Disaster strategies could lie online

While the combination only covers the underlying mechanics of post-crisis recovery, it could help companies to make a start with their disaster recovery plan and ensure that data and processing power are safe.

Will Cappelli, research fellow at Giga Information Group, believes that the internet could play an effective role in disaster recovery, despite cynicism over performance and security.

‘Data compression and path selection can address internet performance issues, while encryption can tackle security. The internet is potentially a great medium for disaster recovery,’ he said.

For years, online backup services have been hampered by the slow uptake of broadband. But as ADSL has now been rolled out in parts of Britain, slow connections are less of an issue.

Nevertheless, hosting company Data Lifeline set up a fibre circuit of 255Mbps around the UK with 29 points of presence to offer leased-line connections. In addition, it has found a way to get around the problem of slow lines – it only makes a full baseline backup the first time a customer signs up to the service.

After that, it only takes file changes and integrates them into the original files at the data centre. Subsequent backups are compressed before being sent through thin internet connections, and encrypted with a 448-bit key to ensure integrity.

But network managers need more than a sophisticated backup service. To ensure a backup of processing power, they need to sign up to a mirroring service.

Data Lifeline’s mirroring service requires a permanent connection to its data centre, where a server records any move the customer’s server makes. This is again mirrored to a second data centre in a different geographical location.

‘In case of a fire, for instance, we could simply pick up the mirror server and courier it to the customer’s alternative location,’ said Mike Gardner at Data Lifeline.

Jean-Philippe Draye, system architect manager at Avaya, said that Data Lifeline’s second disaster recovery centre was its strongest feature. ‘The service is quite original and appealing,’ he said.

Cappelli pointed out that the service was not a complete disaster recovery. ‘Full-blown disaster recovery looks at business continuity,’ he said. ‘But it can be part of a recovery plan as it handles the core issue, which is to move data and get machines running again. It’s a quick, plausible solution.’

Storing 10GB of compressed data through Data Lifeline’s online backup costs £1,585 a year, plus £110 for each additional gigabyte.

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