Many business owners believe that their organization is protected from disruption because critical data are backed up to the cloud. If a file is overwritten, corrupted, or locked by ransomware, the most recent copy can be easily downloaded. So far, so good.
But What About Backing Up Applications?
Some of the data files that are backed up regularly may be databases. Databases depend on applications running on servers to be useful to the business. Otherwise stated, database files are useless without the servers and programs that run them.
Example database applications are QuickBooks Enterprise and Microsoft Exchange Server. Other examples are ERP and MRP databases such as Sage 100 and SYSPRO. Your business may have custom in-house software that was written to address your company’s unique business requirements.
What would happen if employees could not sign into applications like these for days or weeks at a time?
It would likely cost the business money. It’s mainly a question of how much money.
That’s where Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery comes in. BCDR is both a plan and an enabling technology. I’ll get to the technology part later.
To explain why a plan is needed, let’s break the term BCDR into its two components—business continuity and disaster recovery.
Business Continuity – The BC in BCDR
Let’s say that most of your employees normally interact with your organization’s database programs while at a desk in the office.
In a software sense, “continuity” means that employees can keep working if there’s a disruption to this normal way of interacting with programs. Core business functions will still be operational.
Here in California, a state with natural and man-made disruptions that now include PG&E public safety power shutoffs, businesses need a way to continue operating when employees are not able to work at a desk in the office and get access to resources on the company’s network.
In the event that employees can’t work from the office, the plan should be for employees to be able to continue to sign into and work on these applications from somewhere other than the office.
The need for a business continuity plan could be driven by the possibility of a seemingly minor short term event like a power outage.
Disaster Recovery – The DR In BCDR
When most of us think of disasters, we think of large forces of nature that cause widespread problems.
However, a disaster that’s specific to a single business could be a stolen server, a crashed hard drive or even a drive that has been encrypted by a hacker who then demands a ransom.
In software terms, the word “recovery” implies that something was rendered permanently non-functional and needs to be rebuilt or reconstructed from scratch.
Regardless of the type or the magnitude of a disaster, recovery may mean buying new servers and restoring those servers to the state they were in before the damaging event occurred.
This is where having only backups of database files may mean a multi-day recovery. On each server, the operating system has to be reinstalled and patched with the latest updates. Applications need to be reinstalled and patched with updates. Security software needs to be reinstalled. The database files have to be restored. All of this may not always go smoothly:
For disaster recovery, the plan would be to find an efficient way to fully restore one or more servers. Ideally, there would be current copies of old server information that could be copied to the new servers.
The Technological Solution
Now that we’ve briefly conceptualized the plans, let’s look at a way technology can support these plans.
The technological solution involves having up-to-date, virtual copies of servers both locally and in a remote location.
Information from servers is continually streamed to an in-office appliance that contains virtual copies of those servers. The same information is, in turn, streamed to a cloud location.
The continuity part is that, in the event of a disruption, employees can securely connect to a virtual desktop via the internet from any location. Business applications like QuickBooks are served up to each authorized employee through an internet connection.
The recovery part is faster when new servers are restored to the state of old servers in a single imaging process—as opposed to piecing together each server’s software components from the ground up.
While there are a number of BCDR technology solutions for business, as an experienced MSP, we found Datto to have the most well-thought-out and comprehensive set of products.
Here is Datto’s ALTO solution for small businesses explained: