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Disaster recovery in the new decade: retrofit answers will not make it in the '90s.

DISASTER RECOVERY IN THE NEW DECADE

We may one day look back at the 1980s as a transitional decade for disaster recovery.

During the 1960s and well into the 1970s, disaster recovery planning typically addressed data centers, and meant not much more than getting backup tapes to another site with a similar computer configuration.

In the 1980s, the ability to reestablish telecommunciations began to rival for attention the restoration of data files and applications. No longer is the disaster recovery focus inside a single room or building.

So, what does the disaster recovery crystal ball show for telecomm in the 1990s?

Several continuing trends point toward a dramatic upsurge in disaster recovery awareness and investment in the coming decade:

* Increasing dependency on time-critical online, interactive and networked applications.

* Explosive growth in data center data volumes (consider a thouandfold increase in typical mainframe disk capacity in the past 25 years).

* Emergence of electronic vaulting as an increasingly cost-effective data backup tool.

*Proliferation of decentralized, interdependent local-area networks, departmental computers and personal computers.

* New technologies (and improved price performance of existing technologies) such as voice mail, facsimile and cellular which are rapidly becoming necessities to the conduct of business.

* Availability of increasingly cost-effective backup and recovery alternatives such as fractional T1, redundant processors, redirection of service at the central office, and so forth, which will make it cheaper and easier to provide for effective disaster recovery.

* The realization that for most organizations, disaster recovery planning is a necessity to survival and no longer a luxury.

Telecomm Props

Reconstructing a severely damaged network ins't nearly the same as building tnt network in the first place. The major difference, of course, is time.

Weeks and months of planning and preparation are compressed into days, hours or even minutes. Deterioration of service may continue even as recovery proceeds. Damage containment can be very bit as important as restoration.

Where does this leave the telecommunications professional?

All this points to rising demand for expertise in network restoration and recovey. As data processing professionals have been learning over the past decade or longer, the ability to restorate a damaged operation to life requres skills which don't always come naturally (or painlessly).

Telecommunications professionals have similarly had to reassess their skill and experience.

Much of disaster recovery planning is not much more than common sense. The parts that are more than common sense include the discipline and methodologies of disaster recovery as well as the technology of telecommunications.

In the coming decade, more emphasis will be placed on disaster recovery training for telecommunications professionals. For many of those experts, network disaster recovery will become a full-time job instead of a sideline.

Network Planning

Most networks are (hopefully) designed with some degree of redundancy or fall-back ability. These may or may not be effective in a verting day-to-day outrages. As the complexity and sophistication of crucial networks increase dramatically in the coming decade, traditionally reliability measures are likely to be hopelessly inadequate in the face of disaster.

To compound the problem, that same complexity and sophistication are likely to make it harder to retrofit disaster recovery. In the 1990s, more organizations are likely to design disaster recovery as an integral network component from the start.

Establishment of full-scale backups to key network nodes will be more common. As the commercial hot site industry evolves in sophistication in the network arena, more and more companies are likely to consider establishment of external backup network capabilities.

Functionally and economically, it can make sense to have a vendor who specializes in disaster recovery on tap to supplement internal resource.

As network processors and components get more sophisticated, backups of critical node data will become increasing vital. This includes configuration data, PBX directories, security codes, software, alternate routing data, documentation and so forth.

Keeping a backup diskette in a disk drawer just isn't going to be adequate. Formal backups and off-site storage of network node data, software and documentation will become a fact of life for telecommunications people as it has for most computer pros.

Carriers Keep Up

Selection of interexchange and local-exchange carriers used to be primarily a function of economics, reliability and availability of service.

As competition in the carrier markets conitnues to grow, multiple parallel vendor relationships will become more common.

Alternate primary or fall-back interconnect arrangements using micrwave, infrated of fiber will become the norm for vital services. Diverse routing--as costly as it may be at many levels of network planning--will take on increasing importance.

The good news from the carrier arena is that disaster avoidance and recovery are high on their priority lists. Sure, the Hinsdale CO fire and the Martin Luther King Day 800-number outages in January made the headlines. But then, do you read many newspaper headlines about the airplanes that didn't crash? The major carriers continue to work aggresively behind the scenes to reduce the vulnerability of their networks.

Going into the 1990s, many companies are learning that their best bet for avoiding a carrier service outage is to not put all of their eggs in one vendor's basket, both for interexchange service and local interconnect.

Reability of network equipment will take on a broader defition.

Mean-time-to-repair statistics will be assessed at two levels: "normal" outages, and loss or destruction.

The ability to replace a destroyed or unusalb componens will be more critical as disaster recovery is factored in.

Electronic Vaulting

Use of electronic vaulting is likely to grow dramatically over the coming decade.

In simplest terms, electronic vaulting is the continual transfer of backup data over communications links to a backup site in essentially real time.

Over the last couple of years this has become practical for even some mini-and micro-computer-based applications as well as for sophisticated mainframe environments.

Price performance levels for electronic vaulting continue to improve while new software products make it more practial.

The result may be increasing competition between network disaster recovery and electronic vaulting for critical network resources as well as funding. In the 1990s, expect to see a great deal of activity in this arena.

What does all of this mean to the telecommunications professional?

It means that anyone who ignores disaster recovery in the 1990s should make sure they have an up-to-date copy of their resume stored in a secure backup site.

They're going to need it.

Phil Rothstein is a management consultant focusing on disaster avoidance, disaster recovey, and business continuity planing. Rothstein Associates, located in Ossining, N.Y., can be contacted at (914) 941-6867.
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Title Annotation:trends in disaster recovery awareness and investment
Author:Rothstein, Philip Jan
Publication:Communications News
Date:Apr 1, 1990
Words:1079
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