Years ago, I was introduced to a saying while serving in the US Navy: “two is one and one is none.” A simple thought, really. Although it does not offer any additional insight into techniques, tactics, or procedures, it hits the bottom line: be prepared with a backup. The application of this philosophy of preparedness is wide-ranging and not limited to either a figurative or literal meaning. We could just as easily be referring to an alternative plan of action for the plan being executed as well as having an extra set of batteries for mission critical gear. At the end of the day, a singularity in a critical path can cause failure. The first step to managing this risk is to identify those single points of failure that can cause the failure of the mission.
Having redundancy in both the number of backup copies of data as well as the capability of hosting critical systems is imperative to ensuring a continuity of operations. In most cases we can extricate ourselves from a bad situation regarding an application or data-related issue by restoring data from a backup copy. A separate copy of backup data ensures that we can still recover if the first copy is unavailable.
The failure may not be at just the application level but may be related to the need to recover an entire server platform. This typically means spinning up a virtual copy of the server in the virtualization environment. This process is simplified if this virtualization environment is already a Cloud-based service, such as Microsoft Azure. It could also mean that you will need to ensure the availability of a host server if the business is hosting themselves on premise.
Recovery in both scenarios is dependent on the ability to access the required backup data to allow a restoration. If the backup data is only accessible by a system that is unavailable it will not be of any use. Likewise, if we have a backup copy of a server but have no ability to host it we again find ourselves at a hard stop. There are two main salient points when it comes to determining the resiliency of our backup systems.
How many copies of backup data do we have, and where are they located?
What platforms are available to host the server workloads if the primary site or servers are not available?
Today when we design redundancy into our backup systems it is commonplace to include replication of the local backup data to a Cloud storage location. This has tremendous advantages over the previous standard, used during the dark days of tape backup, of physically taking tapes offsite. We no longer need to be concerned with the logistics involved with transporting the data to or from the off-site storage location or using courier services. The data is typically replicated and synchronized to the Cloud automatically. This also means that we also have instant access to a recent version of our backup data in the Cloud even if the backup system at the primary site is not accessible.
Another benefit of leveraging the Cloud with internal backup operations includes the capability to host the recovered servers if the primary site is not available. Different vendors offer varying solutions including the ability to spin up virtual copies of the protected servers locally on the backup appliance or in their Cloud data centers. The method used to recover depends on the scenario and the capabilities of the backup system.
The possibility of being denied the use of an entire site due to a catastrophe may be relatively low. The likelihood that a small business is using a single virtualization server to operate their business is quite high. The loss of this single server may bring operations to halt and have a significant negative impact for the business.
Partnering with a vendor that can provide both Cloud storage of backup data and the capability to host restored critical servers addresses these concerns. It can be a straightforward way of providing not only two copies of the backup data, but also provide two methods of hosting the servers that contain that data if necessary.
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