How Companies Are Cutting the Costs of Data Storage While Increasing Effectiveness

While technology has allowed businesses to reduce costs in many areas, proper storage of digital information comes at a price. However, most companies are paying more than they need to for data solutions while getting less protection than they need to keep their data — and their businesses — protected against disaster.

How Lack of Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning Can Lead to Financial Disaster

Business continuity and disaster planning is an absolutely essential part of any business operation, yet many place a low priority on implementation. In the digital age, information technology is a critical function of every competitive business. From technology driven businesses to service companies to ecommerce businesses, information is the linchpin that keeps today’s businesses operating competitively and efficiently.

The terms “business continuity and disaster recovery planning” imply the necessity of these critical business functions. Business owners realize the importance of these terms, but it is when they understand what lies within these processes that they realize business continuity and disaster recovery planning aren’t just “important,” they are essential.

Financial Impact of Business Continuity Planning

As a result of government regulations, businesses are required to maintain a continuity posture — whether they realize it or not. Critical applications must be made continuously available or able to be recovered rapidly upon demand. Lack of knowledge or understanding of the laws isn’t a defense. Non-compliance can lead to lawsuits, infractions, and fines that can debilitate a business.

Achieving business continuity isn’t a ‘set it and forget it’ task. The process typically starts with a BIA (business impact analysis), which among other things assigns priority to different types of data. The BIA dictates which information will be stored where and how often it is backed up.

If a company is to design business continuity structures itself, it will require significant knowledge and resources to maintain. However, for businesses that aren’t technology focused or who choose not to add the expense of an in-house IT staff, there are practical and affordable outsource solutions, which we’ll cover later.

Financial Impact of Disaster Recovery Planning

According to a study by the Garner Group, forty percent of businesses that suffer a catastrophic data event or significant downtime will never recover. Two out of five businesses that face these situations close their doors for good. This shocking statistic sheds light on just how essential data management is to a business.

What is even more surprising is that a relatively small amount of effort invested in a BIA in conjunction with business continuity and disaster recovery planning, could have prevented the problem in the first place. The BIA would have uncovered the impact of process failure on the business and served as a discovery process for implementing a plan designed to avoid risk.

Reducing Costs through More Efficient Energy Usage

Once a business has addressed business continuity and disaster recovery planning by following recommendations outlined in a BIA, they have taken the critical step to avoid potential financial devastation. The next step is to reduce the very real ongoing costs associated with maintaining data.

The cost of energy used to maintain data storage systems is quite significant. Not only does the IT infrastructure consume energy, a significant amount of energy is utilized to maintain a safe climate for the systems.

The best way to reduce the cost of maintaining data systems is to share the costs with others. By storing systems in a data center colocation, you offset the cost of climate control by splitting that cost with others. Because the data center colocation is managing climate control to protect your machines as well as the machines of others, many costs are shared that would otherwise be your entire responsibility if machines were stored in house. Not only are energy costs shared, but also are the costs associated with the human capital — the experts that maintain the data center colocation day-in and day-out.

Reducing Personnel Costs While Raising the Bar on Expertise

Staffing an IT department is expensive. Not only must employers staff a variety of people each with various skill sets, they’ll also need someone to manage the team. To stay competitive, employers are expected to foot the bill for ongoing training and education. And let’s not forget system upgrades. However, by utilizing managed IT services, companies reduce these capital expenditures, paying on a subscription basis for only the percentage they use.

Managed service providers handle a variety of tasks including virtual server hosting, backups, IT infrastructure management, and more. Some providers will also offer BIA services and the critical business continuity and disaster planning needed to keep data safe and in compliance.

The data management landscape has changed dramatically in recent years — not only in how data is stored, but in the importance of proper security. Data storage itself has become more critical than the days of old when a simple tape drive was all a business needed. However, the options for sharing costs by leveraging outsourced providers has made obtaining high end data management solutions easier than every before. Today’s businesses don’t have to be experts on BIA or business continuity and disaster recovery planning, they just need partner with a provider that is.

Data Disasters – Horror Stories of Data Loss

The threat of data loss exists with almost every click of your mouse. Life in the online world can be dangerous. Smart businesses will do whatever is required to minimize that risk.

Have you ever lost all of the data on a floppy disk and had to redo an entire afternoon’s work? Perhaps you have rendered a music or game CD unusable because of a tiny scratch? Maybe you have experienced a full fledged hard drive meltdown that resulted in gigabytes of lost data and months, even YEARS of lost effort.

The “worst case scenario” happened to me a few years ago. I received a call from a friend informing me that my home had been broken into and the burglars had not only stolen the electronics in the living room but had also taken the house’s PCs. I learned the hard way that data backup is something that every computer user who has important data on their hard drive cannot live without. Whether you simply purchase an external drive that you can connect via USB or Firewire, or sign up for offsite secure data backup, make sure you take steps to guarantee that your data is safe and sound, even if the worst happens to your computer hardware.

It doesn’t hit you right away when you no longer have access to your data. The first things that come to mind are the expensive hardware that went into building your machine. Maybe you had a nice flat panel monitor or a state of the art video card for playing the latest games. While it can be very disappointing to lose expensive tech goodies like these it is still no comparison to losing those zeros and ones etched into every user’s hard drive. Hardware can nearly always be replaced, even at no cost to you if you have insurance, but lost data is gone forever. There is no way to recover data that you have not backed up if you lose the original media it was stored on.

In my case, I was not using offsite secure data backup, or any kind of backup for that matter. My backup was about six months old and sitting on a tape drive in my closet. When those thieves walked off with my machine they left with not only an excellent gaming platform but also my entire web design portfolio, numerous customized versions of my resume, THOUSANDS of MP3 files that I had ripped from CDs (many of which I had lost the original CD for), Microsoft Money files, and thousands of digital photographs that are impossible to replace.

Take a moment and think about all the important digital files you have on your computer and ask yourself if it is worth investing a little of your time and money in an online remote backup solution to make sure that data is available for you for a lifetime.

Your DATA is your LIFE. Protect it!

7 Ways to Prepare Your Data Center for a Natural Disaster

No one wants to think about a disaster crippling or even destroying their data center. But even as hurricane season has ended for Atlantic and Gulf Coast states, wildfires are raging in Southern California. Earthquakes are an ever-present danger. Disaster planning is moving higher up in the priority list for many data center managers.

Disaster recovery (DR) planning typically focuses on data protection and application availability. Most organizations consider the information maintained on servers and storage devices to be infinitely more valuable than the technology itself. However, DR plans should also include provisions for protecting equipment from physical damage.

Location: Ideally, data centers would be located in a geographic area that’s not prone to natural disaster. That’s seldom possible, so organizations must do the best they can to isolate it from any disaster that does occur. That means locating the room in an interior room or at least as far away from windows as possible. In areas where hurricanes and tornadoes are the greatest threat, an underground location may be the best option (unless flooding is a problem). In earthquake zones, it’s critical to select a well-constructed building that’s compliant with the latest codes.

Backup Power: Power outages are a leading cause of equipment downtime, and UPS failure is the No. 1 cause of unplanned equipment outages. UPS should be carefully selected, implemented and maintained to ensure a steady supply of conditioned power with a regulated voltage level.

Fire Suppression: Many data centers rely on conventional sprinkler systems, but water can destroy equipment and cause other problems as well. A better approach is to employ a dry “pre-action” system that will extinguish most fires before the sprinkler system is activated. Modern fire-suppression systems use halo-carbons, which remove heat from fires, or inert gases, which deprive them of oxygen. Both can provide excellent fire suppression if the system is properly designed, installed and tested. The fire alarm should also be tested – if it is faulty, the fire-suppression system might not be activated.

Flood Control: If the data room is located in a flood-prone area, a pumping system should be installed. The system should activate automatically and be connected to generator power so that it continues operation if the electric grid goes down.

Earthquake Protection: In earthquake-prone areas, it’s important to select racks and cabinets that are rated to withstand seismic activity. These units typically have special mounting brackets to attach them securely to the floor.

Flexible Processes: Data center personnel should understand their responsibilities and be thoroughly trained in DR procedures. Equipment should be monitored by at least one person at all times. Run-books should be kept up-to-date so that equipment can be recovered or reconfigured quickly in an emergency. DR processes should also be well-documented but flexibility is important. Personnel should feel empowered to make decisions and improvise based upon the situation at hand.

Test: In most organizations, the DR plan is seldom, if ever tested. The plan should be tested at least twice a year and updated as the environment and business priorities change.

These 7 steps can help build design a flexible and resilient data center infrastructure and select systems that will protect your valuable equipment.