Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Disaster Recovery planning for your small business

As promised we're going to discuss some options for the small business disaster recovery (DR) situation. For a small business a significant problem with any sort of IT project is cost. This makes it tempting to start off using home brew type solutions, but eventually you will find yourself wanting something more polished and reliable. For instance my client KTDID, LLC has an ESXi infrastructure that I maintain off site backups of at my residence. To start off with I scripted out the backups using some cmdlets, but am in the process of looking for something more professional. But where should we turn?

The first thing we need to consider is what exactly we need to backup. In my case I have to worry about several server VMs and a couple of user physical machines. At this time you'd want to ask yourself if you want to back up files, the entire system or perhaps even both.As far as the virtual machines go one attractive solution would be Veeam Backup and Replication as they have taken what would have been painstaking to script and maintain and made it possible with mouse clicks. The software isn't cheap, but if you have a sizable virtual environment with your small business its worth the investment. For file level backups it's preferred to use something the 3X Backup Appliance or a software product such as Arconis, Backup Exec or the countless other competitors. One thing that I consider to be of the greatest import however is to keep ownership of your data, and especially so if you are in a field that deal with sensitive information. In my scenario I have a 3TB NAS that I use to keep backups on site and then also have backups off site at my residence as an additional layer of contingency. One of the reason's the 3X Backup Appliance makes the list of considerations for this is that with a couple simple port forwards you can place the device any where with an internet connection, and the client devices pick up the new location automatically. The device is good for file level and some limited use for system level backups, though it does not quite yet suit the bill for VM level backups for VMware (though if you have Hyper-V it does pretty well with that). So I find myself needing two products more or less if I want to maintain ownership and get a total solution. At this point it looks like once the funding is available we'll be looking at an implementation of Veeam, and perhaps a 3X Backup Appliance to compliment.

Looking a bit into the other issues of DR planning I find that as a small business there are some pretty simple things we can do. For example since we use my residence as a basic DR site and that location is in a completely different city I can bring services up at some level without too much downtime or risk of both sites being eliminated at once. Also, the infrastructure is set in such a way that once I bring everything up again the users in question shouldn't have too much trouble working either from home, or another location until the original site's functionality is restored. When you are making your plan do not overlook the users in the effort to plan your technological recovery to your hearts content. Without their ability to work, the rest of the infrastructure has little use.

My next project is to research the best method for backing up Zimbra that allows for item level restore without a tremendous amount of difficulty. If I come up with something before next week I will most assuredly make the post.

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