Companies that use virtual infrastructure to replace more traditionally configured solutions must bear in mind that disaster recovery, among other considerations, must be handled differently than before, according to a Virtualization Review article by consultant Eric Beehler.

By and large, he said, the task is a matter of being as familiar as possible with the underlying structure of the business' systems. Particularly when outlining an initial disaster recovery plan, extensive documentation about configurations and dependencies is invaluable.

Beehler said that the next step is to prioritize the importance of all virtual infrastructure elements, so that workers can get everything up and running as fast as possible in the wake of a natural disaster.

"As you are prioritizing, begin to understand the requirements for your recovery point objective (RPO), which is the point in which you will recover your application and data, as well as define your recovery time objective (RTO), which is the time is takes to stand up the service. These are not just questions for IT, but also for key business consumers who depend on these apps," he wrote.

It's important, Beehler added, that these estimates remain as realistic as possible. The temptation in the planning stage is to create pie-in-the-sky goals of nearly instantaneous recovery with no data lost, but businesses must realize that this is a tough task for even the best IT departments.

Another potential pitfall awaiting unwary companies in their disaster recovery processes is the assumption that basic services are working, according to the consultant, citing DNS, network VLAN and Active Directory as common pain points.

"Even though planning will include basic networking and other concerns like providing servers for Active Directory authentication, the complexities of restoring or creating these infrastructure pieces from scratch is often overlooked and can contribute to failed RTO goals," Beehler warned.

Finally, businesses should understand that virtual infrastructure isn't a magic bullet for disaster recovery. While it adds a high degree of flexibility and can certainly make the process easier, it can be affected just as badly as standard systems by some kinds of natural disaster.

However, one disaster recovery consideration that is greatly helped by virtualization is remote storage, experts note. This technology can protect crucial by storing it in a far-off data center, unaffected by any local catastrophe.

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