The Stark prospect of disaster

Protection against IT disaster must include not only data and computing capacity but the knowledge underlying it, says Veritas's Rosemary Stark.

Protection against IT disaster must include not only data and computing capacity but the knowledge underlying it, says Veritas's Rosemary Stark.

The documentation of IT systems during their creation and running life also needs to be backed up and stored off site, says Stark, a California-based regional product manager for the backup and storage company.

A fact that many companies may hesitate to contemplate is that lives could be lost in the disaster and a good deal of knowledge will go with them if it is not stored safely, says Stark, who is currently working out of Sydney.

For one company suffering damage in California, restoring its software licence records “was the biggest pain”, Stark says.

Even on the pure IT side, different fragments of the disaster recovery process will typically rely on the help of different vendors. Integration is as much a watchword in disaster recovery as in the initial development of IT systems. Not only should the database and network links be recoverable; users should be able to access the recovered database through the recovered network in the same way as they did before the disaster, she says.

Since the events of September 11, US companies in particular have favoured "hot backup" sites -- where one system is in a standby mode, ready to take over the load from a failing system -- a little more than they had before, Stark says, but the objections of the chief financial officer to the expense of such a centre is not easily overcome. The way to reassure the money-people is to ensure that the hot site is kept busy with a sufficient amount of “off-host” work – development testing and the like.

She judges New Zealand companies to be more willing to spend on new kinds of backup like wide-area clustering with failover than are US companies in general, probably because the companies are in general smaller and the chains of command shorter. The infrastructure also tends to be newer, with more fibre, whereas US communications networks are still heavy on copper. The capacity and reliability and the cost of telecommunications are crucial elements in decisions on backup and recovery strategy, she says.

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