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Take the First Step to a Complete DR Solution

As I write this, most of the local waterways are well over flood stage (as much as 11' over crest). In addition, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has yet to show up with debit cards and trailers, and many local businesses now find themselves completely flooded out. Some locations along the river are seeing water hit the second floor of some low-lying buildings. As my office sits between two major flood areas, the current weather patterns give me reason to think about my disaster recovery plans despite no immediate danger.

Although I'm completely comfortable with my data backups, I realize that I lack any sort of business continuity/disaster recovery plan. What happens if my office gets flooded or simply loses power for a long period of time due to flooding elsewhere? Fortunately, floods are rarely a surprise, and if necessary, I know that I could pack up my office and move it elsewhere--which would be a major aggravation given the amount of hardware involved--but it could be done.

Because an ISP hosts my Web and email services, I don't have to concern myself with customers that have issues with those services while my office location is being moved or temporarily out of service. However, like many small businesses, I don't maintain an offsite backup of my critical data (though, in the past, I've covered services that offer real-time backup of local servers to remote sites). The ongoing weather situation here has forced me to rethink this practice. Even without a major disaster that destroys my upper-floor office, I could easily be in a situation in which flooding prevents me from accessing my office and the data contained therein.

One of my habits, however, would help me alleviate some of the potential problems. I keep current copies of my in-progress projects online, stored in password-protected archives in password-protected directories on one of my Web servers. I update these archives as the projects progress and could continue with any of the projects without access to my office as long as I have access to a computer that has Microsoft Office and Internet access. But I wouldn't have access to the relatively huge amount of historical data I retain, nor any of the more specialized applications that I run.

For this reason, I've given serious thought to one of two solutions: tape backup or a rack-mountable hard disk-based backup appliance. Tape backup lets me do the traditional tape rotation with offsite storage, and the costs are fairly low. However, tape backup also means a change in workflow, and my work style doesn't lend itself to the workflow that would allow me to use tape as my crisis solution.

With a hard disk-based appliance, I can automate the backup process so that a mirror of my office data is always available in a single device that, although not exactly portable, is small enough to pick up and move if necessary. This would provide minimal interference with my existing workflow and let me get up and running at an alternate location with minimal trouble.

I still need to develop a business continuity plan in case a disaster destroys my office and its contents, but the added security of maintaining a movable image of my office is a good place to start.

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