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Winter Journal

Volume 31, Issue 4

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The landscape surrounding Disaster Recovery is changing rapidly—driven primarily by developments in computing and communications. The lines between these two fields are becoming blurred, with Local Area Network (LAN), Wide Area Network (WAN), Intranet and Internet network applications becoming increasingly visible in small, medium and large company environments worldwide. Technological advancements have made Electronic Data Vaulting and Remote Mirroring more economical, with secure high speed data transfer and storage options now widely available on a multiplatform basis. Companies and organizations may not know it, but thanks to these advances they are now in a position to consider these alternatives as a part of their overall disaster recovery plan as we move forward into the new millennium.

The concept of the paperless office of the future that took hold in the early ‘80s has borne bitter fruit. Forward thinking organizations tried to implement systems that would allow employees to conduct all their business on their desktops without having to print hard copies. But the reality of computerized business life and the seemingly endless stream of available information fairly swiftly took hold and in many cases begun to choke traditional network architecture—a classic case of too much information and not enough capacity. But with the cost of storage plummeting over the past years, capacity is no longer the primary issue. What has taken over is the more complex issue of securely managing and distributing the information efficiently. Luckily, technology has provided us with the tools to do just that.

Distributed computing moved storage from the mainframe to the desktop and then back to a centralized server environment. Due to the growth of enterprise applications such as the Internet, data depots and data warehouses, along with e-mail, there is a new need to create a centralized storage environment that will provide entire organizations access to information while maintaining efficiencies that allow for simplified tracking and management of storage levels, without sacrificing speed. New storage technologies such as Network Attached Storage (NAS), and Storage Area Networks (SANs), hold great promise as solutions for the ever growing storage and access need.

NAS devices are basically bare-bones designed for the sole purpose of storing, sending and receiving data files. While they may not function well in database applications due to their inherent file orientation, NAS can free up expensive application servers and handle simple file storage. Your server functions as a gateway to the NAS device, the sole function of which revolves around data storage and delivery. This significantly alleviates the day-to-day connectivity bottlenecks that IS managers must deal with. There are a number of new storage and processing devices available to meet almost any need. As with any technology purchase, attention must be given to fit the tool to the required job. With bundled operating systems and practical plug and play upgrade functions, NAS will certainly continue to play a role.

In time, SANs will end up being at the heart of every data center. They will allow companies to manage their data storage requirements from a centralized point, providing information to various servers that may be running any number of operating systems. At the present time however, there are some shortcomings to SANs, namely a lack of manageability, fault tolerance limitations and truly specialized applications for SANs. SAN technology provides an improvement over SCSI interconnects with increased bandwidth capabilities and network architecture and interconnect flexibility. Thanks to fiber channel hub connections, SAN can bind a variety of hardware products and storage devices together in a LAN or WAN infrastructure.

This latest technological advancement should be viewed for the time being with cautious optimism. One concern is the void in software and hardware components designed to optimize SAN potential. This, coupled with interoperability with legacy systems and storage devices, should give one a reason to pause. But we should soon begin seeing Fiber Channel/SCSI bridge products in the market place to help ease the shift to SAN architecture and fill the present need. While SANs offer potentially the most efficient and flexible future solution to network design, NAS is totally operational and can provide a viable solution for many organizations right now.

The technology market is maturing before our eyes. The debate over mainframe, server or desktop system is quickly disappearing as the reality of specific network configurations and benefits become clear. Invariably, the IS department of the future will contain some or all of the above listed arrangements depending solely upon application. A blend of available technologies and network architectures will be used across the board to answer specific needs. The demand for increased data storage overall continues to grow at exponential rates. The need to identify and segment critical information for backup and recovery purposes is becoming even more important and must be considered by contingency planners and disaster recovery professionals when considering future Disaster Recovery plans.

It is important to note that solutions and technology jumps in computers and communications are occurring at phenomenally increasing speeds, with 6 months equaling what used to be 3 to 5 years—and it is escalating daily. For this reason, it is imperative that contingency planners, disaster recovery and risk managers be prepared to implement new technologies to help mitigate the built-in dependence on previous computer technology and the inherent risk that lies therein. With the lowering of hardware and communications costs, together with increased security, bandwidth expansion, channel extension technology coupled with the reliability of high speed fiber connections, remote mirroring and electronic data vaulting are viable solutions in the NAS and SAN network architecture world of the coming years.

Although both hardware and software are becoming more specialized and application dependent, it has become imperative that management throughout an organization be technologically savvy. Management must be aware how new technology in these areas can impact and help their specific area of responsibility. With the proliferation and implementation of fiber connects throughout network architecture Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), with Virtual Wide Area Networks (VWAN), connectivity is just around the corner. The disaster recovery planning process for the coming millennium must realize this reality and incorporate it as soon as possible if it is to succeed.

G.J. Pierman is the COO of TiTAN World Class Safe Site, the worlds premier safe site for sophisticated data storage, vaulting, Y2K testing, disaster recovery and advanced telecommunications networking.