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Volume 32, Issue 3

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Wednesday, 11 March 2015 05:00

Validating Your Disaster Recovery Strategy through Test Automation

Written by  Lakshman Narayanaswamy
On-the-fly application drills save IT resources and man hours

Disasters are inevitable and can disrupt business operations, resulting in direct revenue loss. Whether business operations are compromised because of an unplanned telecom outage, extreme weather, data breach or cyber-attack, businesses — whether small or large — operators need to have solid disaster recovery plans in place. While disaster recovery plans are essential to ensure business continuity, they may do little good if they aren't tested regularly.

The first step in developing a disaster recovery plan is to understand your environment and identify the potential risks to critical business operations. Through detailed risk analysis, the disaster recovery team needs to list and prioritize the business’ essential functions. Possible risks can be broken into several categories: external risks (natural disaster, human-caused, etc.), facilities-related (power outages, fires, etc.) and risks to data systems and application continuity across multiple, interdependent tiers, including enterprise applications, databases, networks, storage, backup, replication and data protection infrastructures. For each of these risks, disaster recovery (DR) administrators need to determine the likelihood of service disruption; the impact it will have on the organization as a whole, as well as per business line; and what is an acceptable recovery time and recovery point (RTO and RPO).

Businesses can get complacent when they have not had outages because of acts of God and lax about ensuring that their DR plans work. It turns out that more than 90 percent of IT downtime is because of hardware and software operational outages, making it imperative for businesses to have recovery plans they can depend upon. The business impact analysis determines the extent and investment in an organization’s recovery strategy. For customer-facing applications, it is important to have a short recovery time. It is common for applications to be built on multiple tiers and have several dependencies. The recovery plan and testing strategy should capture that so realistic testing can be done.

These are only the beginning stages in what has traditionally been the long, arduous process of disaster recovery management. And, planning is only one part of DRM. Making sure that the plan actually works is a beast of its own and could take weeks, if not months, of testingtesting that needs to occur regularly. That's not to mention the extensive team of IT administrators or expensive consultants it takes to develop, deploy and maintain an adequate DR strategy. In the meantime, systems in the environment inevitably change and evolve, applications are either decommissioned or replaced, and employees come and go, all of which make DRM an ongoing, uphill battle. In addition, many organizations are making the move to take advantage of public cloud infrastructure, often in a hybrid model to augment existing on-premises infrastructure, which only makes a comprehensive DRM strategy that much more difficult and time-consuming.

Disasters, whether natural, machine-related or brought on by human beings, are bound to happen, and organizations need to be prepared to handle them when they do. With increasingly complex and powerful applications and infrastructures, both in the cloud and on-premises, automated DR management tools are required to ensure critical business continuity. 

Lakshman-NarayanaswamyLakshman Narayanaswamy is the co-founder and vice president of products for Sanovi Technologies Lakshman is armed with more than 20 years of experience in the networking, information and storage management, and IT recovery and disaster recovery solutions spaces of the information technology industry. He is responsible for product management and marketing to ensure the Sanovi DRM suite of software remains a market leader and exceeds customer expectations. Before co-founding Sanovi, Lakshman co-founded Sanrise, a global storage service provider company. Prior to that, Lakshman has held engineering and technology strategy positions at Auspex, Silicon Graphics, and the prestigious Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Lakshman holds an MS in electrical engineering from the University of Virginia, and has five patents to his credit in the area of storage and data management.