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Practical advice about disaster recovery planning

Yes, it is possible to contain catastrophes, but with how much pain and at what cost?

By Jeff Klaus, Intel Corporation, special to Network World
May 20, 2013 02:32 PM ET

Network World - This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

Disaster recovery plans and the usual mix of uninterrupted power supplies (UPSs), co-location services, data mirroring and hot-standby technologies theoretically make it possible to weather any storm. But are backup systems, replication rules and fast failover solutions enough?

Any data center manager that has implemented a DR solution understands there are always compromises. To save costs, for example, the generators and co-lo facilities are typically designed to support only a subset of the services being provided during times of normal operation. Here are some considerations meant to ensure the compromises are based on the right facts, and that the DR plan stays aligned with the dynamic requirements of the business it protects.

[ BACKGROUND: Hurricane Sandy highlights why disaster recovery planning is important 

CASE STUDY: Disaster recovery trial by fire ... literally ]

* Start with an accurate picture. You need an accurate understanding of the baseline power consumption under normal circumstances so, armed with this data, IT and facilities are in a position to more effectively allocate power during times of crisis.

Technology vendors have met this need for baseline power management with data center solutions that can be queried for temperature and power levels, and a variety of monitoring and control tools. IT managers can take advantage of these innovations in simple or more sophisticated ways. Minimally, they can examine the returned-air temperature at the air-conditioning units and gather data about the power consumption for each rack in the data center.

Alternatively, a holistic energy and cooling management solution provides a more accurate picture by incorporating fine-grained levels of monitoring focused on server inlet temperatures. The best-in-class energy management solutions aggregate the real-time server inlet temperatures along with power consumption throughout the data center.

The results of the holistic energy management solutions can yield immediate and long-term insights. The aggregated thermal and power data can be used to generate thermal and energy maps of the data center, that enable at-a-glance identification of hot spots and the major power users in the data center. Over time, the data can be logged to facilitate trending analysis for DR planning. The holistic approach yields extremely accurate views of the data center based on actual power usage data, which is in contrast to energy management solutions that are based on theoretical models.

[ IN PICTURES: 10 of the world's coolest data centers ]

* Identify and protect high-priority resources. With the ability to view power and temperature patterns in real time and log the data for extended periods of operation, data center managers can identify key resources that merit extra protection and priority during any outage. These can include systems allocated to mission-critical teams of employees or the critical applications that impact high-priority transactions.

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