A new technique called wide area file services (WAFS) would have completely addressed these backup and restore issues during last year’s blackout. WAFS provides breakthrough technology that makes it possible to share files over wide area networks at local area network speeds while using cached data and optimized protocols to eliminate the previously required storage, management and backup infrastructure at remote locations. WAFS also eliminates the back-up window across geographies, doing away with the need for complex replication and snapshot schemes. Through gateways at remote locations WAFS intelligently provides fast access over the WAN to high-use files at a centralized data center location, consolidating remote office file storage and greatly diminishing the chances of the type of potential IT disaster that occurred during the blackout.
WAFS solutions translate to worry-free operation at each remote location. If a location affected by a blackout or other disaster had produced the data, then the rest of the locations would have guaranteed access to up-to-date copies of working data seconds before the disaster occurred. If an affected location had handled datacenter operations, then unaffected remote locations could continue working on their active files while having read-only access to other cached files. WAFS brings a remarkable sense of independence to each branch. And in case of a disaster, WAFS enables up-to-the-minute seamless data transfer to the datacenter, thus averting permanent data loss at the remote location.
For example, a large financial firm with remote locations throughout the US has just been affected by a region-wide blackout and its data center in New York and branch office in Boston have lost power. With WAFS appliances in place, data center file changes made by Boston users at the time of the blackout would have been safely transmitted to New York to be backed up by the company’s disaster recovery mechanism. At the same time, all unaffected remote locations would be able to continue working on open data center files with no interruption or loss in data. Once power was restored, file changes made by in Boston would be retrieved from the data center and users could simply pick up from where they left off. Likewise, file changes made by users in the unaffected offices would be automatically transmitted back to New York for access by any remote office user on the company’s WAFS enabled network.
Other methods currently used by many enterprises – such as copying files, tape backup, file transfer protocol (FTP), and mirroring – would not be nearly as effective in such a situation. Backup and restore software that creates snapshots of data at remote offices regularly needs to be synchronized with copies at the data center. Moreover, since anyone could modify a given file at the same time at multiple locations, using such solutions means there is no consistency of data. In the event of a natural or manmade disaster, this window to back up and synchronize files might be hours, days or weeks, leaving system administrators with a tedious file conflict resolution task once they are finally able to restore lost data.
The crucial issue in a blackout – or in an act of terrorism or a natural disaster such as a hurricane or earthquake – is time. The fact that WAFS allows for backup within seconds can make the difference between successfully saving a file and having it dangle in the ether. Such automatic backup also cuts IT expenses as it allows IT staff to significantly minimize the amount of time spent restoring lost files.
Emerging on the forefront of disaster recovery technology, WAFS solutions offer a safety net within existing IT infrastructures that can guarantee business continuity in the event of natural or man-made disasters. WAFS solutions ensure that up-the-second mission-critical data always remains available with high integrity. Whether it be during a blackout, act of terrorism or any other calamity or disaster, the idea and expectation of business continuity during these events has forever been changed by WAFS.
Shreyas Sadalgi is a software engineer at Tacit Networks. He can be reached at email@example.com