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A Disaster Recovery (DR) plan boosts confidence in data availability and security

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In the digital age, data is everything and without access to the organisation’s data, doing business is impossible. To prevent disruption from turning into a catastrophe, it’s necessary for organisations to have a Disaster Recovery (DR) plan in place. An effective DR plan ensures that the business is able to bounce back from disruption with minimal downtime and minimal loss while boosting confidence in data availability and security.

Why DR?

DR is an organisation’s plan to recover functionality and access to data and infrastructure after disruptive events like a natural disaster, cyber-attack, or even business disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, recovering data is not just about a ‘disaster’. From lost or accidentally deleted files to ransomware, natural disasters and even internal threat factors, anything can happen. Organisations need granular recovery to the point that a single file can be recovered quickly without the need to recover an entire system or Virtual Machine (VM).

It’s all about the RPO and RTO
As businesses have become more reliant on high data availability, tolerance for downtime has decreased. Recovery Point Objectives (RPO) and Recovery Time Objectives (RTO) are two important measurements in DR and downtime. RPO is how much of data loss an organisation is willing to tolerate while RTO is the maximum amount of time within which an organisation must recover data in order to resume normal operations.

The goal of DR is to resume operations as close to normal as possible, as quickly as possible after the event, which necessitates the right combination of DR methods, broadly categorised as “continuous” and “periodic.” For workloads that require a relatively low RTOs and RPOs, continuous replication is useful to capture VMs, writing and replicating them to a DR site for near real-time replication. For less critical workloads, VM workloads should be replicated to a DR site for recovery on an as-needed basis.

Timing is everything
Incremental replication through snapshots of a VM uses backed up data and minimises the impact on production workloads by avoiding the need to reread the source. Furthermore, in cases where corruption on the source VM is unintentionally replicated it is possible to recover to a point-in-time. The key benefits for business include minimised impact on production workloads, as well as minimised start-up time. Replication time is also significantly reduced with the ability to select a software (virtual server agent) snapshot or a hardware snapshot and replicate VM snapshots with no backups involved. Additionally, the need to maintain destination infrastructure indefinitely is eliminated now that it’s possible to validate VMs as they are created.

Visibility is key

The ability to monitor the replication of all VMs is essential – whether periodic or continuous – in order to gain insight into Service Level Agreement (SLA) status, last sync time and frequency to simplify data security and compliance. To ensure confidence in recovery measures, the ability to prevent disaster from occurring during DR is just as important.

This is where the right DR solutions can make all the difference, and organisations are advised to pay attention to the following functionality:

  • Enable validation: Checks if the destination VM is usable by powering it on.
  • Planned failover: Initiates a failover to the secondary site once the destination VM has been updated with the most recent changes from the source VM.
  • Unplanned failover: Ensures an immediate failover to the secondary site.
  • Failback: A failback operation returns the VM to the original site or a new primary site after a virtual machine has failed over.
  • Test boot VM: Powers on the destination VM to check that it is ready for use. To ensure the VM is not modified by the test boot, a snapshot of the virtual machine is taken before the test boot, which is useful during DR test runs to keep the source VM intact.
  • Automatic failover configurability: Ensures immediate access to critical VMs in the event of a disruption by:
    • Continuously monitoring replicated VMs to a secondary site
    • Detecting problems with VMs or network access for the primary site
    • Automatically failing over to the secondary site if primary is disabled or unreachable
    • Bringing destination VMs online immediately or after a specific time.


The use of DR solutions that reduce RTO and RPO times, through easy replication configurability, failback/failover functionality and VM validation supports a DR plan that is robust and effective. This, along with deduplication and compression functionality ensures resource efficiency, all of which contributes positively to security and gives everyone in the organisation confidence in data availability and ultimately business continuity.

By Johan Scheepers, Country Head at Commvault SA


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