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When dealing with disaster recovery and
business continuity planning, organizations sometimes focus more on
the nature of the disaster and less on the actual solutions needed
to protect the company’s operations. After all, discussing
potential earthquakes, floods, or even a power outage is usually
more exciting than weighing the merits of tape backups over
replication tools.

However, the solution your organization chooses
can really make a difference. You have a myriad of recovery
solutions to choose from as well as a large selection of

At the end of the day, nearly all solutions
fall into one of three categories of recovery protection. In many
cases, the same product will address more than one type of
recovery, so it’s important that companies do their research to
find the best combination of price and functionality

To start you off on the right foot, let’s
review these three major categories. No matter which combination of
technologies you use, knowing the differences between them will
help your organization find the right solutions for its business

Disaster recovery

While often used as a catch-all term for any
recovery method, the definition of DR usually entails the
restoration of data from a copy to a system that’s either available
or quickly acquired and configured for use. The basic concept
behind this term is getting data off live production systems and
keeping it someplace safe.

The most common example of a DR solution is a
tape backup system, which allows you to store a copy of any data on
a server system in any location that you’d like. This definition
can also include systems designed to store data on spinning disk,
instead of offline tape, either locally or in a remote

The main benefits of DR systems are that
they’re generally cross-platform and centrally managed. This makes
them very easy to use under most circumstances; however, as with
any technology, you can easily find yourself in over your head if
you don’t work things step-by-step.

The main drawbacks of DR solutions are that you
need to move tape-based media off-site, or you risk losing the
taped data along with the production systems in a disaster. In
addition, you must restore the data to another system before you
can resume operations, which could take a significant amount of

High availability

HA solutions refer primarily to systems that
offer the ability to immediately resume operations with a minimum
of downtime using new hardware that you’ve preconfigured at the
same physical site to stand in for a failed machine. While it’s
theoretically possible to provide HA to another physical site,
these solutions often demand the same networking properties (in
terms of IP address and other settings) that the production system

Most systems combine some form of replication
tool with monitoring and failover automation tools to provide this
functionality. In some cases, you must use a combination of vendor
tools to get both sides of that equation.

The main benefits of HA systems are that they
offer the ability to resume operations without restoration efforts,
typically with very little downtime, and little to no client-side

The main drawbacks of HA systems are that they
tend to be more expensive than simple DR solutions, and they also
tend to be platform-specific due to the complexities of the
failover process.

Remote availability

RA solutions take the idea of HA and extend it
to include other physical locations and networks. While the same
principles apply, you now need to deal with WAN links and other
limiting factors that don’t usually exist within a single data

You must also determine if end users will be
able to work with the systems in another location. In addition,
you’ll need to update client-side apps to make them function

For all of these drawbacks, the benefits to RA
systems are simple and profound: You gain the ability to survive a
disaster that incapacitates an entire data center. This level of
insurance can easily become well worth the expense and headaches of
implementing it.