By Andrew Barnes, SVP of Corporate Development at Neverfail

The most wonderful time of the year?

With Christmas fast approaching, many IT managers are starting to prepare for leaving their data centre un-staffed over the festive period. For organisations with a DR solution in place, the weight of worry will be somewhat lifted. However, businesses lacking a deployable DR plan will have to live with exposure to many availability issues. These problems could lead to downtime of mission-critical applications, which could have detrimental effects on the organisation, as well as leaving IT managers with nothing more than a lump of coal in their stockings. To ensure Christmas Day and the extended holiday period is spent by the fire eating mince pies and with the family, what can data centre managers do to prepare for the holiday period?

1.SLA bells ringing on Christmas day?

•Check SLA agreements — the service level agreement in place may state a 1-2 hour response time; however this time window may not apply over the festive period? If not, any unplanned downtime of business critical applications could continue for up to a week without being fixed. To avoid this, data centre managers should ensure the business is guaranteed uptime across the full calendar year.

2.Does Santa have a DR solution in place?

•Does the business have a specific DR solution in place? Some organisations are unable to afford a blanket disaster recovery solution, but in order to maintain the availability of critical applications, data centre managers need to organise strategies and plans to prevent any downtime. Data centre managers should ensure that alternative provisions are in place to meet Recovery Time and Recovery Point Objectives, guaranteeing that the data centre will continue to run during and after the Christmas break. It is also worth considering any applications or servers that have failed previously, and address any niggling concerns before Santa’s arrival.

3.Updates to last year’s list?

•Have all issues been addressed from the last DR test? Before tucking into the turkey, data centre managers should maintain 100% assurance in the smooth-running of the primary datacentre, which can be achieved through frequent testing of the business’ existing DR solution. In the event a disaster does occur, those organisations with secondary datacentre sites in place should be able to guarantee the failover to the secondary site is seamless, without disruption. Fully automated failover will allow the festivities to continue without interruption. This way, the subsequent investigation and fail-back to the primary environment can wait until after the mountain of well-deserved presents has been unwrapped.

4.Like Santa, do you need worldwide information?

•Does the data centre handle global business transactions? If so, remain aware that not everyone will be celebrating Christmas or even be on holiday this December. With this in mind, make sure that the data centre is prepared to deal with transactions over this period and that personnel are available to manage and troubleshoot critical applications if required. For example, the demands of the mobile workforce may require access to important documents during the holidays, and applications such as email, mobile messaging and web-servers may be in high demand — precautions around these key applications should therefore be reflected in the data centre manager’s Christmas plan.