By Gil Rapaport

In today's enterprise environments, implementing storage solutions that ensure true business continuance presents a major challenge. With many corporations continuing to rely on their legacy systems, business
continuity/disaster recovery (BC/DR) plans must overcome the age-old problem of keeping data secure, despite the fact that closed systems and mainframes remain an inextricable part of the evolving information infrastructure.

Hamstrung by complex legacy system environments, users have found it nearly impossible to deploy enterprise-wide BC/DR plans, leaving their companies at great risk. How can this risk be mitigated?

Recipe For Success

Before you decide on buying any storage technology, make sure your strategy aligns with your business plans. In addition, make sure that each potential solution provides transparent installation procedures, seamless data protection and offers the least amount of data recovery time.
Start by conducting an internal audit of your human capital, processes, legacy systems, users and existing storage assets. Once you have a handle on what exactly needs to be addressed, then you can identify the right solution. It may make sense to create a matrix that illustrates how each storage solution addresses your business processes, technology systems (legacy and new), end users, training, and cost.

The future of your information is all-important. Consider how potential solutions present information to your users. Additionally, ensure that they interoperate transparently with your mainframes. Note: Implementing a new storage solution presents the perfect opportunity to migrate corporate information from mainframes into contemporary production environments.

Depending on your IT budget, you may want to consider off-the-shelf solutions or utilize popular scripting languages such as XML to actually pull the information out of the mainframes. Once the corporate information is located on a more interoperable platform and behind a corporate firewall, you will want to lock it down using additional security protocols such as SSL encryption.

Remember that the ideal storage solution must be centralized and able to manage systems both locally and globally. This will allow your company to finally get away from antiquated backup solutions and deal globally with mission-critical resources that were previously closed off.

The Human Element

Determining how much storage each person is using and forecasting how a new storage solution will affect their usage is a formidable task. Succeeding at this task depends on how well IT departments understand the human element of their business systems. Keep in mind that as technology changes, people must change with it. An added concern is re-training your core staff, and assessing which of its ranks are best equipped to make the implementation a success. In many cases it may be necessary to re-deploy personnel.

The Bottom Line

Clearly, introducing a new storage solution is essential to achieving true business continuance. This process requires a set of strong implementation strategies and people-oriented policies and practices. Creating a holistic strategy that incorporates legacy systems while mitigating changes in human behavior, applications, data, files and business rules is the key to success.

Walk Before You Run with a Pilot System

Designing, purchasing and implementing an enterprise-wide storage system is a huge and expensive task that involves a wide range of corporate participation. Before it's rolled out to the masses, some technology departments have found that the best way to guarantee success is by putting technology to the test, under real work conditions, through pilot programs. Think about all of your options as you deploy the pilot program and consider a modular approach, along with contingency plans, when launching it. This ensures the success of your program as it progresses and gives you the flexibility to exchange technology and methods that do not work for those that do.

Some of the key steps in implementing a pilot system include:

- Pick a pilot deployment team and do so wisely. For example, assign someone to catalog the successes and failures of your pilot program, have a systems administrator devoted to the task implementation, and ensure that a department leader can communicate the causation of the pilot program.

- Start small, but think big. Pick a department with a manageable number of people where user behavior can be monitored and analyzed.

- Choose computer-savvy users. Power-users, if you will, who are comfortable with technology-particularly new technology- to take the first crack at a pilot system.

- Identify the department's legacy and updated technology systems which you plan to address through your pilot program. Prepare a list of potential "worst case scenarios" for each system and devise a contingency plan for each and every one of them.

- Get involved with each user in the department. For example, survey them to get a sense of how they use the technologies, their level of understanding on how the technologies should work and educate them on the purpose of the pilot program. Giving users the bigger picture is a great way to engage them and encourage them to be proactive about ongoing program feedback.

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- Try to avoid mission-critical processes. A pilot system should not handle mission-critical data or systems in production environments.

- Learn from your mistakes. Take the time to thoroughly analyze the strengths and weakness of the pilot before expanding its use.

Reprinted with the author's permission.

About the Author:
Gil Rapaport is Vice President, Marketing, for XOsoft. In this role, he is actively involved in developing new marketing concepts and realizing business development opportunities for XOsoft.

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