IT disasters have a variety of causes: hardware failure, human error, intrusion, infection and even natural disasters like floods and earthquakes. All businesses are at risk and there’s little we can do to predict when disaster will strike. As we’re so reliant on our systems, the only thing we can do is put in measures to reduce the risk and make sure that we have a disaster recovery plan ready just in case the worst happens. To help, here’s a list of best practices that can benefit your business.
Understanding what a disaster is
Before you can defend against or recover from a disaster, it is helpful to understand exactly the term means. In IT parlance, a network or website disaster is when your system goes offline. With a website, this means your site will not be accessible on the internet so you will lose out on visitors and online sales. For companies which use IT to run a much wider set of applications, it could mean the closing down industrial operations, the inability to access important data, or losing the ability to send and receive emails. IT disasters have been known to close hospitals, airports, power stations and all sorts of other vital services.
Whilst going offline is a serious problem – some companies can lose millions in a matter of hours and some services are so critical that lives can be put in jeopardy – what makes a disaster even worse is if you are not able to get back online again. If that happens, it’s because you have no alternative hardware available or because you’ve lost your data and software.
Can you avoid a disaster?
The first thing to note here is that you cannot completely avoid a disaster. You might have every precaution in place but that won’t help you if an earthquake flattens your data centre. The important thing is to make sure you can recover as quickly as possible. To do this, you need three things: alternative hardware, your software applications and backups of your data.
Monitor your server
Whilst some things can strike unknowingly, there are risks which you can keep an eye on. One of these is the health of your system. For example, WHUK’s advanced, proactive monitoring service constantly checks on the health of your server and its performance to ensure it remains in top condition. If a problem is found, you are automatically notified.
Monitoring your system will check signals such a server load, CPU and RAM usage, disk IO performance, running services, partition usage, RAID health and much more. These can indicate the likelihood of server failure and lead to preventative action before a disaster happens.
Standard disaster recovery models
The standard method of disaster recovery requires private network users to have a backup server in place which can be brought online in the event of a problem. Backup servers, of course, are expensive items. Not only do you need to purchase them, they also need to be housed at a different geographic location, configured for use and maintained.
To guarantee that you have a viable backup solution in place, you will need the following:
- a secure location where backup servers can be installed
- enough storage and processing capacity to run critical services
- IT support, on site, to ensure infrastructure is maintained
- an ISP contract for the backup site that guarantees sufficient bandwidth
- load balancers, routers, firewalls and switches, etc.
Putting all these things in place requires a sizeable investment in resources that will, hopefully, remain redundant. They are there just in case a disaster happens.
Those who opt for managed dedicated server hosting may find that the service provider maintains its own a mirrored server at a different location. In this case, the transfer can be done relatively quickly and without the cost of running a redundant backup system of your own.
Cloud-based disaster recovery for private networks
Today, many private network users are looking to the cloud for their disaster recovery solutions. To undertake disaster recovery in the cloud, you need to set up a cloud-based, failover machine which is configured to create the computing environment your system needs. You also need to backup your data in the cloud, as well.
With these in place, it means that if a disaster happens, you have the failover server and data ready to go almost immediately. Recovery times, therefore, are much quicker than with a secondary data centre of your own.
Cloud-based disaster recovery offers several benefits over the standard recovery model. Firstly, there is a huge reduction in cost. There’s no need to purchase backup hardware or operate a second data center. Your virtual backup server is far less expensive to create and is housed at your vendor’s data center.
The second saving comes from the fact that cloud services are paid for on a pay as you go basis and are easily scalable. This means that when the system is redundant, you only need to pay for the limited resources you need. However, should a disaster occur and you quickly need to bring more resources online, you can have everything you need knowing that you’ll only pay for what you use. This flexibility is not something you can get with a traditional backup server.
Disaster recovery for cloud-based networks
If you already host your system in the cloud, disaster recovery is even easier. Should a problem arise, the virtual servers that run your operations can simply be switched to other clustered servers. At Web Hosting UK, we employ the most up to date technologies and hyper-converged enterprise cloud design, to produce a system that protects against everything from hard disk failure to complete server failure. This guarantees that your critical apps are available 100% of the time.
Recovering from data loss
The other main cause of a disaster is data loss. Just like hardware failure, it can happen for a variety of reasons: hacking, storage corruption, accidental deletion and, as we’ve seen all too frequently, ransomware encryption. Luckily, there are some simple ways to protect and restore your data.
Remote data backups
It’s hard to suffer complete data loss if you have more than one copy of it. Therefore, if you have a backup, any disaster is only temporary. Not having a backup, however, can put the entire future of your business in doubt.
Today, backing up your data is an easy process. New technologies mean the entire process can be automated and configured to meet the particular needs of your business. Our backup service provides many benefits, including; continuous backup, high-speed restoration, low server load, multi-point replication and industrial strength storage. This means if a disaster happens, putting data back online can be done swiftly, ensuring that your business stays online.
How to prevent data loss
Preventing data loss from malware, code injections and cross-site scripting attacks is best achieved by using threat scanning software like Site Scanner. Firewalls and intrusion prevention systems are also useful in blocking intruders who use brute force and other techniques to gain access to your data.
You also need to make sure that data can only be accessed by staff who need it and that everyone in your organisation uses strong passwords. Training staff about phishing scams and making them follow your acceptable use policy are other ways to cut the risk of data being lost or stolen.
Hopefully, from reading this article, you should now have a better understanding of ways to protect against and recover from disaster. This should include disasters that affect your hardware and systems and those which result from data loss.
If you are thinking about how to protect your business from disaster and are considering using cloud-based disaster recovery methods, check out our range of cloud hosting services.