To fend off physical and man-made disasters, network administrators need to act ahead. Emerging technologies for business continuity include VPNs (virtual private networks), SANs (storage area networks), VoIP (voice over Internet protocol), and satellite links.
From the 9/11 disaster, companies have learned some hard lessons about the need for technological and geographic redundancies, speakers said, during the Wall Street Technology Association's recent conference on "Security, Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity."
When a telecom cable went down during 9/11, for example, between 9,000 and 14,000 small to mid-size businesses in New York City were left without phone and/or dial-up Internet service, according to the panelists. Many outages lasted for weeks. Meanwhile, cellular phone coverage was spotty, at best.
Also in the aftermath of the disaster, SunGard Business Continuity Services supported 22 disaster declarations, and Comdisco, another 90 declarations. IBM Global Services (IGS) worked on recovery efforts for more than 1,200 other customers.
Beyond terrorism, other threats to business continuity include earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods, to name a few.
"You need to think about (disaster planning) from the outset. It's not enough to put a Band-Aid on afterward," cautioned Ed Walsh, VP of storage solutions at CNT Corp.
Instead, companies need to prepare comprehensive disaster recovery plans, according to Walsh. "Categorize applications to determine requirements. Determine which applications and data are critical. Know your cost of downtime for these applications. Develop a solution that considers a combination of need and cost. As recovery time decreases, cost increases," he advised.
Business recovery plans should also include workarounds for possible problems with plane and ground transportation. Many companies have relied on trucks, for example, to move LAN back-up tapes off-site - a strategy that quickly runs into trouble if roads are closed due to a disaster.
As alternative storage and backup technologies, Walsh pointed to synchronous remote data replication to a data center, asynchronous data replication to a hot standby; remote virtual tape; FC (fiber channel) SAN tape/disk extensions; and iSCSI tape back-up.
According to the Meta Group, networked storage through SAN and NAS (networked attached stage) will account for about 70 percent of all storage by 2007 or 2008.
Walsh also suggested using new SRM (storage resource management) tools to identify critical applications and data dependencies; implement storage policies; perform back-up and recovery; and monitor storage networks.
Tools vendors in this general space include EMC, BMC, Veritas, IBM Tivoli, and McData, for example.
Meanwhile, companies are now looking to VPNs for "fluid infrastructure" as well as privacy, according to Mark Tuomenoska, chairman and founder of OpenReach Inc.
Unlike the circuit-based PSTN (public switched telephone network) or shared packet networks like frame relay or ATM (asynchronous transfer mode), IP VPNs can provide unlimited virtual circuits, he noted.
Tuomenoska also touted other VPN benefits, such as support for multimodal access technologies; including analog, ISDN, DSL and cable; "broadband speeds" of up to 512K for DSL or 1 Mbps for cable; vendor independence; end-to -end security; lower costs; and faster time-to-market. VPNs can be "deployed in hours versus weeks or months," he maintained.
Acknowledging that IP latency problems still linger, Tuomenoska advised establishing dual frame relay and VPN connections to distributed branch offices for storage back-up and recovery.
"Non-latency sensitive traffic (is) shifted to the VPN. Latency-sensitive transaction traffic remains on frame. Restricted mode tunnels preclude direct access to the Internet, if desired. Transactions no longer contend with other traffic," he explained.
Voice is another application that lends itself to IP, according to Kevin Sumrell, senior product manager at IPC. "You already have the (IP) infrastructure. Why be held hostage to a single (telecom) carrier?" he asked.
Sumrell contended that many businesses in New York City didn't consider VoIP as a backup communications strategy "until it was too late."
"There will be a significant expansion in VoIP over the next couple of years, especially with the growth of VPNs," he predicted.
As current advantages to VoIP, Sumrell pointed to universal IP addressing; bandwidth availability; enablement for multicast, or "one-to-many" communications; and integrated support for voice, data, and multimedia.
"Through universal IP addressing, if I lose a connection, it's much easier to switch to another connection. The switching can be done anywhere," according to Sumrell.
Sumrell admitted that VoIP still faces challenges that include security, network latency, and QoS (quality of service). For voice delivery, although not for data, QoS "must be managed consistently throughout the network," at each end point.
Ultimately, though, VoIP will be "more secure than the telephone network is today," according to Sumrell. "There is no encryption on PSTN," he pointed out.
Jeff Gross, general manager of Immeon, sees satellite services as the best method for backup communications.
"Alternatives (don't) offer true diversity since they run in the same cable as the primary T1 service," according to Gross.
Immeon's satellite services are also cost effective, since businesses "only pay for satellite services when using them," he asserted.
Immeon currently uses Telstar 7 satellites transmitting in the Ku-band for its managed services. Enterprise customers include the New York State Insurance Fund; StorageTek; and Haverty's Furniture.
According to Gross, the company is now moving beyond traditional VSAT into broadband services that include video conferencing, data collection, and video surveillance, for example, as well as business continuity.
Gross cited survey results showing that many companies rely on hot sites located more than 100 miles away for data center recovery. "This is a perfect fit for Immeon's instant-on back-up links," according to Gross.
One conference-goer asked Gross about the feasibility of establishing line-of -sight communications - a prerequisite for satellite services - in urban areas.
"We can almost always find a spot (for the dish) somewhere on the roof where we can get line-of-sight," Gross responded.