Forsythe, HP To Ally On Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery

Michael Croy, director of business continuity for the Skokie, Ill.-based solution provider, would not provide details of the alliance, but told CRN that the two are working on a hybrid solution that includes a mix of internal recovery products such as replication and outsourced products such as hotsites in order to offer customers a complete package.

While Forsythe is a long-time HP solution provider, the company has not previously worked with the vendor on external recovery solutions such as hotsites for disaster recovery and business continuity, Croy said.

Croy, who talked to CRN at the Disaster Recovery Journal's Fall Conference, held this week in San Diego, also addressed an audience of corporate business continuity and disaster recovery executives about some of the trends affecting their ability to recover from a disaster.

Croy compared a company's IT infrastructure to a Rubik's cube in terms of how to handle disaster recovery issues, saying that solving for one side of the puzzle, such as network or storage or server optimization, leaves the other sides unsolved. "The key to the puzzle is at the core, which is the business' management process and business context," he said.

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When business executives make a business decision, they have to look at it from a number of different aspects, Croy said.

On the fiduciary side, they need to take in government and regulatory concerns, audit capabilities, standards such as ISO, and issues including service level agreements and quality of service. At they same time, they need to be concerned with fiscal issues such as profitability, cash flow, bank covenants and service levels. "All these come into play during the business decision making process," he said.

When it comes to deciding how to handle disaster recovery or business continuity, executives also need to determine the risk associated with those decisions, Croy said.

They can accept the risk by deciding what they need to do is worth taking the risk, and that there is a remote possibility of a disaster happening. The can assign the risk via insurance or by outsourcing a vital function such as payroll. Or they can mitigate the risk by finding ways to reduce it to an acceptable level.

Croy said there are several IT trends that are helping to make it easier for executives to determine whether to accept, assign, or mitigate that risk.

For instance, he said there are new tools becoming available to help businesses understand the interdependence between applications and business processes, and other tools to help executives understand how IT impacts every part of a business.

Croy said changes such a virtualization and mergers and acquisitions are giving businesses increased bandwidth and hardware resources that can be repurposed for disaster recovery.

Businesses are also looking at how to get a return on investment in business continuity and disaster recovery initiatives, such as how they increase an IT infrastructure's resilience and reliability.

Strategies for optimizing the management of the boom in a company's critical data, both in paper and electronic form, also improve the ability to survive a disaster, he said.

All of these trends combine with an understanding of the business context of IT decisions to help businesses improve their ability to survive a disaster, Croy said.

For instance, on the server side, virtualization is having a big impact on disaster recovery, as multiple server images and their corresponding applications share the same physical server space. This allows companies to set up compute utilities that ease management issues and allows switching to alternative sites without taking mission-critical applications down. It also lets companies easily change their IT architecture for the future, and take those changes into account when planning for disaster recovery and business continuity, he said.

On the network side, voice-over-IP is increasing business' communications ability while helping them recover from a disaster quickly, Croy said. Unified messaging is important for making it easier for workers to work remotely under normal conditions as well as under disaster conditions. And application performance optimization is minimizing the work flow times associated with WANs to both increase performance and increase IT resiliency, he said.

On the storage side, new data replication technologies are helping companies better protect data and recover data in a disaster, Croy said. Other technologies are making it easier to both backup and restore data as needed, he said.