IT Resiliency Class Is in Session

Data is the most valuable asset of any educational institution, and it must be fully secured and protected. With online classes and late-night studying, students 
and professors must be able to access the data — and the applications that depend on this data to run — 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year round. No student cramming late at night for a final and trying to finish up a thesis wants to get the error message that the system is down, even if it is for regularly scheduled maintenance. IT departments at educational institutions need to look at their data centers from the perspective of services — a combination of applications, systems, and servers. Basically, the entire infrastructure must be protected — not just the data that is associated with it. And therein lies the challenge for the college. Data amounts are growing, and the infrastructure is increasing in complexity. IT is under pressure to handle all of these tasks, protect each service, and do so with limited budgets and staff.

Most people think of disasters as hurricanes, tsunamis, or power grids failing, especially after Superstorm Sandy’s recent devastation on the East Coast. Yet, the majority of issues are not related to natural phenomena, but are caused by human error and malicious acts. A simple act of someone missing his or her morning coffee can lead to flipping a wrong switch, which eventually cascades to the point that power is lost along the Eastern seaboard.

DR 101
Data protection and disaster recovery (DR) technologies are insurance policies for the IT department at a college or university. Although these policies do not enhance the institution’s bottom line, they are necessary to ensure that regardless of an issue, applications and data operate smoothly. Simply put, for every minute spent trying to recover data or get service up and running again, students and faculty lose confidence in the IT systems, calls flood into the help desk, and the college’s reputation begins to be affected. Most organizations state that they can only afford downtime of four hours or less as highlighted in a recent IDG Research Services report, “Quick Poll: Disaster Recovery Trends and Metrics.” The report demonstrates the consequences of data loss within an organization, with loss of productivity being the biggest result followed closely by harm to a organization’s reputation.

Advanced DR
Current data protection and DR technologies cannot handle infrastructure complexity. In fact, traditional backup methods are composed of a number of steps from one to hundreds, with each requiring reboots of the servers, applications, and infrastructure after the completion of each step. If one step is missed along the way, which happens frequently due to simple human error, then the process to a complete restore takes twice as long.

IT administrators are turning to automated DR solutions to simplify the protection process and ensure that there is a resilient insurance plan in place for their data and services. Automated DR takes a number of these complex steps required by traditional recovery methods and automates them. By understanding the specific order, process, and procedures of recovering a server, system, or entire infrastructure, it eliminates failure and returns the college back to normal operations within minutes rather than hours or days. Automated DR is similar to a person buying a car. The car owner does not need to read the manual to understand how the engine works, only how to press a button or turn a key to start the car and drive it off the lot.

There are numerous benefits to implementing automated DR, but the biggest advantage is that IT can recover the system without human intervention. The solution will take information from the crashed A and B servers at C location, send it to D location, and reinstall it on the virtual E machine using the right computer language — with a single click of the mouse. Automated DR allows IT administrators to sleep easily at night and when an issue does occur, they are seen as the hero in quickly bringing systems and data back online.

Protecting data means nothing if it can’t be recovered. One of the greatest data center challenges today is ensuring a smooth recovery of operations after downtime caused by data loss or corruption, equipment failure, or a complete site outage after a loss of power or a natural disaster. With automated DR solutions, educational institutions are assured that their students and faculty may continue to collaborate and educate at all hours. 

Ralph Wynn, senior product marketing manager for FalconStor Software, is a storage professional with more than 14 years of experience in product management, marketing, support, and deployment. Prior to joining FalconStor, Ralph worked at Bocada, Synscort, and Symantec.

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