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Friday, 11 October 2019 16:17

Optimizing Your Data Center’s Disaster Recovery Plan

Written by  MICHAEL ZARRILLI

Zarrilli1As part of every business plan, there should be a disaster recovery approach that plans for natural, cyber, and emergency situations. Disaster recovery plans help data centers stay competitive by helping to provide 24/7 service to their customers while decreasing the risk of data loss.

Data center managers today are determined to streamline data center operations by optimizing resource utilization, reducing costs, and ensuring on-demand scalability and flexibility. Because of this, facilities have dramatically transformed in the last decade. Modern data centers are constantly evolving, and their capabilities are growing exponentially, but so is their risk. It is critical that data center managers prepare for potential mission-critical disasters earlier and stay mindful of possible consequences.

To ensure reliable data protection and efficient system recovery, consider which data center disaster recovery strategies work best for your particular data center facility. From there, one can create a comprehensive data center disaster recovery plan to guide the staff through the entire disaster recovery process.

Develop the Plan and Test It

Disaster recovery plans should be flexible and scalable to address a broad range of potential disaster scenarios. The plans should also be tested regularly to ensure the technology, processes, and people all work together with as minimal disruption to the business as possible.

Disaster recovery solutions are a vital part of data protection, and if your data center is not operating at peak performance, the data and assets are at risk. In an effort to make disaster recovery easier, the tips outlined below can help data center managers get prepared.

  1. Prepare for disaster and pre-assess impact – As with any data center or critical infrastructure, some areas of your operations will require more immediate data recovery attention than others. Determine which areas are a priority for getting back online based on objectives. As part of this, assign a designated employee to review the equipment and make note of what will need to be replaced during a disaster event. One of the top priorities when planning for a disaster is to conduct a risk assessment that covers a variety of scenarios, including the inability to access data or to communicate with one another. Being thorough in determining the risks, as well as calculating the costs with each scenario, will ensure preparedness for when disaster does strike.
  2. Steps to eliminate downtime – No data center wants to experience downtime, so it’s important to take steps to reduce it as much as possible, if not eliminate it all together. Having the right technology in place to protect the data center infrastructure and the data within is critical. As part of this, it is important to have an understanding about the dependence level of the technologies and whether or not the machines are primarily operating on or offline. With this insight, plans can be optimized and developed more accurately to ensure the data center is prepped to reduce downtime during a disaster.
  3. Implement a backup plan – Whether a hurricane floods the area of a data center or a blizzard has caused power loss and closed all the roads leading to the data center, natural disasters or other events can cripple the center. It’s wise to protect the mission-critical data by setting up a secondary support infrastructure that allows the data center to continue your operations as seamlessly as possible. Consider a colocation center, which can provide automated backup and recovery services. This will also ensure somewhere for your employees to work if the main data center location is not accessible.
  4. Create a communications plan – This not only covers the bases, but also provides personnel and staff with specific instructions so they know what to do when any type of disaster hits. A comprehensive communications plan should ensure staff know how to get to a site promptly and what type of accommodations they will need to make.
  5. Train all personnel and teams – Engage the data center’s employees in the disaster recovery plan testing. Testing these plans every so often is not enough. It needs to be regularly practiced and updated to accommodate for potential updates or changes. Going through the exercise could be the difference to keeping operations up and running when disaster hits.

Data center disaster plans help protect a significant investment for most organizations since all data centers are big capital investments. While some firms address data center recovery by building a second data center or leasing different or new space at an offsite facility, a careful assessment of data center operations and risks is an important starting point in disaster recovery planning.

Zarrilli2Using Certifications to Help Mitigate Risk of Disaster

Disaster recovery certifications can provide professionals who work at data centers to protect systems, recover data, and resume business operations in the aftermath of a disaster. As professionals consider getting their disaster recovery certification options, like ISSA, they should keep in mind the consequences of a disaster which could result in productivity losses, financial costs, and damage to a customer's reputation. It’s becoming increasingly popular to employ a disaster recovery certified professional who can operate the technology should a disaster occur.

Data centers should prioritize disaster recovery certification given the frequency of disasters and the disruption these catastrophes cause to companies' business operations. In a highly regulated business environment, having certified disaster recovery professionals as part of the staff can help keep systems in compliance to meet the needs of your customers when a disaster strikes.

Leveraging Predictive Analytics

As predictive analytics technologies mature and prove their worth in a multitude of industries, a growing number of data centers are beginning to realize that the technology can also be used to make disaster recovery plans more accurate and perceptive and get ahead of failures caused by disasters - whether natural or cyber. Predictive analytics and AI are powerful tools that can help optimize disaster recovery plans.

By leveraging AI and machine learning, combined with predictive analytics, data centers can be not only more capable of thinking and acting like humans, but also have the ability to foresee and forecast events in the future. Predictive analytics can help disaster recovery planners model disaster events, costs, recovery, impacts, and other essential strategy elements to provide greater insight than simply guessing or relying on a hunch as to what might happen. They can also model a wide range of disaster scenarios, which helps data center personnel to formulate plans of action to resolve the problems.

When managing uptime, deploying predictive analytics to predict network usage trends, in regard to a potential disaster, data centers can structure deployments and manage resources to ensure that a customer or organization can always have access to their data. However, usage trends are only one type of prediction which analytics can monitor. Data centers rely on their equipment functioning at an optimal level to provide always-on and consistent service. Predictive analytics can help estimate the lifespan or potential maintenance work on any given piece of equipment based on a performance index. If a simulation or the performance index shows a server is likely to fail within the next couple months, the data center can plan to replace it before it does fail, which not only saves money, but also ensures that there will be little to no disruption to services.

By connecting to the power of predictive analytics, data centers can be better prepared for future potential issues. Improved preparation helps to reduce costs and allow facilities to focus on the other important factors of keeping a data center running smoothly. Most importantly, predictive analytics can deliver new, quantifiable benefits allowing data center customers to focus on growing their business with the assurance that their data will continue to be secure and accessible.

Preparing for Future Disasters

No data center is immune to the potential for weather-related incidents like hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, or earthquakes, or cyber-attacks on their critical infrastructure. With threats coming from every direction, companies should start to leverage new machine learning and analytics solutions to focus on developing operative and effective disaster recovery plans. It is also crucial to ensure the plans are updated and regularly tested to minimize the damage caused by disastrous events. Doing so could be the difference between a data center being down for days or weeks, or being able to fully recover from the disaster.

Zarrilli MichaelMichael Zarrilli is executive director of data center solutions at Johnson Controls.