Soho fire – business disaster recovery questions
Written by Rob Lyttle on July 13th, 2009
Today several businesses and employees are waking up to a uncertain future in central London. On Friday a large scale fire broke out in Dean Street, Soho, gutting at least one business and leading to a large number of residents being evacuated for many hours.
Whether the fire could have been prevented remains unclear. Maybe the business involved has the ability to continue to trade; if not, they will have a number of difficult questions to answer about business continuity and disaster recovery.
If you have a disaster recovery plan, you hope never to use it. Putting one in place however, along with enabling technologies, would drastically reduce the downtime casued by an actual disaster, while improving the underlying infrastructure for day to day operations.
ISN advise customers to regularly carry out business impact analysis of each business unit of their organisation. Understanding how a disaster would affect each business unit, in terms of hard and soft costs (lost orders and loss of future orders through brand degradation) is critical to developing a robust strategy to tackle any disaster. Getting your data to the right people quickly is a decisive point in allowing your business to continue.
Understanding that your data is not the only issue to deal with: new equipment, offices, and infrastructure may also be required. Implementing plans so that every member of your business understands how to continue with business as usual, in the event of a massive business outage is key.
ISN recommends organisations look at technologies such as virtualisation, storage and offsite backups to help circumvent these situations. Mirrored storage would allow you to have you mission critical data to be centralised off your main site and allow for replication back to your head office when new equipment is installed. That, coupled with technologies such as Citrix XenApp to allow users to work from home as if they were in the office, means you lose fewer working days. If you are small enough not to need to shared storage, offsite back up can cut data restore times and get your business going again very quickly.
ISN provides business impact analysis for organisation and provides disaster recovery planning services, in the form of a workshop. Our aim is to ensure that in the event of your business being involved in any disaster scenario, it quickly returns to business as usual instead of becoming business confusion.
11 expert tips for successful #virtualisation
Written by Alex Billowes on July 5th, 2009
ISN’s technical consultants have put their heads together and come up with some practical advice for IT teams considering introducing virtualisation.
1 – Start small and work up
So that you and your team can familiarise yourselves with the concepts and issues around virtualisation, start with free or inexpensive tools like #Citrix #XenServer, #VMware ESX3i or VMware Workstation.
Try For your first production systems try running simple server workloads like Blackberry Enterprise Server, DHCP or secondary domain controllers.
2 – Take a phased approach
Don’t try to do everything all at once. Trying to do too much in one step is a recipe for downtime and disaster. Specialist consultancies can provide the tools and expertise to help you plan the best way to get to your desired end results.
3 – Don’t expect to be able to virtualise all of your systems
Sometimes you are better off with physical servers. Direct attached storage in the form of RAID arrays on an intelligent caching disk controllers will often give better performance for high throughput databases than virtual machines accessing shared iSCSI storage.
4 – Check compatibility of existing software applications
Confirm with vendors that their applications are supported on virtual machines and consider their recommendations when looking at server, network and backup options.
5 – Don’t forget about licensing
Remember OEM licenses are tied to the hardware they were bought with, so that you can’t simply convert a machine running OEM software and stay compliant. Each virtual Windows server or desktop would need its own operating system license – either volume or retail box.
6 – Think about backup and recovery up front
Although it is easier to back up and restore, a production virtual machine needs a proper rigorous backup regime in place to allow quick recovery from data loss. Choose products which are designed for virtual systems such as those from Vizioncore or Symantec.
7 – Upgrade hardware warranty
When you are running multiple production virtual machines on one physical server system, this become vital as any downtime is compounded. For HP servers ISN recommend 24/7 6 hour Call-to-repair or 4 hour response Carepack warranty extensions. Dell too offer a “4 hour Mission Critical” response add-on to their basic warranty.
8 – Build a solid foundation for the future
Don’t try to skimp and put your first production virtual machines on a low-end system as this will generally become your production environment before you know it. Hardware is cheap compared to the cost, disruption and inconvenience of rebuilding. There is also a cost to eroding users’ confidence in new systems by providing it on under-powered hardware. Choose reliable, fast server hardware with redundancy built in.
9 – Use shared storage for more flexibility
For non critical server workloads with very little data it is feasible to keep the data within the virtual machine. To get the most out of a virtual environment, realising the full benefits of disaster recovery, resilience, flexibility and performance, it is best to separate critical production data and locate it on a shared Storage Area Network (SAN) or high end Network Attached Storage (NAS) device.
10 – Plan network capacity for best performance
ISN use iSCSI or fibre channel accelerators in servers attached to a separate storage LAN with a dedicated switch fabric to guarantee fastest data access times and throughput between servers, shared storage and users. If your server uses the same LAN for iSCSI access to a SAN as it does to serve data to users, problems can arise.
11 – Use outside expertise to give you a head start
It can save a lot of time and money to use an experienced consultancy to get you started on your virtualisation project. ISN’s qualified consultants can help you get results fast and transfer practical skills to your own IT team.
If you have any questions about virtualisation or how it might work in your business, please leave a comment or call me at ISN on 020 7313 9900.
Snapshot image backups let you recover dead servers fast
Written by David Ellison on June 1st, 2009
This involves taking a snapshot image of a whole server (or desktop PC or laptop). If the server fails, the image can be used to recreate it the server on any hardware – doesn’t have to be identical – long as it has enough disk space and memory.
What results will image backup give you? Read more »
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