Imagine this. You live in an area prone to disasters, and at anytime you could find yourself staring down a huge tsunami or a massive earthquake (what if Godzilla were to strike?). What do you do? Do you panic, or bury your head in the sand? Nope, you step up and start thinking about disaster recovery plans that'll see you back on your feet in no time. Maybe you ensure your buildings are all built according to earthquake specifications, or that you've planned relief for if disaster strikes.
Whatever the solution you decide on, one thing's for sure; when it comes to fearlessly facing down disasters in your business, mitigation and detection are going to be your best strategies if you want to avoid chaos when it strikes.
Applying Avoidance and Detection
Disaster recovery can, and should also be, an avoidance plan. Anything you can do before being hit with catastrophe will make transitioning easier, and take some of the load off you. We've already talked a bit about tools to help you in disaster recovery scenarios, but there are also a few systems, tools and tips that will go the extra mile in a disaster recovery situation.
Avoiding Those Disasters
Avoidance Tip #1 - Store Your Data Appropriately
Quite simply, make the decision to store your data elsewhere. This action should manifest itself in two distinct forms:
- Keeping and securing a copy of your data, facilitated by a live sync mechanism, a well-known example being Dropbox. This ensures your data is protected if your on-premise storage facility suffers a critical attack or downtime.
- Backups. Keeping copies of your files and their revisions is also important. This is especially true for files that are deleted, not always intentionally.
Avoidance Tip #2 - Captain, We Need More Power!
It's not just the USS Enterprise that hates a drop in power. It's never a good day when your office suffers a power outage. Servers and equipment don’t like having the power yanked, and it's even worse if a hard disk is in the process of writing data, which can become corrupted by the interruption. In the direst of cases, the drive can even be damaged as a result.
If the power in your office should go, it's preferable to have a method of gracefully shutting down your servers and equipment. By investing in an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), you can solve this issue.
A UPS is essentially a clump of batteries that are plumbed into the mains. All your critical devices are then connected to the UPS, rather than the mains supply. If the UPS detects a loss of power, then all your critical devices will continue to function for as long as the battery lasts. It's also possible to get smart UPSs that have software which can be installed on any critical devices that support it, allowing the UPS to automatically shut them down if need be.
Avoidance Tip #3 - Redundancy
Disasters aren't always as a result of Godzilla-like events, but quite frequently can be triggered by seemly non-critical things. A fuse is a good example. Something so simple, and yet if it blows it can cause a nasty situation. By choosing devices with two power supplies that can fail over between them is a great investment. This also covers you if the device's power supply itself is faulty.
Multiple Hard Disks
Storing data on one disk is just asking for trouble. Two is much better, allowing you to store the data from one and duplicate it to the other. There are various methods to achieve this, but one of the more commonplace ones is to use Raid.
The example above in Raid parlance is a mirror, which is also known as Raid 1. A better method yet is Raid 5, which uses four disks, as if anyone of those fails, the data will still be safe. Raid 6 takes this a step further with two disks that can fail. These aren't the only options; there are other raid types and combinations of the above.
Opt for Two Servers Instead of One
Why not pair up your servers? By doing so, it’s possible to implement high availability. A typical setup of this nature requires a dedicated connection between the units so that they are intimately connected.
This provides a “heartbeat” and data synchronisation. And don't assume this feature is just for larger organisations; even the humblest Synology NAS has this facility. High availability also extends across other devices, not just servers. Routers and switches can all have some form of redundancy or high availability applied to them.
Keep a Spare
If you're on a budget, one of the cheapest options is to keep extra equipment that can be used in a time of need. We don't necessarily mean buying additional equipment. It's as simple as keeping that old laptop that you replaced with a shiny new thing.
If you do elect to keep your older equipment as spares, it's important to treat them as If this proper pieces of backup equipment, and to subject them to periodic checks, services and updates.
Simply stick a copy of your data in the cloud. Great examples of this are both Dropbox and Google Drive, which can be very useful.
Disaster Detection 101
In looking to spotting those disasters before they hit, we turn to more software-based ideas. It's all about using monitoring and regular testing, incorporated together into a strategy that works to keep those little lights blinking.
Detection Tip #1: Mark One’s
This is one of the cheapest monitoring solutions, and using your eyes is always a good start. Develop a checklist of cabling and status lights that need to be regularly checked for signs of trouble brewing. It's also crucial to ensure that whoever does the checking has a solid understanding of what each of those status lights means.
Detection Tip #2: Monitoring Your Consoles
Many devices come with built-in status tools. It's a shame not to spend the time running through these consoles, and getting an understanding of the various values and their meanings. It’s worth spending some time googling and getting a feel for them because they're important tools you can use to spot potential deviances and disasters brewing.
Detection Tip #3: Choosing the Right Monitoring Tool
By far the best investment you can make is in the right monitoring tool. Generally, this option requires a software installation. After the installation, the software monitors your devices using criteria that you select and set.
A good monitoring tool can alert you to a host of potential problems or thresholds. Perhaps your hard disk is 80% full. Maybe the Internet connection has been running at 95% capacity for the last 60 minutes. Replication has failed between the two Active Directory servers. The list goes on.
In some monitoring tools, it’s even possible to act on thresholds or failures. In any case, there are hordes of monitoring tools out there that are both paid for and free. It’s worth checking out a few and working out what you need based on your particular situation.
Keep It Simple
When facing down disasters, it's tempting to lose the plot and panic, or become overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of what you might be facing. But it doesn't have to be so complicated.
Start simple and work your way up. Consider beginning with monitoring, as this can be the cheapest option, quite often free! Conduct reviews as much as possible on a regular basis to ensure that your infrastructure is meeting the necessary demands. These reviews can be enhanced with a reliable monitoring tool that has good reporting functions built-in. None of this has to be complicated, just comprehensive and multi-layered. That's all it takes to keep the chaos out of your business and things running smoothly and efficiently.