Data Centers

Plan for the less destructive data center incidents

Not all "disasters" are on the same scale, and may not even result in data loss. However, less destructive incidents such as security breaches and technical emergencies happen all the time. You can plan for these smaller-scale disasters just like you do the big ones. In this article, Mike Talon focuses on network performance monitoring.

When it comes to planning for all contingencies in your data center, not all disasters are created equal. Sometimes much less destructive threats can put a serious strain on your resources, and traditional disaster recovery (DR) planning should take these incidents into consideration as well.

In my last column, I discussed security threats that could compromise your data and some tools to test your network defenses. These threats and other types of security breaches fall into this category of "less destructive" incidents. If a physical or digital security attack manages to compromise your data center, it can result in stolen data and the public embarrassment of a security breach, which could cost your company significant financial losses due to lost revenue or possible regulatory fines. All you can do at this point is survey the extent of the damage, document the weaknesses, and patch the problem areas as soon as possible.

Another very common type of less-destructive disaster is a technical emergency. These disasters involve things like insufficient processing power, system failures that don't necessarily cause a loss of data, and other technology-based incidents in which data is not compromised, but causes productivity to take a hit due to accessibility issues. There are ways to plan for these problems and avoid them, and there are ways to recover from them, in much the same way as you would for traditional DR planning.

You can mostly avoid technical emergencies if you carefully monitor your systems' performance and capacity, and accurately calculate the load your systems can handle. There are many tools and suites available that can assist in this monitoring, such as Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM), HP's OpenView suite, and IBM's Tivoli solutions. There are also less expensive solutions for network and system monitoring to be found that offer more limited functionality on a budget. The TechRepublic article, "Know your network monitoring options" describes some of the basic tools you can use. These solutions allow you to keep an active eye on what's going on in your environment, so that you can adapt and plan for future growth.

It's difficult to prepare for every situation that your users can throw at your systems, so having additional equipment and adaptable systems is a must for those organizations that have rapidly changing and scaling applications. Many new blade-based server systems have been brought to market in recent years from IBM, Dell, HP and others which can allow you to add capacity on little or no notice when needed, but scale back after the emergency is over. Grid computing (such as those solutions from Oracle) can also help scale in a hurry. The point here is that the only way to prepare for this type of less-destructive disaster involves careful planning and monitoring, and preparing for every contingency could become quite expensive. As always, you have to weigh the expense of implementing safeguards with the amount of risk that your organization can afford.

No matter what causes the emergency, the end result could be as harmful to the company as a loss of data is. Planning for this type of disaster should not take a back seat to more conventional DR planning. Even companies with smaller budgets can plan and take the necessary steps.

How well can your organization deal with an emergency? Automatically sign up for our free Disaster Recovery newsletter, delivered each Tuesday, and make sure you're prepared for the next catastrophe.

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