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Beware the Hardware Failure!

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In the eyes of the owner of a small to mid-sized business, a storage-area network (SAN) failure may at first glance seem innocuous as compared with the destructive, whipping winds of a hurricane. But ask any IT professional and you’ll learn that, in terms of the resulting system downtime, it’s just as devastating as any natural disaster. In fact, it may be even more so.

Enemy No. 1

Hardware failures seem to hit small to mid-sized businesses with much more frequency than any other event, including natural disasters. The causes of hardware failure are many, and range from a fire or plumbing emergency in the office to a broken air conditioning or a widespread power outage. The aforementioned SAN failure can be particularly frustrating for small to mid-sized businesses, which commonly virtualize all their storage servers onto one large SAN. Of course, if the SAN fails, so, too, does the organization’s entire environment. In 2010, California Bankers Association (CBA) became uncomfortably familiar with this scenario when its hard drive failed. As a result, the primary SAN server corrupted the company’s virtual servers and all the data on them, then proceeded to replicate onto the secondary SAN. While the virtual servers had been backed up, the Microsoft Exchange server was not. As a result, CBA was down for almost four days rebuilding it.

But while hardware failure seems to top the list as the leading cause of system downtime, human error and software failure must similarly find their places in the lineup ahead of natural disasters. For example, how many times has an intern wiped out a file system on a server? How often are untested patches sent out and installed, only to result in corruption of an entire system?

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Downtime Costs Always Exceed Expectations

Whether caused by hardware or software failure, human error, or the less likely natural disaster, the fact remains that small to mid-sized businesses are never quite prepared for the frequency, length, cost or results of system downtime.

A 2012 report by Aberdeen Group found that the small businesses they surveyed experienced an average of 1.7 downtime events over the course of 12 months; for the mid-sized businesses surveyed, this number grew to 3.5 events. The same report indicated that small businesses averaged 2.2 hours of downtime for each event, and mid-sized businesses averaged 3.4 hours. But the costs associated with this downtime is the truly frightening part: Small businesses reported an average cost per hour of $6,900, while the cost for mid-sized businesses jumped to $74,000 an hour. And for many businesses that experience this type of loss, the only option is to close shop.

Hybrid Cloud Disaster Recovery, Regular Testing Key to Business Survival

Clearly, given these high costs, small to mid-sized businesses can’t afford even an hour of downtime, much less two or three. It is for this reason that hybrid cloud disaster recovery has stood out among traditional stand-alone tape and disk backup as the solution of choice. In contrast with tape and disk backup, which require hours or days to restore, hybrid cloud disaster recovery solutions instantly recover data, applications and systems so business-as-usual resumes in minutes. This is achieved by maintaining up-to-date, ready-to-run virtual machine clones of a company’s critical systems that can run locally or in the cloud. They transparently take over for failed servers within minutes, so an organization’s revenue, customers and reputation are safeguarded.

Regular testing, too, plays an important role in disaster recovery, and is arguably just as critical as the solution itself to an organization’s quick recovery. Historically, IT professionals have avoided regular testing, arguing that it is a complex and time-consuming process. Still, its necessity should outweigh these complaints. Having the reassurance that your chosen disaster recovery system will perform as expected during a catastrophic event is priceless.

Here is another example of where hybrid cloud disaster recovery solutions excel. These systems eliminate the time costs and complexities associated with the testing process by enabling automatic and on-demand testing. At the push of a button, IT professionals using these types of solutions can rest assured that their system will come through should a disaster occur.

Although certainly not as spectacular an event as a natural disaster, hardware failure is the more devastating, if only because it occurs with more frequency. Still, whether earthquake or power outage, malware or human mistake, the resulting system downtime has far-reaching and devastating effects on the average small to mid-sized business. Preparation is therefore key, and should include regular system testing and a disaster recovery solution that ensures instant recovery of, applications and systems to maintain business-as-usual.

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