The year was 1993 and I was crossing before the Statue of Liberty on the Staten Island Ferry heading to work in Manhattan. Something wasn't quite right, and I soon noticed there was smoke coming from downtown. It was the first bombing of the World Trade Center, and I was about to disembark to a small nightmare (my office was across the street). Although the actual damage was minimal to the towers, entire companies went out of business as a result. Smoke and water damage combined poorly with backup tapes kept on-site (a huge no-no in the world of data protection). The idea was, "What could be safer than keeping our data here?"
Times have changed, and methods for backup and recovery have become much more advanced over the years, largely due to serious catastrophes that we have seen. But these destructive elements (both man-made and otherwise) have taught us that data recovery is the key to a company's survival. I had the privilege of carrying on a dialog with Norm R. Smith, a consulting engineer with Unisys, who drove the point home while expanding on the pros and cons of different approaches.
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InfoWorld: Norm, can you explain a bit more why data replication is such an important subject for enterprise admins to consider today?
Smith: Hurricane Katrina. A rolling power failure that encompassed the entire northeast United States. Flooding of the Red River in Fargo, N.D. Just a few of the natural disasters that can ruin an IT manager's day. These kinds of unexpected and unavoidable occurrences underscore the importance of having a disaster recovery strategy for a company’s IT infrastructure. And if that weren’t enough, there's the Sarbanes-Oxley Act contributing requirements for a disaster recovery plan. Yet the typical IT infrastructure is extensive, complicated, and already tuned to the job its doing. How do you approach disaster recovery without disrupting the very production workload you're looking to protect?
The core [purpose] of disaster recovery for an IT environment is protecting the data. Protecting the data involves making a copy, and keeping it beyond the reaches of a regional disaster. One typical technique is to shut down production on a slow weekend night, copy the data to tape, and store the tapes at another, distant location. That can work, but recovery in the case of an actual disaster is usually a matter of weeks, not minutes. Increasingly, IT infrastructures demand faster recovery, and that means keeping backup data online and keeping it up to date in near real time. There are two typical approaches to provide that capability.