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Overcoming recovery barriers: rapid and reliable system and data recovery.

You can't gamble when it comes to protecting corporate data. Security measures have been implemented to protect against intruders and to perform regular backups to let you recover from system failures, virus attacks, or natural disasters. But if you're relying solely on tape backup for disaster recovery, no doubt you've already wondered if you really have the means to get your systems and data back on line before a disaster inflicts serious damage to your business viability. Can you really afford to take disaster recovery risks with your corporate data?

"Data is one of two irreplaceable corporate assets, second only to loss of life," writes Dennis Wenk in an article in the Disaster Recovery Journal (Winter 2004, "Is 'Good Enough' Storage Good Enough for Compliance?"). While comparing data loss to loss of life might seem outrageous, the article goes on to state, "Research has shown that 50 percent of companies that lose critical systems for more than 10 days never recover, 43 percent of companies experiencing a disaster never reopen, and 29 percent of the remaining close within two years. That's the death of a corporation."

Even if you somehow manage to beat the odds and survive with a suspect disaster recovery plan, you might not be so lucky at escaping the consequences of regulatory non-compliance. Recent government regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act require organizations to have the necessary internal controls in place to protect against risk events. Failure to implement acceptable internal controls can leave businesses and their senior executives liable for up to $5 million in fines, 20 years in prison, or both. In short, best-effort measures don't cut it anymore. Whether you're concerned about the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, HIPAA, or other government or industry regulations, unreliable disaster recovery practices can add up to significant non-compliance penalties in today's corporate environment.

Tape has been a de facto standard for backup and recovery for years, but corporations are realizing that it doesn't have the ability on its own to handle all of their disaster recovery requirements. Computerworld listed tape backup as one of five submerging technologies, stating that "Although magnetic tape's cost per megabyte will give it a role in keeping archival records for years to come, better technologies and techniques are eroding tape's dominance for day-to-day backup and recovery tasks" (October 20, 2003, "Submerging Technologies: Five that are Sinking Fast" by Gary H. Anthes and Robert L. Mitchell).

That same article quotes Bob Passmore, a vice president at Gartner Inc., as saying, ""We believe that five years from now, most medium- and large-sized customers will be using snapshots on disk as the primary recovery media. But that doesn't mean tape is going away in the next 12 months."

More and more industry experts agree that a solid disaster recovery plan incorporates the archival strengths of tape backup, but then addresses the business continuance gaps with the proven technological advantages that disk-to-disk backup offers. Disaster recovery strategies that incorporate the strengths of disk-to-disk solutions (like Symantec LiveState Recovery) enable organizations to enjoy the benefits of:

* Near immediate bare-metal recovery

* Efficient utilization of small backup windows

* Automated and performance-friendly while-you-work backups

* Reliable backup and restore

* Reduced IT costs

* Improved virus protection and change management

One of the biggest bottlenecks to getting systems back online after a disaster is the restore from tape process. Provided that there are no errors on any of the tapes; complete server restoration can take from six to twenty hours. The operating system must be reinstalled, along with all of the necessary support packs and server applications. Next, the IT manager can restore the full backup tape baseline, followed by restores from all the incremental tape sets up to the desired point in time.

A traditional server restore from tape includes the following steps:

* Repair or replace hardware as necessary

* Find and collect all necessary OS and application media

* Reload OS from CD-ROM or floppies

* Reboot

* Apply service packs in order (generally multiple service packs are required)

* Reboots (one for each service pack, so multiple reboots are usually required)

* Reload backup software from media

* Apply patches to bring the backup software to the current support level

* Reboot as required by patches

* Load recovery tape and restore

Even if the restore completes with few incidents, there are typically no guarantees that the server will be successfully returned to its previous working state. Tape drive failures, faulty tape media, and incomplete or corrupt backups all contribute to the unreliability of tape backups. A recent CMP-Reality Research survey stated that 59% of IT managers were concerned about their company's ability to reliably back up and recover data. Part of the concern is due to the fact that tape is not a sealed medium. Tape media is subject to dust particles and wear, both in office and factory environments. During cartridge transport, they are susceptible to temperature, shock and magnetic fields.

More commonly, the data is not even backed up correctly as a result of human error. This comment is typical of recovery attempts, especially in smaller organizations with no dedicated IT staff. "When we went to recover the data, we found that the backups had not been performed regularly or at all." In these cases there is little to do but start from the beginning and hope that critical data can be reconstructed from corporate systems.

Even under the best circumstances, performing a bare-metal recovery from tape is tedious and very time consuming. Traditional tape backup software has been designed for file backup and recovery. If rebuilding a system were as simple as a file transfer, then file recovery alone would serve the purpose. Including a system's boot structure, file tables, embedded settings and applications requires a more comprehensive approach than traditional file backup tools to enable full bare metal recovery.

Disk-to-disk solutions make the once dreaded task of restoring full bare-metal systems quick and easy. Solutions such as Symantec LiveState Recovery give you the flexibility to restore from the local machine, a CD, a DVD, or a network storage device. In minutes, you can roll back your server to the exact state when your last backup occurred--with all system optimizations, hidden files, encrypted files, service packs, and data in place.

Symantec LiveState Recovery can reduce server and/or PC restoration times by up to 80% over traditional methods. As indicated earlier, rebuilding a system may involve reinstalling the operating system and applications, and reconfiguring device drivers, which typically takes four hours or longer to complete. However, using the Symantec LiveState Recovery CD, administrators can boot virtually any bare-metal machine with the Symantec Recovery Disk, which auto-detects hardware and loads the appropriate drivers to boot the system and simply restore the complete system or data files in minutes.

Your success depends on your ability to protect corporate data and keep business systems accessible to employees, partners, and customers. On its own, traditional tape backup fails to provide the level of business continuance and data protection that you need. But disaster recovery plans that include both tape and disk-to-disk backup can enjoy the long-term archival strength of tape and the fast backup, and quick and reliable restoration capabilities of disk technology.

Susie Spencer is product manager at Symantec Corporation (Cupertino, CA)
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Data Protection
Author:Spencer, Susie
Publication:Computer Technology Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2004
Previous Article:There's a tape solution for every organization.
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