Data Storage Disaster: Does Your Backup Plan Have a Backup Plan?

    December 7, 2016

    By Tony  MacDonald

    Almost every company backs up their important data in case vital systems fail, but worst-case scenarios call for more than just a simple backup.

    It’s every company's worst nightmare: a cyber attack, power outage, or overload that causes massive service failures. Fear of scenarios like these is what led to the advent of cloud-based disaster recovery (DR) services. The benefits of cloud-based DR are many: it reduces the need for extensive IT infrastructure, lowers overhead costs, and enables small companies to have thorough DR plans where none had previously existed.

    Companies have made good use of digital backup solutions for the better part of the last three decades, yet risks continue to exist even in the most advanced of systems. No cloud-based DR system should serve as a “set it and forget it” solution — just like any other software tool that depends on the technology, a risk of cloud failure still exists. So how do you prepare for the worst?

    Developing a Plan

    When designing a disaster recovery plan, it’s crucial to first prioritize the various aspects of your system according to overall importance. According to Gartner business continuity management analyst Roberta Witty, the key is to "focus on what's mission-critical and make sure that's up and running...You want to put your investment where it has most meaning for the company — and that's all through risk assessment and business impact analysis.” In short, your DR plan will largely be dependent on the specific needs of your business.

    Generally speaking, however, companies must ensure from the outset that data is securely transferred and users are properly authenticated. They must also determine whether or not they possess the internal bandwidth and network capacity to retrieve the data and redirect users to the cloud in the event of an outage. Though there are many ways to implement an effective DR plan, one thing is certain: every company should routinely test and update their recovery systems.

    When Disaster Strikes

    In August, a power failure in Atlanta disrupted the Delta Airlines IT systems that were used for key operations such as automated check-in kiosks, which in turn led to thousands of grounded flights.

    About 300 of the airline’s 7,000 servers were not connected to the backup power supply the company set up in case of just such a failure, a vulnerability that had not been anticipated despite the company’s investment of "hundreds of millions of dollars in technology infrastructure upgrades and systems, including backup systems.” Even with tremendous resources being dedicated to the most sophisticated DR systems, disasters are still possible.

    Backup to the Backup

    No matter how carefully crafted a DR plan is on paper, it has no value if it doesn’t work in practice, and there’s no way to determine it works in practice if it has yet to be tested. Rigorous systems testing ensures that any changes in the server environment are accounted for, and that solutions can be found for any oversights that might have been overlooked.

    No stone should be left unturned in these tests. During a CIOchat conducted by TechTarget, Andi Mann, a Global Digital Business Representative, tweeted that the test reminded him “of one DR test we couldn't even start because the DR doc was 'destroyed by the disaster'” Even the smallest oversights can have a cataclysmic impact when disaster really strikes — lapses in DR plans can result in hours of downtime and significant losses in revenue.

    An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, however. That’s why TeamQuest prides itself on creating products that monitor the health and risk profile of your company’s IT services to help stop crashes before they occur. In the words of Michael Herrera, CEO of MHA Consulting, "I think people in today's world first have to say 'it can happen.'” Since your next data disaster is potentially right around the corner, it’s essential to create a contingency plan for the worst-case scenario as soon as possible.