Disasters never make for good dinner conversations. Too often small to medium organisations avoid preparing for disaster recovery because of the perceived cost and time associated with it. In this blog, we take a very real look at disaster recovery and the need for a business continuity plan, and we show you how a simple Alfresco Add-On like AlfStream can address your disaster recovery needs, quickly and affordably.

Are you disaster ready?

Suppose a fire guts your entire plant or office – how would your organisation fare? Often, when we talk to clients about their Disaster Recovery Plans, or lack thereof, we sometimes come across some horror story that would make a great scene in a movie.

True Story:A client was testing their Disaster Recovery Plan. To add to the element of surprise, they shut down the entire site one day, without warning: everyone was locked out of the plant. Great plans went astray when they got to the Assembly Point and realised that the Disaster Recovery Plan was still in the office, safely locked away, and of course, no one could access it.

Disasters don’t just include fires, floods, hail and earthquakes. Smaller incidents, such as burglary, flood damage, or strikes even, in some industries, can be just as catastrophic to businesses: think of the Australian pilot strike in 1989 and how it affected tourism and countless other industries.


No Disaster Recovery Plan? You’re not alone.

According to the Gartner Group, only 35% of SMBs have a comprehensive Disaster Recovery Plan in place.

Considering the enormous amounts of time, money and resources invested by business owners into their company, it would seem obvious that they would take steps to protect their investments.

The bad news is that there are two (human-related) problems:

  • The immediate demands of the business often mean that there is little valuable time to pay any real attention to planning.
  • Worse still, the impression that a catastrophic event is just not going to happen to the business means that the planning has no chance of ever getting off the ground.

And it’s not just the effect of the disaster that can hurt the business – it’s also the time during which the business is not able to respond to clients, to prospects, to stakeholders.

Many organisations rely on business insurance as their safety blanket, however not everything is covered – in particular, it won’t replace customers…

What’s a Disaster Recovery plan?

A Disaster Recovery Plan is a document drawn up to identify and record the set of procedures to protect the business from potentially catastrophic events. It will include emergency contacts, a communication plan, details of the critical documents for the business (insurance certificates in particular), and the associated processes to ensure everyone knows what they need to do at the right time. Of course, the process of drawing up the plan also examines if your suppliers have a proper plan in place!

What about my backups as a recovery plan?

Backing up shared drives is, indeed, better than nothing. Backups presumably hold the totality of the organization’s knowledge – just make sure the tapes and USB sticks are kept off-site!

If you need to recover from a disaster, sadly backups alone will not cut it. The major challenge with backups is that your entire system has to be reconstituted before you can apply backups and restore the environment and all the files. Worse yet, you may need to find an office where you can set up your new hardware, and in the most extreme cases, you may even need to procure new hardware. This could equate to days if not weeks of being incapable to operate your business – how long could the business hold out?

Disaster Recovery through duplication

The big end of town (such as banks, insurance companies and the like) will actually have a separate site where they duplicate their entire environment.

During a visit to one of their data centres, we passed a floor, complete with unattended desks, computers, monitors: this was the Disaster Recovery site for an insurance company, which, most likely, was head quartered in a different city altogether. Every few months, this company runs a drill: they lock up the office, turn up at the disaster recovery site, and test their capacity to keep on operating.

Imagine the rental bill – for an empty floor, for all this equipment sitting idle, and for upgrading it every three to five years!

Why is it that the high end of town can afford it? They know how much is at stake if they don’t.

In a more modern setting, companies like Google distribute their computing power to the nth degree: destroy one container, and the service is barely affected – in fact, you’ll be completely unaware that any number of servers have been offline for any length of time.

Netflix push it one level further: they built the Chaos Monkey, whose job is to randomly kill servers within their architecture. The aim is to constantly test their ability to provide a level of service, especially when it matters most, like in the event of an unexpected outage. Again – they know how much is at stake.

Duplication on a budget?

Between these two extremes lies an elegant solution, created for organizations who understand the value of their documents, and want to protect their investment. This solution is called AlfStream, the newest of Parashift’s Alfresco Add-Ons.

It ensures both your key documents and your operations are continuously kept in sync, between your data centre, and the disaster recovery site, effectively duplicating your content.

It is also an online backup, updated on the fly. Provided you can reach the Internet, you can access your data and continue to trade, with minimal disruption.

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Once the disaster recovery site has been set up, either in a data centre of your choice or in the Cloud, AlfStream is then configured to tap into your Alfresco operating site, and to duplicate its content to the disaster recovery site. As events occur in your operating environment, such as new documents, updated content, or deletion of files, they are automatically replicated to the disaster recovery environment.

AlfStream – an affordable and easy solution to a major concern.

AlfStream offers a new approach combining the features of complete duplication of content with the affordability of backups, but without the cost of one, or the inconvenience of the other. For more information on AlfStream you can visit our previous Blog Post: Synchronize Alfresco – Scale your Content Management or check out the AlfStream Solutions Page and download the technical specifications.

Are you Disaster Ready? Take the quick health check and see.

Disaster Recovery planning may seem daunting at first sight, possibly because traditional solutions are either inadequate, or extremely expensive. Now, with Alfresco Add-On’s like AlfStream, your options have just become easier, quicker and more affordable.  Take the Disaster Recovery Assessment and find out just how ready your organisation is to protect itself against disasters.

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As Client Director, Henri Guillaume is a technology thought leader with extensive experience working with leading global brands across multiple industries in Australia and abroad. As a co-founder of Parashift, Henri specializes in the development of client-centric customized solutions.
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