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Staying Afloat When the Data Loss Iceberg Hits: Part 2 of 2

Last time, on part one of our series, we covered storage failure and challenges associated with tape. Here, we take a look at risks to hard-disk storage, the limitations of certain types of Disaster Recovery products, and how to achieve planned downtime.

Malware Attacks on the Rise

External forces, often applied with malicious intent, can contribute to storage failure. For example, a particularly sinister malware attacked Middle East energy organizations, destroying hard disks on infected systems. The malware corrupted files, overwrote the infected machine’s master boot record and decimated data past the point of recovery.

Unfortunately, this type of attack has become a common scenario in the past couple of years and has lead to the realization for many companies that failing to invest in storage diversity could lead to widespread data loss.

When malware is unleashed, data can become imprisoned by vendor lock-ins in cases where the disk subsystem manufacturer conducts all disk recovery on their own product. When companies need to move data off of the infected disk, the hardware protection prevents them from doing so. Organizations should remain mindful of these restrictions and select products that are storage solution-agnostic.

State of Resilience 2018

Real-Time Replication as a Lifeboat

Though storage failure is the main cause of data loss, shortcomings in HA/DR technology can compromise data availability, resulting in similar negative outcomes. Many organizations purchase HA/DR systems with the best of intentions, but make misguided decisions in terms of the type of software they select. Certain features must be present for an HA/DR plan to deliver an effective level of protection.

Companies may believe they are protecting data when they choose a snapshot solution. This system takes a snapshot every half an hour or hour. Theoretically, if an outage occurs, the snapshot saves all data except for that 30 to 60 minutes. But what happens when the outage extends beyond that window of time? A prolonged failure can render that data inaccurate and useless. While it is better than no backup system whatsoever, snapshot HA/DR is fundamentally flawed.

Real-time replication offers a much more effective and reliable data backup solution. The instant data changes on one computer, the system mirrors it and sends a copy to its final backup destination. This synchronization provides the most accurate, up-to-date record of business operations, providing a lifeboat in cases where the ship hits the iceberg and places data in danger.

Achieving Planned Downtime Perfection

While natural disasters and other circumstantial crises can justify incorporating HA/DR as an insurance policy against data loss caused by unplanned events, the reality is that these scenarios are only the tip of the iceberg: ninety percent of downtime is planned. Companies undergo regular, planned downtime periods for operating system or database software upgrades, hardware upgrades, system location migrations and maintenance upgrades, where information is vulnerable to increased risk of loss.

Given its very nature, planned downtime should ideally proceed smoothly, with few snags, if any. However, if it is not executed thoughtfully – with the right kind of processes in place – even planned downtime can lead to data loss disaster.

Planned downtime provides an opportunity for companies to test their HA/DR plan, but organizations should be mindful in testing it every six months. Testing ensures that staff assigned to the task possess the appropriate skills and are confident enough to use the technology. A lack of these qualities can prolong outages.

Preparation will Make or Break Data Protection

Ultimately, awareness is paramount for effective, airtight data loss prevention. Finding the right solution to meet high availability and disaster recovery standards – including near-zero downtime – is a strategy decision that every IT department should prioritize. Far too many organizations falsely assume they are safe with a substandard HA/DR solution or even no solution at all, and the learning curve often comes at a great cost for these companies. Many CIOs and VPs of IT do not survive – if a severe enough event occurs on their watch, they find themselves out of a job.

Companies are wise to use the warning signs to steer clear of the data loss iceberg. With the right HA/DR in hand, you’ll have the tools to navigate any disasters that cross your path, whether expected or unforeseen.

Also, make sure to download our 2018 State of Resilience Report for more information.

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