Service provider takeaway: Value-added resellers (VARs) and systems integrators can widen their customer base by offering vital network disaster recovery planning services.
Fires, floods, hurricanes and terrorist attacks can cripple the networks that businesses small and large depend on. VARs and systems integrators can tap this business opportunity by helping customers plan for network disasters and recover from the unforeseeable. In this first tip in a two-part series on network disaster recovery planning, we look at the types of services you can offer customers. In the next tip, we'll introduce related products.
Network disaster recovery planning requires much more than customizing a generic document. You can apply the breadth of your experience to help customers:
- Scope the range and likelihood of disaster types.
- Evaluate the potential impact and severity of possible events.
- Create comprehensive disaster plans.
- Put in place ongoing procedures to prepare for disasters.
- Determine how to recover from disasters.
An incident affecting network connectivity can be as simple as a hardware failure or as catastrophic as an earthquake. The problem is, most businesses only consider natural disasters when planning their network disaster recovery efforts. Draw on your range of customer experience to point out potential disasters that are less likely to be considered and to help estimate the likelihood of events. Begin by presenting to customers a generic network disaster plan that outlines the full range of risks. Explain and weigh potential risks that are not immediately apparent. For example, wide area network (WAN) links can go down when a service provider's equipment fails, a line is cut when someone digs in the wrong place or a natural event such as an earthquake occurs. Internal networks fail when switches or routers malfunction.
Customers who have migrated to VoIP must also take into account the risk of losing voice communications. Public carriers have taken seriously the responsibility for maintaining voice communications and have historically maintained high levels of reliability. Your plan must provide a way to maintain voice communication. For some customers, leaving a few public carrier lines in place is sufficient. For others, more complex solutions may be required.
Network disaster recovery plans and procedures
Work with your customer to create appropriate network disaster recovery plans and procedures. Help identify vulnerabilities by using your knowledge of your customer's business and its network, as well as your professional expertise, in these key areas:
- LAN recovery
Local area network (LAN) recovery requires accurate and up-to-date network documentation. The first step in preparing to deal with an outage is creating accurate documentation if it's not already available. As you work with your customer, suggest a detailed network audit to bring documentation up to date. Include in your plan a procedure to ensure that every future change is documented.
- Web backup
Backup Web servers are a must for customers who depend on a Web site for revenue. Suggest contracting with more than one network service provider to ensure that switchover occurs immediately and automatically in the event of a failure. If your customer relies on a Web hosting service, make sure that the service provides adequate backup or suggest that your customer contract with more than one hosting service.
On the other hand, if your customer's Web site can be down for a few days without serious consequences, do not expend as much effort and expense to protect it.
- Data backup
Data backup is essential. Work with customers to create and implement appropriate procedures. For some customers, an end-of-day backup is sufficient, with data entered on the day of the failure easily replaced without serious consequences. In businesses with zero tolerance for data loss, remote disk mirroring may be required. In any case, put in place a procedure to confirm that backups are actually occurring and backup media can be read.
Disaster recovery services
You can play a vital role in assisting customers as they recover from a disaster. Knowledge gained while creating the plan and putting procedures in place enables you to help in any way required. That may mean quickly supplying replacement network hardware, reloading backups or even moving some processing to your own facility while repairs are made.
About the author
David B. Jacobs of The Jacobs Group has more than 20 years of networking industry experience. He has managed leading-edge software development projects and provided consulting to Fortune 500 companies as well as software startups.
This was first published in January 2008