By Mike Talon
Recently, while I was on an overseas mission, I got the opportunity to speak about disaster recovery to an audience of European technical professionals. Some DR specialists have clients in overseas locations, so it's important to examine how they handle or mishandle their DR and high availability (HA) situations.
There are major issues that exist when you plan to provide DR and HA for satellite offices in other countries. Most noticeably, you almost always run into high bandwidth costs between continents. In addition, it's difficult getting technical staff to the various sites to perform setup and installation tasks. But you can overcome these issues with careful planning.
Bandwidth between countries will remain expensive in the foreseeable future. Try to get the best deal that you can, and minimize the bandwidth usage of the DR and/or HA solution. If possible, use different offices within the same country to back up each other. However, you should be prepared to shell out some cash to bring data back to the main office if your business continuity plan (BCP) requires you to do so.
Another major issue to overcome is technical staff located in the wrong country for a particular install. It's extremely expensive to fly staffers from one country to another, so you must either budget the proper funds into your DR planning sessions or make alternate plans.
One example of an alternate plan is to leverage vendor professional services to perform installations. Or, you can rent technical staff from independent contractors in the country in question. While both alternatives cost money, some analysts contend that this costs less than sending your own people to the remote location.
Don't forget to take foreign languages and customs into account. There was a client who set up a perfect DR plan, only to find out that no one in the remote office could read the DR documentation. Between time differences and the language barrier, it took the company nearly 48 hours to enact a DR plan that called for two hours of downtime.
As for local customs, let's just say that asking certain employees to be available 24/7 may run you afoul of religious regulations and even civil law in some countries. This is why it's important to make contingency plans.
Planning for overseas DR and HA is by no means impossible, but it takes a great deal more planning than domestic operations. Do your homework, find the best deals, and create contingency plans that all of your employees can understand. These preparations will help if disaster strikes.
Mike Talon is an IT consultant and freelance journalist who has worked for both traditional businesses and dot-com startups.