Quakes trigger boost in DR initiatives

The Canterbury earthquakes prompted a spike in disaster recovery initiatives and a renewed interest in cloud solutions. Ulrika Hedquist reports

Cloud benefits reinforced

Disaster recovery is a “hot topic” among the members of the New Zealand Computer Society too, says CEO Paul Matthews.

“A lot of that goes back to what happened in Christchurch,” he says. “People don’t really think they will need it. In some cases [DR] has been nearly an optional extra that companies ‘tag on’ at the end. I think [the earthquakes] have woken a few people up. This stuff is real and these things do happen. If you don’t have a plan in place the consequences could really kill your business.”

There has certainly been a lot more focus on DR in the sector, both from an IT perspective and general business, he says.

For the most part, companies are looking to increase preparedness in-house or turning to their existing providers for DR planning. Many businesses are saying, “let’s make sure that if something does happen, we are covered,” Matthews says.

There is also a new awareness of what proper disaster recovery really is, he says. Backing up your data on tape drives and keeping them next to your server isn’t going to be very helpful if a natural disaster knocks out the building.

“There is a lot more interest in cloud,” he says. “[Cloud] is just one form of outsourcing but when done properly, it has redundancy in place.”

Cloud-based solutions were already “front-of-mind”, he says — the earthquakes reinforced the benefits of cloud from a business continuity and disaster recovery point of view.

Some businesses were lucky enough to get their servers out of the cordoned-off zone, but others weren’t, says Matthews. “That really brought home how reliant we are on IT and how important DR planning is,” he says.

“If more thought had gone into preparedness and making sure there was a plan prior to those events, it would have been a completely different experience for many.”

DR spike

Rasika Versleijen-Pradhan, senior analyst, IT services at IDC New Zealand, says the earthquakes did spark an upswing in DR initiatives across the country. A recent IDC survey among around 100 organisations in New Zealand ranked DR as a top priority.

“Businesses have to be up and running and we have definitely seen a spike in the business continuity and DR space,” she says.

The ‘spike’ is expected to continue for another couple of years and then slow down again, she says.

Another interesting finding is that DR initiatives have become increasingly driven by the CEO and top management of organisations, rather than the IT department, she says. “Obviously, any down-time in the business has a huge impact on the reputation of the company in terms of customer loyalty.”

IDC has also seen significant investment being made into the local datacentre space in the last couple of years, she says.

“I think a lot of organisations are recognising that rather than making the investment themselves, they are looking to shift into third party datacentres, and these datacentre providers have been investing in the BC/DR space.”

Following the events in Christchurch there has also been movement in the cloud space, says Versleijen-Pradhan. Rather than reinvesting in infrastructure — as many businesses were cash-strapped — moving to a cloud-based DR model seemed like a viable option.

However, before they start investigating how they could tap into the flexible and on-demand opportunities offered by the cloud, most organisations are initially moving to a hosted environment, she says. New Zealand is a mature market in terms of outsourcing, she adds. The tendency to work with third-party providers might trigger some drive towards outsourced DR solutions.

Versleijen-Pradhan says that the landscape is changing around BC and DR requirements. This is largely driven by new technologies in virtualisation, the cloud and the datacentre, and a shift from capex-heavy to opex-driven services.

“You are looking at much more flexible and fluid services that require a different mindset of how you approach your BC and DR initiatives. That is another thing organisations and providers alike are re-assessing at the moment.”

The telco response

The Canterbury earthquakes also triggered a review of how telecommunications coped under pressure. A special feature in the Telecommunications Carriers Forum’s annual report outlines the telco response to the earthquakes in September and February.

Overall, that response was positive, says TCF CEO, David Stone.

“The [mobile] telecommunications networks stood up through all of the earthquakes a lot better than many had expected,” he says. “Secondly, communications suddenly became a much greater priority compared to other needs following both events. To the extent there was damage, the networks moved with great rapidity to repair things.”

The telecommunications industry, through the TCF, is playing an active role in the consultation process around the rebuild of utilities, he adds.

“One of the things we will have to think about, going forward, is that with the demolition of the tall buildings within the [Christchurch] CBD, there are going to be some significant issues for the provision of cellular and wireless-based services,” says Stone.

One consideration for coping with potential future disasters is a satellite contingency plan for businesses that are reliant on broadband. Telecommunications provider Farmside, for example, offers a range of internet plans delivered via the IPSTAR satellite.

ISO 9000

According to the International Organisation for Standardisation the ISO 9000 family of standards “represents an international consensus on good quality management practices. It consists of standards and guidelines relating to quality management systems and related supporting standards.”

Datacom's experience

Datacom provides DR services to customers and it also looks after its own DR needs between its datacentres, says the company’s CIO Steve Matheson.

The IT services provider- has not seen a need to make adjustments to its own DR strategy following the Christchurch earthquakes.

“When the second big quake occurred we immediately switched all customer support calls to our Auckland centre and sent most staff home to deal with their families,” says Matheson. “One side of our redundant Auckland-Christchurch network link broke, the other kept working. Our datacentre in Christchurch never missed a beat even though it was inside the initial red zone,” he continues.

Supplies of diesel were an issue for Datacom at one point, says Matheson. “We have since purchased our own mini-tanker. Interestingly, in the period just after the quake there is little need for support services as customers focus understandably on their own staff.”

From a customer point of view there has been a “huge interest” in DR after the earthquakes, says Matheson, as well as “a much greater understanding of the issues involved”.

Datacom has a cloud computing platform that operates in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and uptake of it is growing quickly, he says.

Although Datacom’s Christchurch datacentre stayed up during and after the February earthquake, you can never be totally confident that even the strongest facility is going to continue to run through a disaster, Matheson says.

The most difficult aspect of implementing a comprehensive DR plan is getting support services set up - the people that would normally take care of operational processes, securing and duplicating the data, typically won’t be available, he says.

“In fact, that’s what happened in most cases in Christchurch. In the day and a half after the earthquake, there was actually very little call for our services because most of the people that used them weren’t at work. They were at home, looking after their families, as were our staff in Christchurch.”

The load became greater three or four days later when people started thinking about their businesses and how to keep going.

“The answer is to build [secondary support teams] into the normal support structure but this comes at some cost. Customers always have difficulty spending money on DR,” he says.

Another thing customers are interested in now is high performance and high availability.

“DR is tightly tied to high availability and often the two can be addressed simultaneously.”

If you set up two sites and load-balance the work between the two, by definition you actually have a disaster-proof DR system, says Matheson.

Cloud benefits reinforced

Disaster recovery is a “hot topic” among the members of the New Zealand Computer Society too, says CEO Paul Matthews.

“A lot of that goes back to what happened in Christchurch,” he says. “People don’t really think they will need it. In some cases [DR] has been nearly an optional extra that companies ‘tag on’ at the end. I think [the earthquakes] have woken a few people up. This stuff is real and these things do happen. If you don’t have a plan in place the consequences could really kill your business.”

There has certainly been a lot more focus on DR in the sector, both from an IT perspective and general business, he says.

For the most part, companies are looking to increase preparedness in-house or turning to their existing providers for DR planning. Many businesses are saying, “let’s make sure that if something does happen, we are covered,” Matthews says.

There is also a new awareness of what proper disaster recovery really is, he says. Backing up your data on tape drives and keeping them next to your server isn’t going to be very helpful if a natural disaster knocks out the building.

“There is a lot more interest in cloud,” he says. “[Cloud] is just one form of outsourcing but when done properly, it has redundancy in place.”

Cloud-based solutions were already “front-of-mind”, he says — the earthquakes reinforced the benefits of cloud from a business continuity and disaster recovery point of view.

Some businesses were lucky enough to get their servers out of the cordoned-off zone, but others weren’t, says Matthews. “That really brought home how reliant we are on IT and how important DR planning is,” he says.

“If more thought had gone into preparedness and making sure there was a plan prior to those events, it would have been a completely different experience for many.”

DR spike

Rasika Versleijen-Pradhan, senior analyst, IT services at IDC New Zealand, says the earthquakes did spark an upswing in DR initiatives across the country. A recent IDC survey among around 100 organisations in New Zealand ranked DR as a top priority.

“Businesses have to be up and running and we have definitely seen a spike in the business continuity and DR space,” she says.

The ‘spike’ is expected to continue for another couple of years and then slow down again, she says.

Another interesting finding is that DR initiatives have become increasingly driven by the CEO and top management of organisations, rather than the IT department, she says. “Obviously, any down-time in the business has a huge impact on the reputation of the company in terms of customer loyalty.”

IDC has also seen significant investment being made into the local datacentre space in the last couple of years, she says.

“I think a lot of organisations are recognising that rather than making the investment themselves, they are looking to shift into third party datacentres, and these datacentre providers have been investing in the BC/DR space.”

Following the events in Christchurch there has also been movement in the cloud space, says Versleijen-Pradhan. Rather than reinvesting in infrastructure — as many businesses were cash-strapped — moving to a cloud-based DR model seemed like a viable option.

However, before they start investigating how they could tap into the flexible and on-demand opportunities offered by the cloud, most organisations are initially moving to a hosted environment, she says. New Zealand is a mature market in terms of outsourcing, she adds. The tendency to work with third-party providers might trigger some drive towards outsourced DR solutions.

Versleijen-Pradhan says that the landscape is changing around BC and DR requirements. This is largely driven by new technologies in virtualisation, the cloud and the datacentre, and a shift from capex-heavy to opex-driven services.

“You are looking at much more flexible and fluid services that require a different mindset of how you approach your BC and DR initiatives. That is another thing organisations and providers alike are re-assessing at the moment.”

The telco response

The Canterbury earthquakes also triggered a review of how telecommunications coped under pressure. A special feature in the Telecommunications Carriers Forum’s annual report outlines the telco response to the earthquakes in September and February.

Overall, that response was positive, says TCF CEO, David Stone.

“The [mobile] telecommunications networks stood up through all of the earthquakes a lot better than many had expected,” he says. “Secondly, communications suddenly became a much greater priority compared to other needs following both events. To the extent there was damage, the networks moved with great rapidity to repair things.”

The telecommunications industry, through the TCF, is playing an active role in the consultation process around the rebuild of utilities, he adds.

“One of the things we will have to think about, going forward, is that with the demolition of the tall buildings within the [Christchurch] CBD, there are going to be some significant issues for the provision of cellular and wireless-based services,” says Stone.

One consideration for coping with potential future disasters is a satellite contingency plan for businesses that are reliant on broadband. Telecommunications provider Farmside, for example, offers a range of internet plans delivered via the IPSTAR satellite.

ISO 9000

According to the International Organisation for Standardisation the ISO 9000 family of standards “represents an international consensus on good quality management practices. It consists of standards and guidelines relating to quality management systems and related supporting standards.”

Datacom's experience

Datacom provides DR services to customers and it also looks after its own DR needs between its datacentres, says the company’s CIO Steve Matheson.

The IT services provider- has not seen a need to make adjustments to its own DR strategy following the Christchurch earthquakes.

“When the second big quake occurred we immediately switched all customer support calls to our Auckland centre and sent most staff home to deal with their families,” says Matheson. “One side of our redundant Auckland-Christchurch network link broke, the other kept working. Our datacentre in Christchurch never missed a beat even though it was inside the initial red zone,” he continues.

Supplies of diesel were an issue for Datacom at one point, says Matheson. “We have since purchased our own mini-tanker. Interestingly, in the period just after the quake there is little need for support services as customers focus understandably on their own staff.”

From a customer point of view there has been a “huge interest” in DR after the earthquakes, says Matheson, as well as “a much greater understanding of the issues involved”.

Datacom has a cloud computing platform that operates in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and uptake of it is growing quickly, he says.

Although Datacom’s Christchurch datacentre stayed up during and after the February earthquake, you can never be totally confident that even the strongest facility is going to continue to run through a disaster, Matheson says.

The most difficult aspect of implementing a comprehensive DR plan is getting support services set up - the people that would normally take care of operational processes, securing and duplicating the data, typically won’t be available, he says.

“In fact, that’s what happened in most cases in Christchurch. In the day and a half after the earthquake, there was actually very little call for our services because most of the people that used them weren’t at work. They were at home, looking after their families, as were our staff in Christchurch.”

The load became greater three or four days later when people started thinking about their businesses and how to keep going.

“The answer is to build [secondary support teams] into the normal support structure but this comes at some cost. Customers always have difficulty spending money on DR,” he says.

Another thing customers are interested in now is high performance and high availability.

“DR is tightly tied to high availability and often the two can be addressed simultaneously.”

If you set up two sites and load-balance the work between the two, by definition you actually have a disaster-proof DR system, says Matheson.

Comments

Rob O'Neill

1

At the recent "isco UFB briefings there almost every q"estionwas disaster recovery. Not nearly the same in A"ck and Welly. Not too s"rprising,b"t maybe we all sho"ld ponder "R more in o"r own regional ways.

Comments are now closed.
Related Coverage
Related Whitepapers
Latest Stories
Community Comments
Tags: Datacom, disaster recovery, steve mathieson, paul matthews, Special ID, canterbury earthquakes, cloud computing
Whitepapers
All whitepapers

Microsoft launches toolset for capturing 'ambient intelligence'

READ THIS ARTICLE
DO NOT SHOW THIS BOX AGAIN [ x ]
Sign up now to get free exclusive access to reports, research and invitation only events.

Computerworld newsletter

Join the most dedicated community for IT managers, leaders and professionals in New Zealand