Data Centers

Tech Tip: Properly plan for additional bandwidth needs during an emergency

While ensuring communication between people is a huge part of the DR planning process, it's vital that organizations don't overlook the importance of planning for proper communication between data systems.

By Mike Talon

Communication is key during a disaster, and it's an integral part of the disaster recovery planning process. In recent articles, we've discussed how you can ensure that both your staff and your end users remain in contact with the organization during an emergency.

While ensuring communication between people is a huge part of the DR planning process, it's vital that organizations don't overlook the importance of planning for proper communication between data systems. If your data systems are unable to access the information they need, then your end users will be back to square one.

Because servers and other equipment can use multiple forms of communications, just adding another Internet access pipe to your DR data center isn't the most effective solution. Even if your organization only needs certain types of communication at any given time, it's important to develop a variety of options so the company can still function regardless of the emergency.

Of course, you must have an adequate amount of bandwidth for people and other systems to access the systems within the DR data center. And you'll likely have some form of data connections in place to handle any data transfers and/or replication traffic while the primary data center is still online.

One important thing to take into account is that users may require more bandwidth than the DR protection systems may need. To meet this need, consider implementing a "burstable" (variable-sized) pipe in your DR data center that you can turn up at any point in time. This way, you won't pay for more bandwidth than you need until the DR plan goes into effect.

In addition to Internet access, also consider adding point-to-point connectivity between the DR data center and other facilities in your network. This allows those sites to continue communication in the event of a disaster.

These types of connections also tend to offer more options in terms of control over issues such as DNS communications and other routing abilities. In addition, they can allow you to route connections to the DR data center much more quickly in the event of an emergency.

Fax communications and other telephone-based systems tend to offer more significant challenges. Telephone systems are nearly always restricted to a single physical location.

While it's entirely possible to use IP telephony to solve some of these issues, you'll need to work very closely with your telephone company to ensure that communications keep flowing to both people and data systems. If necessary, you can often obtain phone numbers that you can transfer from one physical location to another on short notice.

However, this solution usually comes at an alarmingly high cost. In most cases, it's a better idea to keep secondary lines ready at the DR site, and make sure employees are aware of what they are and when to use them.

Combining these types of solutions with VPN and remote access solutions can keep both people and systems talking during an emergency. The right balance of communication systems will allow you to keep everything running smoothly—no matter what comes your way.

Mike Talon is an IT consultant and freelance journalist who has worked for both traditional businesses and dot-com startups.

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