DR Testing an Integral Part of RES-Q’s Services
July 12, 2011 Alex Woodie
When it comes to disaster recovery, preparation is everything. Most organizations realize that a disaster could happen, which leads them to adopt a tape-based backup solution, at the very least. But a failure to regularly practice the disaster scenario and perform recovery drills will usually result in glitches and gotchas if the real thing were to happen. One IT vendor that is putting a strong emphasis on DR testing and preparation is the RES-Q division of Corus360, which recently expanded its recovery center near Atlanta.
Corus360 is a value added reseller (VAR) for all the big tier-one systems manufacturers, including IBM, HP, EMC, Dell, and Hitachi. But it’s the work it does in DR and business continuity (BC) services–including hot site, warm site, and drop-ship services; data vaulting, data replication, and high availability (HA) failover; workgroup services (including temporary office space, call center facilities, and temporary and permanent staffing); and DR testing–that sets it apart from its peers, and puts it closer to the vicinity of the tier-one DR and BC providers, IBM Business Continuity and Recovery Services (BCRS) and Sungard.
The company earned a reputation by helping Fortune 100 and midsize corporations recover after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005. “We really did that well, being able to drop ship servers for recovery and testing,” senior business continuity manager Steve Gruber tells IT Jungle. “Sungard and even BCRS customers came to us and said, ‘Hey it’s great you have all this [IT] inventory, but we don’t have a place to land.’ So we quickly utilized a former data center, and converted that to a hot or warm site where we can stand up gear at a moments notice.”
That data center is a 30,000-square-foot, raised-floor facility in Norcross, Georgia, that Corus360 acquired from NCR several years ago. The data center, which became one of the Atlanta area’s first LEED certified data centers in 2010, today houses RES-Q’s z700 series IBM mainframe and System p equipment, as well assorted Wintel and Lintel systems. The company is working on acquiring its own IBM i DR machine, which will augment the IBM i capacity that it manages for clients.
This data center gives RES-Q an advantage in the amount of time it can spend with customers to tailor and then test the DR strategy, says Bill Baron, who recently joined Corus360 as vice president of sales after a 21-year career at Sungard (Gruber also spent time at Sungard).
“The enormous, $100 million inventory [in servers, storage, and other IT gear] is one of the compelling things that make us a little different,” Baron says. “Another thing that’s different for our customers is we treat our recovery center not simply as a testing or recovery facility, but it can be used, for lack of a better word, as a laboratory. … By leveraging that inventory, clients can bring in additional equipment to play around with things and address the issues they’re dealing with offsite, which allows them to better utilize our recovery center.”
Baron’s time at Sungard taught him the importance of taking DR testing seriously. “There are two fundamental ways that clients approach testing,” Baron says. “Some people approach testing to go ahead and do a pass-fail–frankly, to look good up the food chain, if you will, to meet requirements or to not rock the boat.
“But the other group of people will look at the test and see an opportunity to expose vulnerabilities. And if there are issues that come up, that doesn’t mean it’s a failure, but an opportunity to be better prepared in the future. So they don’t fear failure. To some degree, they embrace it and learn from it. I can tell you from my first-hand experience from those types of disasters that the companies that approach this as, ‘Okay I’ve got a problem here,’ there was a huge difference in the way they were recovered.”
Corus360 and RES-Q services many companies in the Southeast, but works with customers all over the country, and has partnerships with fellow data center operators to utilize their infrastructures. The 75-person company doesn’t have the resource of an IBM BCRS or Sungard. But officials says RES-Q’s hybrid approach to service level agreements (SLA) allow it to address the different recovery point objectives (RPOs) and recovery time objectives (RTOs) that individual companies have for their different types of applications, thereby providing more flexibility and a more customized DR solution than the tier-ones can provide.