Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Simple data classification for Business Continuity

The majority of today's businesses cannot survive a catastrophic loss of corporate data. In many cases, the data is the corporations’ most important asset – and the amount of data is growing at exponential rates. This dramatic growth in the enterprise storage environment is forcing businesses to continually examine and enhance the availability, security and reliability of their enterprise storage environment.

Quick Terms
Business ContinuityThe ability of an enterprise to continue to function during and after a catastrophic event
HIPAAHealth Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
ResilienceThe ability to provide a minimum acceptable level of service during or following following failures
Sarbanes-OxleyU.S. legislation to protect and preserve financial information

Just as the volume and importance of data for day-to-day business use continues to grow, the requirement to archive data for future use has also grown dramatically. Compliance requirements, like Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, and others have helped to accelerate this growth. Also, new data sources are constantly being developed including the digitization of formerly non-digital (paper) assets, plus the requirement to quickly and accurately retrieve legacy data for business purposes, has contributed to enterprise storage requirements as well.

Businesses recognize that remote data replication, multi-site failover and other techniques along with faster backup and recovery times, are essential to their ability to survive in today’s 24x7 global economy. Several mechanisms are implemented by most businesses to ensure business continuity. These techniques include newer data replication (“mirroring”) processes as well as adaptations to or modifications of some of the more classic Disaster Recovery techniques that have been successfully utilized in the past.

In many cases, the legacy Disaster Recovery methods have served the industry well for many years. These methods continue to be useful, but they are proving to be inadequate as the sole means of providing Business Continuity in today’s world. Business requirements for continuity plans and fault recovery demand greater levels of operational resilience, data protection and business continuance requiring off-site data replication, automatic storage system failover, in addition to shorter backup windows and quicker recovery times.

Luckily, new tools and facilities are constantly being developed to satisfy these requirements.

Before deciding upon which of the newer business continuity facilities might be appropriate in your environment, it is important to try to understand how your data is classified according to business use. While a single solution might seem desirable from a support aspect, it is sometimes not the most cost effective means of satisfying the true business requirements.

Using the broadest terms possible, the recovery requirements of data can be classified as:
  1. Immediate – This data is required to support critical business functions.
  2. As Soon As Possible –This data is required to support normal business functions.
  3. Eventually - This data will probably be used sometime or may need to be available to satisfy legal or archival requirements.

While this list is a vast over-simplification of the complexities involved in data classification, it does illustrate the idea that different data may have different backup and recovery requirements. Once this idea has been accepted, it is possible to target specific data for the appropriate (and most cost effective) backup and recovery methodologies that have been (or can be) implemented in your environment.

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