if a major storm is predicted.

Businesses need to be prepared for disasters, too, and not just during the seasons when weather-related disasters are most likely to hit. Anything that takes down a system and keeps employees from doing their jobs is a disaster to business, and those situations can take place any time of the year.

That means there’s no offseason when it comes to being prepared for a disaster. And that’s where a backup disaster recovery (BDR) plan comes in.

A disaster in disguise

Everyone knows a fire or major storm — either the tropical- or winter-weather kind — isn’t good for all the hardware and data on a computer network, but events like gas leaks, water main breaks or equipment failure can be just as hazardous to a business. In Florida, sink holes and the remedies required to stabilize buildings pose a unique threat.

Anything that shuts down the power to a building or limits access to a network and its files, especially when buildings are deemed unsafe, is a disaster requiring a backup plan. Because when that happens, data can be lost and employees aren’t able to work, putting a business at risk.

The optimal plan

A BDR plan that protects against a variety of scenarios needs to include two important components: on- and offsite backups.

Onsite backups enable recovery when there are hardware and software failures, virus attacks or files destroyed. Offsite backups restore systems when employees can’t access the onsite backup — when fire, flood, tornado or some other event destroys the backup or when access to files is denied because power to the network is off.

The ideal solution is image-based backups to an onsite system that is able to virtually restart servers for disaster recovery and periodic testing. A duplicate of those backups, with the same functionality, should be located in an offsite facility.

With image-based, offsite backups, an image of the entire server, including all files, operating systems, applications and directories, is generated and sent to an offsite facility. Any incremental changes from that point on are also sent to the site so they can be incorporated into the backup. And with virtual backups — restarting servers and desktops on equipment offsite — employees are able to access their files remotely from any computer via the Internet, ensuring business continuity.

Using multiple power supplies and processors to build in redundancies, as well as installing extra memory and fire and waterproof hard drives, provides additional protection.

Whatever solutions are chosen must be tailored to a company based on its needs and budgets. Smaller companies may opt for less expensive solutions provided by hosted environments via the cloud, which protects systems from local disasters. Onsite options might still be necessary.

Ultimately, companies must decide how long they can survive “being down” while new hardware and software is being installed. That’s key in determining which backup solutions are best.

* Tita Parham is marketing and communications specialist at InfiNET Technologies.

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