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Business continuity and disaster recovery planning guide for CIOs

Disaster recovery (DR) planning is key to business continuity and data integrity. In other words, if you're not prepared for the worst, that's what you just might get. This guide lays out the foundation for a solid DR plan.

Business continuity and disaster recovery planning are key to data integrity. In other words, if you're not prepared for the worst, that's just what you might get. This CIO Briefing lays out the foundation for a solid disaster recovery (DR) plan.

This CIO Briefing is part of the SearchCIO.com CIO Briefing series, which is designed to give IT leaders strategic guidance and advice that addresses the management and decision-making aspects of timely topics. For a complete list of topics covered to date, visit the CIO Briefing section.

Business execs undercut value of DR planning

When it comes to disaster recovery, CIOs get it -- business execs don't.

Not only do they undercut the importance of such planning, but they also fail to understand how technology failures can affect their companies, says a new survey conducted by Harris Interactive Inc. and sponsored by SunGard Availability Services.

Seventy-one percent of IT executives identified business continuity and disaster recovery planning as very important or crucial to business success. Only 49% of business executives felt that way.

"I'm a little surprised that overall, businesses are still lagging," said Mark McManus, vice president of IT research at Computer Economics Inc. in Irvine, Calif. "The idea of disaster recovery was always an IT process, but it has really morphed into business continuity, which is an overall company process more than just IT. In many businesses, business continuity isn't even controlled by IT."

Learn more in "Business execs undercut value of disaster recovery planning." Also:

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Outage brightens outlook on virtualization

LAS VEGAS -- When a series of electrical snafus took down the Las Vegas Valley Water District's (LVVWD) data center, its network administrators were vindicated. Yes, server virtualization really is a good idea.

Senior network administrators Dave Trupkin and Greg Hearn told attendees at Gartner's Data Center Conference that they had begun converting a select number of the utility's 200 servers to virtualized servers in the years prior to the power failure to combat server sprawl.

Trupkin had virtualized some infrastructure servers, installed two VMWare ESX host servers and introduced VMotion, which allowed him to move virtual servers from box to box with almost no downtime.

As virtualization improved performance, Trupkin thought the results would increase acceptance of the technology in his organization. But the utility's developers were slow to do so. Every problem the developers had was now a virtualization problem, whereas before it would have been an application problem, Trupkin said.

"We still didn't have full acceptance of VMWare," Trupkin said.

"Until we had the disaster," Hearn added.

Find out what happened in "Power outage brightens Las Vegas utility's outlook on virtualization." Also:

  • A 13-hour power outage puts disaster recovery plan to the test
    When a blown electrical transformer left his data center in the dark and 30% of his company's employees cut off from their offices, CIO Richard Ridolfo put his new disaster recovery plan to the test.
  • Disaster recovery: Test, test and test some more
    Storage managers in New Orleans thought their disaster recovery (DR) plans were solid. Hurricane Katrina showed them otherwise. These dramatic stories are testimony that a DR plan is worthless unless it's been tested, updated and then tested again.

CIOs not making time for business continuity

Many midsized to large companies have no business continuity plan. But it's not because they don't see the value in it.

They just can't seem to get around to doing it.

According to a survey sponsored by hardware and software vendor Hewlett-Packard Co., 55% of respondents said their companies couldn't agree on a technology solution for business continuity. Forty-nine percent said they simply didn't have time to plan. A lack of experienced internal resources was cited by 59% of respondents, and 34% said they lacked the data needed to make a business case for implementation.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP surveyed 564 IT decision makers at large and midsized companies.

Learn more in "CIOs not making time for business continuity planning." Also:

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    Existing business continuity plans will not protect a company during an avian flu pandemic, says a Gartner analyst. Business continuity plans assume a geographically specific disaster, while a pandemic will strike everywhere nearly simultaneously.
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    An excerpt from Chapter 1: Contingency and Continuity Planning of "Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery for InfoSec Managers," by John W. Rittinghouse and James F. Ransome.

Taking control with archiving

Though some say e-discovery is the chief driver of archiving system adoption, there are many reasons to use the technology, such as freeing up storage space, improving system performance and providing for disaster recovery.

At the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, CIO George Yacoub has to contend with the ever-growing volume of email in a Microsoft Exchange environment. "We have a lot of researchers who do most of their correspondence via email," Yacoub says. "The pressing issue for us is that users are running out of disk space." He recently deployed an archiving system from EMC Corp. to help manage storage and prevent the hospital's 1,700 end users from pushing inbox capacity -- currently 250MB -- to the limit.

Find out what role disaster recovery planning played in "Taking control with archiving." Also:

  • Unified messaging: A beneficial part of any DR plan
    Many companies are implementing unified messaging solutions as part of their disaster recovery plans. Experts agree that a consolidated messaging environment can dramatically improve the rebuilding process after a disaster.
  • Force majeure meets disaster recovery
    Don't let a contract's force majeure clause excuse your vendors from disaster recovery responsibilities.

DR plans for your data warehouse

When was the last time you reviewed and tested the business continuity and disaster recovery plan for your data warehouse? Do you even have a disaster recovery plan for your data warehouse?

While natural and geopolitical disasters -- including tornadoes, thunderstorms and increases in oil prices -- are on the rise, they are not the biggest threats to your business intelligence (BI) environment. According to research by Information Age, a leading U.K. magazine for executives, most IT executives believe the greatest threats to the continuity of their IT operations are internal system failure (65%) and viruses (45%). Meanwhile, natural disasters registered at 32% and power and communications outages at 33%.

Ten years ago, there was little need to create a disaster recovery plan for data warehouses and the reports and applications they support. At the time, the vast majority of data warehouses were loaded in batch on a monthly basis from a half-dozen or so source systems. Most loads were fairly small and even the biggest data warehouses were less than a couple of hundred gigabytes in size. Not surprisingly, most data warehousing teams didn't have a disaster recovery plan, let alone a backup strategy. The common sentiment back then was that if the data warehouse crashed, you could simply refresh the data warehouse in its entirety from source systems once everything came back online.

Learn more in "Disaster recovery plans for your data warehouse." Also:

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    A comprehensive disaster recovery plan is critical to surviving a crisis, especially in an SMB environment. But evaluating your disaster recovery needs is no small task. This tip explains what to consider when designing your disaster recovery strategy.
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    Expert Russell Olsen explains how to define your IT universe, the first step in developing a solid disaster recovery plan.

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