The weekend always brings about a sense of calm, reflection, and a little reprieve from the day to day struggles we face in our businesses. One of the struggles that shouldn't get swept aside during this time off though is the concept of Business Continuity (sometimes knows as Business Disaster Recovery - BDR). It actually should be something we've planned for and acted on long before any time away.
Despite the continued lowering of costs for IT solutions and infrastructure, small businesses can still run into significant challenges in the design and implementation of backup and business disaster recovery (BDR) strategies. Businesses are using more and more storage, and as business volume and connectivity grows, the need to retain transaction data, log data, and archive databases increases. The continued move towards more and more virtual server solutions only increases the size and complexity of the situation. We've been seeing a trend where existing backup and BDR solutions (ie: backup software, tape and disk drives, and imaging software) are being outpaced by storage needs, and the "always on" mentality of business is beginning to make off-site storage of tape media not only impractical in terms of restore response time, but also antiquated and unable to meet the desired service level of businesses.
Fortunately, new technologies are available making business continuity and BDR solutions significantly more cost effective. Over the last few years increased Internet bandwidth at significantly more affordable prices as well as the proliferation of off-site remote backup storage has helped. Other factors such as cloud computing, WAN fail-over, multisite clustering, and other "high availability" and load balancing solutions have become more cost effective that they're starting to make inroads into the SMB market.
The key in all of this though is managing the client's expectations about what business continuity and fail-over really mean and what they really cost. Simply put - what you think you're getting vs. what you're actually getting. This also has to be balanced between what you think you "need" vs. what your actually willing to pay for (both initially as well as ongoing to maintain and support). We've also seen a trend lately when taking on new clients of all sorts of misinformation being pushed out there about the simplicity of BDR solutions. While there are several different "flavors" of Business Continuity, the difficulty lies not only in effectively communicating the differences, but in having clients who are willing to take the time to understand them. The thing is - most clients don't really want to understand the complexities of the differences. And they shouldn't have to. But, they do need to understand the core differences. There's backup, then there's offsite backup, then there's server virtualization, there's onsite server fail-over / redundancy, there's off-site server fail-over / redundancy, there's site replication, there's co-located server redundancy. All having different impacts and all requiring different investments.
So, what are you trying to accomplish? The key thing to keep in mind AND plan for in all BDR solutions is - it's all about the restore. Even just talking about backup goes down the slippery slope of having to understand all the restore considerations... What's being backed up? How's the restore process managed? Who's responsible for it? How is the restore tested? How often is the restore tested? How good are the restore capabilities? What is the true interruption to business operations? What can be restored? How long will a restore take? Who needs to be involved in the restore? All good planning points that should be part of everyone's Business Continuity Plan.
My point is, Business Continuity and Business Disaster Recovery is not simple and it's not easy. Regardless of what anyone may tell/sell you. But, with the right plan, the right guidance, and proper communication it can be highly effective.