Selecting the right business continuity software can rank right up there as one of the more difficult decisions that companies face. No two companies have exactly the same environment or business continuity requirements and rarely is there a meaningful way for any company to quickly and effectively test business continuity software across all of the applications in their enterprise. As a result, companies are often put in the position where they need to select the best software for their environment with only some of the facts in hand and then hope they don’t live to regret the decision. That said there are some features that companies should identify in business continuity software prior to buying it to increase their odds of success once they bring it in-house.
- First Copy Creation. The first task of any business continuity tool is to create a copy of the production application data at the secondary site – local or remote. Depending on the amount of data that a company needs to copy, the available network bandwidth and server resources and what options the software provides to copy the data from the production to the secondary site, this initial copy could take hours, days or even weeks. Companies should have a clear understanding of how quickly the software can create the initial copy of data at the target site and how much overhead the business continuity software will place on their network and server resources while the initial copy occurs.
- Replication Management. Once the process of replicating the production data to the secondary site begins, companies should verify how well the tool manages the replication of the data, especially if the data is going over WAN links. For some products, “hiccups” or disruptions in the replication process that occur during the initial copy of the data to the secondary site could force the software to re-start the copy of the data from the very beginning. Depending on how frequently these network interruptions occur, it could preclude companies from ever completing an initial copy of the data, especially when large quantities of data are being copied.
- Replication Frequency. It is correct to assume that all replication products replicate changes of the production data to the target site. However it is incorrect to assume that they do so in the same manner. Some products only replicate changes to the product data after specified periods of time (15 minutes, 1 hours or even 24 hours) while others replicate every change as it occurs. How frequently data is replicated has a direct correlation on the ability of a company to recover.
- Application Integration. Replicating the data may be for naught if the replication software does not in some way integrate with the application that it is protecting. Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint and SQL Server are all examples of applications that, unless the replication software in some way integrates with the application and is aware of its state, companies still have no assurance that they can recover the application even after its data is replicated.
Choosing the right business continuity software for your environment is never a risk-free decision but by first quantifying how well it addresses these specific aspects can go a long way towards helping a company choose the right product for their environment. Business continuity software such as InMage Systems‘ Scout is one such product that provides the granularity of recovery and application integration that companies seek while also delivering the levels of replication management that they need for their environment. In upcoming blog entries, I’ll specifically take a closer look at some of the options it provides for users to create the first copy of their data at the target site and what options it provides to copy data once the initial copy is complete.