Surviving IT outages

Disaster recovery doesn't have to be expensive. Check out two of the more affordable solutions on the market.

Most small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) don't have the resources to own or manage a secondary disaster recovery site.

Such a remote facility--called a hot site--takes over IT processes within seconds of a primary outage. It houses hardware and software that instantaneously mirror data or allow SAN (storage area network)-to-SAN data replication.

Many SMBs can only dream about such speedy recovery.

The alternatives: An SMB can either back up data daily onto tape or to an alternate site via the Internet.

Trusty tape

Tape backup is affordable, but it can also be slow and cumbersome.
For SMBs, the traditional way of unfurling data from backup tape seems ideal. But they are not big fans of this because of the tedium. According to Wong Tew Kiat, senior manager of the Business Recovery Centre at Singapore Computer Systems, most SMBs may or may not backup their data.

He added: "Those who have may still keep the backup tapes within the office, and it will still be destroyed." To prevent this, tapes should be offsite.

Recovering systems from tape--known as warm recovery--takes 12 to 24 hours to complete as the data is retrieved from tape. In addition to being much slower, "recovery of data is only up to the backup status, any data after the backup will be lost," says Wong.

Such backup tapes should be tested regularly to ensure readablility while the tape's lifespan should be monitored. Even banks practice this.

Internet backup
Internet backup is a faster data recovery tool. And it's affordable enough for volume data backup. Provided by service providers such as SurgoSystems in Singapore, the service circumvents communication, software and hardware costs to keep it affordable for SMBs.

SurgoSystems offers an Internet-based service allowing users to back up critical data and recover it anytime. It claims to provide "instant data on demand".

Typically, a disaster recovery plan for SMBs can be broken down to the individual machines to be protected. For example, it costs S$350 (US$210) per month to back up an Intel server and S$50 (US$30) for a desktop. The connection cost via ADSL may be S$20 (US$12) while the offsite drawer space is around S$150 (US$90).

Such an Internet backup service is usually more affordable than a full range of disaster recovery and business continuity planning (BCP) tools provided by the likes of IBM, HP, National Computer Systems and SCS.

Importance of data protection
SMBs should pay heed to protecting their data because if it is lost, no amount of insurance can cover the fallout from missing information in the IT systems.

Says Wong: "I don't think there is any insurance to insure against permanent destruction of data. Insurance companies are likely to compensate only for the damage of the tape and not the content." Organizations should back up their critical data daily and send it offsite for safekeeping, he adds.

Gregory Teo is a freelance journalist based in Singapore.