The ability to recover quickly from disaster situations will increasingly be seen as a matter of competitive differentiation for many businesses and so it is vital to keep abreast of the latest developments in the IT world that support this position.

With the recent riots across London and other UK cities still fresh in our minds, it is clear that businesses need to be prepared for the unexpected and to ensure their business is able to withstand any eventuality. It is times like these that you make you re-evaluate your disaster recover and business continuity practices.

Disaster recovery and business continuity are two of the agenda items that sit beneath governance, risk and compliance. They are part of the strategic framework, and as such are the responsibility of an organisation’s senior management. Therefore, there must be absolute confidence in the reliability of the technology and manual processes that create back-ups.

In the first instance, it is important to identify how long can the business afford to be down (recovery time objectives) and how much can the business afford to lose? (recovery point objectives)

Many organisations are engaged in critical business areas; medical or financial for instance. It would be impossible for them to tolerate even very short RTO or RPOs. The requirement here is for continual availability and access. People’s livelihoods, or worse, could depend on it.

This high availability can either be provisioned by storage area network (SAN) solutions, the complete duplication of infrastructure or variations on these principles. Most modern businesses can tolerate short term RTO / RPOs, and are said to have a near-high availability requirement.

This is where continual data protection (CDP) comes into play and is considered the new benchmark standard for data back-up.

Under the CDP model, data is continually mirrored from an organisation’s servers. Best of breed CDP systems integrate with a wide spectrum of database, messaging, and file systems. This places active applications in a stable state so they can be backed up with complete transactional and point-in-time integrity - e.g. as a ‘snapshot’. As a result, all essential information can be recovered very quickly, without the need for lengthy verification processes.

Changes to the mirrored copy are continually logged allowing a rapid recovery to any point in time, effectively enabling a ‘roll-back’ to the most relevant image and providing the shortest time to the continuation of business.

Locating, copying or replicating data to remote sites is the best way forward to ensure data cannot be destroyed by the loss of a place of business, which is for example where tape back-up fails. Virtualisation uses this principle and combined with CPD represents the optimal balance between the cost of the solution, the management of risk and the speed of DR.

This ultimately meets the DR requirements of the vast majority of organisations and allows them to enjoy not only near-high availability but also the competitive advantage this offers to their business.

Simon Kelson is MD of Atlanta Technology.