What’s Disaster Recovery Planning?
Disaster Recovery Planning (DRP) is a formalised process of preparing and testing for recovery of technology infrastructure after a natural or human-induced disaster. NetCare recommends that every organisation should prepare a formal DRP and test it at least once per year.
However, the reality is a comprehensive DRP has a high cost and that means most businesses decide not to implement one. Whether a business has a DRP or not, NetCare highly recommend implementing a more cost-effective Disaster Resistance strategy.
What’s Disaster Resistance?
A strategy of Disaster Resistance involves ranking the most likely serious technology problems that might occur to your business in order of their probability of them actually occurring. And then examining what actions can be taken to mitigate their impact on the business should they occur. In other words, taking pre-emptive actions that will reduce the likelihood that a Disaster will ever need to be declared within the business.
The following is NetCare's list of technology problems ranked in order of their probability of occurring, along with our recommendation on how to mitigate their impact on business operations.
#1 Computer Virus Outbreak
The most likely technology problem to arise is a widespread and serious computer virus outbreak like Cryptolocker that scrambles the data on all the company network drives. A business with a well-defined DRP will be able to recover this data in a timely fashion because it is performing continuous data backups during the work day. But a great Disaster Resistance strategy is to employ more than one malware protection system, on the basis that no single antimalware solution is always going to catch every new virus strain. We recommend a combination of a traditional signature based anti-virus software (like Trend Micro or AVG), and/or a new generation cloud based antimalware solution like Webroot and/or an add-on malware software application that runs on your network firewall hardware.
#2 Malicious Hacking of Your Network
The second most likely technology problem is a breach of your network security by a malicious hacker (either by a human or a botnet attack) resulting in a massive reduction in network performance and potentially the loss of data. What's more these attacks are no longer just being targeted at large enterprises - increased computing power via botnets means rogue networks are now targeting networks large and small to see if they can breach firewall defences. We thus recommend increasing your Disaster Resistance by replacing all “standard feature” router/firewall devices with next generation Unified Threat Management (UTM) appliances from network security organisations like Cisco Meraki. UTM appliances provide a range of network security features, including monitoring and controlling traffic, network firewalling, network intrusion protection, content filtering and secure VPN remote access. An added benefit is that these appliances also provide application load balancing and prioritizing as well as failover protection.
#3 Loss of Internet Access
The third most likely technology problem is the loss of Internet access at your site due to a router hardware failure or an ISP related outage or a localised event (for example road workers accidentally damaging internet cables). The impact of these events can be mitigated via the use of secondary access solutions. We recommend routers be duplicated and teamed together to provide increased throughput speeds in normal situations, whilst also providing automatic failover in the event that one router fails. In addition, we recommend the deployment of a secondary as-required internet wireless connection (which by definition is not dependent on terrestrial cabling). Our preference is a BigAir Fixed Wireless Ethernet solution to provide an automated Internet access failover solution. However a low cost alternative is a Telstra USB wireless device that can be permanently plugged into the router and activated when needed. Note, we do not recommend a second terrestrial cable connection with a different ISP, because there is too much shared infrastructure "behind the scenes".
#4 Loss of Access to Your Email Server
The fourth most likely technology problem is the loss of access to your on-premises Exchange server because of an Internet outage, or a severe server problem, rendering your email server unavailable for hours or even days. Our recommended Disaster Resistance strategy is to use a cloud hosted service like NetCare MailProtection that does more than just provide anti-spam protection. It also offers an excellent level of business continuity by storing all your incoming email in the cloud so you can continue to access your email as the outage continues via a browser. As well as being able to still see new email, none of your clients and business partners will receive unsettling bounce-back errors.
#5 Loss of Electrical Power
The fifth most likely technology problem is the loss of electrical power to your office site due to an external event like an electrical storm or a sub-station failure. A suitable Disaster Resistance strategy we recommend is to invest further in smart UPS devices. These UPS devices provide extended battery coverage to all critical server and communications devices for a longer period of time. In addition, they provide a comprehensive range of management functions including load balancing and remote powering off of devices as required (and indeed remote turning on of devices once power is restored). Read our Power Protection article for more information.
#6 Serious Server Hardware Failure
The sixth most likely technology problem is serious server hardware failure that results in one or more physical servers becoming available. Our recommended Disaster Resistance strategy is to virtualise all servers in your environment onto at least two physical servers and to deploy the latest generation virtual server backup software from Veeam that takes full image copies of those virtual servers on a continual basis. In the event of a one physical server becoming unavailable, Veeam automatically commences moving the unavailable virtual servers to other physical servers that are still operational. A cost-effective alternative for clients with only one or two servers is our NetCare Max service, which provides guaranteed priority access to spare server hardware stored at our Norwest premises.
#7 Catastrophic Event at your Site
The least likely technology problem to occur is also the one that has the most severe impact - a catastrophic event like fire, flood or a terrorism act that renders extended loss to, or requires complete replacement of, your computer systems. At this point, you may well be deploying your Disaster Recovery Plan also, but pre-emptive Disaster Resistance can still be imcreased by replicating all key computer services (hardware and software) at a geographically separate location. NetCare recommend a third party data centre for these services, especially as part of any co-lo presence that is already in place.
These seven sound strategies will each provide your business with an increased level of Disaster Resistance. Not all of these strategies may be cost-effective for every business, and NetCare is thus happy to provide all our clients with a no-obligation report that reviews your current disaster resistance level along with specific recommendations and costings.
In addtion to Disaster Resistance, you may also need to onsider preparing a formal Disaster Recovery Plan in conjunction with a NetCare consultant. Many books have been written on this complex subject – one we strongly recommend for further reading is “Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery: Getting Ready Guide”, written by Deborah C. Miller.