Tech Tip: Adjust disaster recovery plans for additional data needs during corporate reporting

Learn how to adjust disaster recovery plans for additional data needs during corporate reporting.

By Mike Talon

During tax time in the United States, many people scramble to collect receipts and file their returns. It's also the time when many people swear they'll do a better job at keeping records in the coming year.

There's no better time to discuss corporate reporting and what it means for your organization's disaster recovery plans. Whether you're preparing financial statements, finalizing annual reports, or compiling some other sort of report, corporate reporting involves processing a tremendous amount of data. Will your disaster recovery system be able to handle it?

Almost every company must prepare reports and other publications at various times throughout the year. Whether they're monthly, quarterly, or annually, these reports typically require the generation of a great deal of data. At the same time, the United States has recently instituted more stringent reporting policies for public companies, and the European Union is following suit.

Loss of critical data could mean fiscal, corporate-wide, and even personal disaster if it causes missed reporting deadlines. Your organization must plan how it will recover in time from a possible disaster to meet these deadlines.

Tape backups are wonderful, but losing a full day's worth of data during one of these periods could leave you with too much data that never made it to the nightly backup. Using tape backups on a more frequent schedule usually impacts the ability of the server systems to perform at top speed, so this generally isn't a solution. While performing off-system, point-in-time copies can help, it shouldn't be your only solution during these reporting periods.

Replication is a great option to ensure little or no data loss occurs during a hardware system disaster. Hardware-based solutions protect against data loss, but this protection comes at a price.

That price means both a higher cost than most solutions as well as a performance impact on the production systems due to the "two-phase commit" method of data protection that nearly all hardware-based replication tools use.

Software-based replication (also called host-based) is another option. At a lower cost and generally without a performance impact, these tools replicate at either the block- or byte-level using an asynchronous methodology.

However, if the required bandwidth isn't in place, these systems will buffer data to send, meaning you could lose anything not transmitted before the time of the crash. Of course, you'll lose a great deal less data than a once-a-day tape system alone, but you should weigh the pros and cons of both types of replication systems before making a decision.

If replication is too expensive, snapshot technologies are another option. Available choices include hardware-based solutions from your current vendors or software-based solutions from Microsoft and many third parties (depending on your operating system).

Snapshot technologies allow you to independently take point-in-time copies of data on a set schedule or on demand. While this method is still not as effective as replication, it allows you to rescue a much larger portion of your data after a disaster than a once-per-day tape backup alone.

No matter what combination of solutions you choose, preparing to recover on a moment's notice during reporting periods is a vital part of modern business. Data loss isn't a good reason to miss reporting deadlines, and your organization could even incur stiff penalties and other repercussions for skipping reports.

Plan now to ensure the adequate protection of your organization's data. This proactive move can save you a lot of headaches when compiling corporate reports.

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