12:15pm Thu May 25th
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IT Disaster Recovery

As computers become more and more a part of every day life, a larger portion of critical data is being stored in databases and file systems both at home and in the office. Where in the past computers were primarily used to store personal data and files it is becoming more common for computers to be used to store sensitive data such as patient information, financial records, and transaction histories.

To protect this data, companies take a variety of steps including duplication and backups to ensure that their data is safe. They will also take the time to ensure that the data is protected from malicious users and attackers by assigning permissions, installing and updating anti-virus software, and installing a firewall. But what happens when, despite all of these precautions, data is lost?

Catastrophic data loss is fairly rare mainly due to the fact that data duplication is fairly inexpensive. With multiple terabyte hard drives going for less than the cost of a business lunch most companies will keep backups of their important data on at least two or three computers. Because of this, catastrophic data loss is frequently caused by natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and fires.

Hurricanes cause catastrophic data loss through power surges, physical damage from high winds, and flooding. Power surges can damage delicate computer hardware and cause the drive electronics of a hard disk to stop functioning. Physical damage to the drives is possible if the building collapses or a branch falls through the roof of your data center, and flooding is bad news for any electronic device.

Earthquakes can also cause severe data loss through physical damage to the drives, and fires can cause issues not only with the heat destroying the drives, but also with ash and smoke particles ending up between the read/write heads of the disk and the disk platter itself. The space between the read/write head and the disk is microscopically small, and nearly anything can get in there and begin damaging the surface of the disk.

With these risks in mind, there are a few steps that can be taken to prevent the damage from happening in the first place. Off-site backup is one of the primary weapons against catastrophic data loss as it prevents all of your data being in one place. If you have a data warehouse in North Carolina, Texas, and California the chances of a disaster affecting all three of these locations at once is quite slim.

Should your company have a catastrophic data loss event however, then you will have to rely on the efforts of your IT Disaster Recovery teams and policies to get things back to business as usual. There are many steps to restoring your IT infrastructure in the event of a disaster such as restoring power, determining what has been damaged, repairing or replacing your equipment, and restoring lost data.

Computers, being electronic devices, rely on not only power but clean reliable power to be able to function. If the power sources in your location have been damaged or have become unreliable it is not a good idea to reconnect IT resources to the power grid. While this risk can be mitigated by taking advantage of UPS devices it is generally best to wait until reliable power is available.

Once reliable power is available, your technicians should begin an inventory of the IT assets within the building. Some of them will be damaged, others will be destroyed, and some small few may still be functional. Any computer that has suffered water damage should be allowed to dry thoroughly before anyone attempts to turn it back on. If the computer was off and unplugged when it got wet it may not have suffered any damage from the water.

Then begins the process of repairing and replacing equipment. Your technicians should determine what systems are business critical and bring those back online first, waiting until that is done before bringing less critical systems online. Things like your point of sale hardware, inventory computers, and financial tracking systems need to be brought online first, while personal desktops and other similar devices can usually wait.

By taking the time before a disaster to determine what assets must be saved in the event of a disaster you can speed up your IT disaster recovery process dramatically and cut down on initial damage. If you know ahead of time that your financial records do not have good backups, then being able to remove them from the building ahead of the disaster can save you the trouble of having to replace them. Even simple things such as placing personal desktops on top of the desk when you know a flood is coming can prevent thousands of dollars in damage, which saves your company time and money.

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