New options to protect data

Companies that lose their data close within six months in the majority of cases, according to the best estimates of US experts. When disaster strikes proper back-up or replication could be the difference between bankruptcy and survival…  


Advances in technology and the plummeting price of fast broadband connections have opened up a new range of options for companies to protect key data and preserve core business operations in the event of a disaster. The risk of hurricane, fire, flood, or similar unexpected catastrophe destroying records and curtailing business is one that every firm has to consider. 

From family-run shoe stores to international law firms servicing clients across the globe, every business has a certain amount of records and data that is essential to its operations. 

Traditionally, businesses have relied upon backing-up key information, including financial or client records, on a removable storage device, which is then stored off-site. This practice has long been considered essential and can ultimately save businesses from going under in the event of a disaster. 

However, more recently, a more sophisticated and increasingly viable option for firms that need to be back in business quickly in the event of a catastrophe is available in the form of replication. 

This involves maintaining a secondary operating system, in a separate off-site office, often in a different country for resiliency purposes, that updates information in real time, when changes are made to data at the main office. 

Gary Southway, VP of Core Technologies at IT consultancy firm MCS, explained: “The maturation of the Internet has led to an environment where we expect to have access to our own information 24-hours a day, from any location in the world. We have become used to the availability of online banking, online travel booking and online information management as a matter of course.  

“Against this backdrop, it is critical for financial services providers to be able to deliver similar functionality to their clients in order to meet expectations and develop loyalty. 

“As physical back-up held off-site is just raw data it could take several weeks before that is restored to a form that you can use. 

“Disaster recovery (replication) solutions are designed to be ready to deliver a client’s core business applications and data in the event of a disaster. These systems can be accessed remotely and so your staff can access applications and data, no matter where they are located.” 

Replication is not necessary for every business, says Southway. The family-run shoe store can survive with more rudimentary back-up methods. But for companies with a global client base, the cost of being out of action for several weeks could run to millions of dollars. In the US, it is estimated that 60 per cent of companies that lose their data will close within six months of the disaster.  

It makes sense then to use a system that can allow you to be back in business almost immediately. 

Disaster recovery systems (replication) works by sending any change data from the production system to the disaster recovery system and the rate of change, which your data changes, dictates how much bandwidth you need to have in place to support replication. 

Up until recently, the cost of high-speed broadband has made replication an expensive proposition to businesses in the Cayman Islands, but new technology and a drastic change in bandwidth pricing in the Cayman Islands, allows business more access to replication technology. 

In the UK or US, the cost of a 100 meg connection would be around $100 per month, says Southway. Last year you would have paid more almost double that for a 6 meg connection in Grand Cayman – a higher price for a service that is 16 times slower. 

In the past few months the prices have drastically been reduced, bringing the availability of affordable high-speed broadband in Grand Cayman closer in line with the rest of the world. The latest pricing structures released by local telecommunications providers offer a 100+meg connections from around US$250 a month. 

“Every business is different, but typically the process of replication requires a higher bandwidth than many businesses could afford. Up to now, business have had to choose very carefully what they chose to replicate, or reply solely on off-site back up.” 

The new prices will mean firms that had previously dismissed disaster recovery systems due to cost, may now find that the solutions are now more affordable, or firms that have disaster recovery systems are able to include many more of their applications and data. 

In addition to the reductions in costs from Internet Service Providers, a new technology provider is offering a revolutionary product that can assist business of all sizes gain more bandwidth and increase the resilience of Internet links. 

Mushroom Networks’ device, the Truffle, is a bandwidth bonding appliance. This networking product can aggregate up to 12 Internet circuits and combines the speeds of the individual lines – for instance, by adding four 6MB lines to the Truffle, you can create a 24MB Internet connection. The Truffle also allows customers to bond two circuits of different types and even from different service providers, which adds a layer of resilience. If one service provider’s Internet service is compromised, then the device will simply route all of the traffic over the remaining live connections. 

As an Information Technology Consultancy, MCS can assist clients through the complex options surrounding back-up and disaster recovery and find a solution that meets their needs.  

Southway said: “MCS partner with a range of companies to build up disaster recovery solutions for clients of all sizes in the Cayman Islands. If you are unsure about your company’s disaster recovery, we have packaged solutions that we know work.”