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Data Back Up is Important but No Substitute for Disaster Recovery

December 11, 2013

The road to a disaster recovery (DR) plan often starts when a company realizes it needs more effective data backup. Being a data storage company, Peak 10 gets a lot of calls from customers who are looking for back-up.

They ask what “tier” data center do we have, before they actually know what tier(s) they may need. Some confuse data storage tiering with data center tiers; they’re two different animals (a subject for another time).  What they are pretty sure about is that they want storage solutions that will survive anything – even the building burning down.

Many assume that this level of protection is necessary for all their data, which is unlikely. Depending on how valuable data is to the user, back-up can happen once a day, in near-real or anywhere in between. The closer to moment-to-moment, the more costly backup will be. The question is: what’s the maximum tolerable period of time that data might be lost from an IT service due to a major incident … hours, minutes, seconds?

There are plenty of reasons why backing up data is a good idea. The data explosion, compliance concerns and steady stream of global disasters only add to them, which is why companies that offer data storage and servers are doing well now ─ and so many new ones are entering the scene.

It may surprise you that many of these new “innovative young start-ups” need other companies to provide the backup software. Not so at Peak 10. We provide the total back-up solutions and much more, built up over the 13 plus years we’ve been in business.

When data survival is the goal, a new hot start-up may not be the place to start. When DR is the goal that would be an ill-advised choice.

Half Measures Produce Half Results

How many companies could successfully implement a DR plan on their own, before downtime affected their business? Consider:

  • The power goes out or a server dies at a chain retailer. They can manually record cash-only transactions and enter data when the lights come back on, but for how many hours and at how many stores?
  • Do your accountants even know how to do accounting by hand anymore? Assuming they do, do you have anywhere near enough time and people to do it, now that everything is done using really great software?
  • How does a production plant function when manufacturing process controls go dark, and how long to re-sync the lines after data is accessible again?

Many people and businesses hope that their RAID (redundant array of independent disks, originally redundant array of inexpensive disks) configurations will save them from true disaster. RAID is a storage technology that combines multiple disk drive components into a logical unit for the purposes of data redundancy and performance improvement.

Increasingly, many are taking a next step to augment RAID by entrusting a data storage company with their data assets. A well thought out storage plan from an experienced storage provider can help. This may save you from a panic attack should the building burn down, the hardware fail or someone accidently delete some essential files.

Either, or preferably both, of these measures are certainly better than nothing at all, yet neither represents a true DR plan.

Data back-up is not DR

It doesn’t take much forethought to anticipate an earthquake in San Francisco or a hurricane in the Gulf Coast. But what about a train derailment and explosion, a Chelyabinsk-like meteor crashing into your city or a texting-while-driving teenager slamming into the nearby electrical substation? It sounds silly until it happens. Then you need a lot more than data back-up.

If you operate your own data center, then you know that running one is expensive. Even if your data center is a single row of servers, you still have cabling, cooling and a lot more electrical than anything except heavy industrial equipment. The upfront capital costs are eye-watering.

Now multiply all that by as much as two times if you choose to build out your own secondary DR location. In an ideal world every company would have a hot DR site that was identical to its primary.

Proper DR planning means you can stand up your entire infrastructure – or at least the tasks that are critical for day-to-day operations – on short notice, even if your primary site is destroyed. If you have access to multiple sites that are far enough apart – Swiss banks use 100km minimums – with fat Internet pipes, your recovery plan is that much stronger. But again, it is not cheap.

A DR site is an insurance policy; that doesn’t mean you have to be the insurance company. DR can be done less expensively when done at scale. That means shared hosting of some variety in the cloud.

Take your pick at Peak 10

If you run a business where downtime can cost you serious amounts of money, you need to start thinking about DR.

Thanks to almost a decade of public cloud marketing, most readers would be excused for assuming that DR means backing up to one of the big three providers. It doesn’t have to be so. There are more options and more services coming to market every day. But as we noted in the beginning, choose smartly. Vet at least four potential candidates for your business.

Not only do we deliver a range of capabilities and services, but Peak 10 can provide the advice and counsel in the planning process, help you anticipate future requirements as your business changes and keep the wolves from your door after disaster strikes.

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About Peak 10

"Our values are the foundation for everything we do at Peak 10, and are ultimately what enable us to earn our customers' business and their trust."
David H. Jones,
Board Member, Peak 10 + ViaWest