In Case of Emergency: Do You Have a Database Disaster Recovery Plan?

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Your database disaster recovery plan is like an insurance policy.Disasters can happen.  You pray that they don’t, but more than praying, what you should really be doing is to put a disaster recovery plan in place.  Having a disaster recovery plan is part of overall business continuity contingencies that every organization needs.  It allows you to ensure that disruptions are kept to a minimum so that negative impacts would be lessened.

There are several components that you need to have in a disaster recovery plan, and that includes your database.

The need for planning

A disaster is certainly not planned and it is unwanted.  However, it does occur and it involves losing access to your critical business systems and applications for an extended period of time.  A disaster could be brought about by floods, hurricanes or fires.  But then again, it could be man-made such as sabotage, a hacking attack, an error on the part of your IT staff, or power outages.

Yet, aside from disruptions to your business operations and angry customers, there is a good chance that a disaster can make you close shop. According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, approximately 2.5 out of every 10 businesses in the United States suffer from a disaster so bad that they do not reopen after being hit by one. It also says that a further 29% close after two years. Moreover, statistics from the US Bureau of Labor also shows that 93% of American businesses that experience significant data loss run out of business within five years.

Having a disaster recovery plan will help you get back on your feet after disaster strikes.

It is also a best practice to include your database in the overall business continuity plan.  As pointed out earlier, a database disaster recovery plan should include how and where to store backups of your database and the tools you need to restore it if the need arises.

How to adequately plan for disasters that affect your database

First off, an effective database disaster recovery plan is not just about backing up your database.  This is a widely held yet very dangerous assumption.  Backing up the contents of your database simply involves copying the existing database to another place for storage.  A database disaster recovery plan, however, includes all the necessary tools, steps and protocols that you would need to restore the database.

How do you come up with a database disaster recovery plan?

  1. First, do determine the risks.  What are the risks that your business will face if your database is offline or inaccessible for more than a day?  What would happen if your database and all of its data were lost?  How fast should your database be back online to minimize these risks?
  1. Then once you have a clear picture of the risks, evaluate all database objects for disaster recovery.  Your database administrator needs to figure out how to make each object of your database accessible when disaster strikes.  There are three kinds of risks associated with your data: business service interruptions, legal obligations and financial loss.

These steps will help you define your recovery time and recovery point objectives.  Your recovery point objective or RPO is the tolerance your business has for data loss, and this would help you decide just how frequently you should back up your database and whether point in time recovery is needed.

Meanwhile, recovery time object would specify how long is the acceptable length of time for your database to be down. The downtime would include the time spent to identify the problem and setting the recovery plan into motion.

  1. Next, identify a remote site where you could store your backups. This way, should fire, flood, or human error render your data center site inaccessible or not usable, you can still access your database. The remote site would have the same applications you have as well as an updated standby database that you could readily use when your production databases and systems are down.


Your database disaster recovery plan needs to be about the business, not about the technical aspects.  One way to go about it is to rank critical application to see which ones would have the most impact when they go offline.  Very critical applications need to be the first ones to go back online and the data on these databases must be updated regularly.

From here, you would need to figure out your recovery strategies, and then write up your plan that details the purpose of the disaster recovery plan, the roles and responsibilities of the people involved, how to respond to an incident, how to activate the plan, and the procedures.

Making It Easy: Using Oracle

Oracle makes it easy for companies to do disaster recovery and create a disaster recovery plan.  It uses several components included in the Oracle Optimized Solution for Secure Disaster Recovery, such as the Oracle Zero Data Loss Recovery Appliance, Oracle ZFS Storage Appliance, Data Guard, and Oracle GoldenGate.

These components allow you to protect data at every level, even databases.  For instance, you can use the Data Guard feature you find on Oracle Database or Enterprise Edition if you are using older Oracle Database versions. Oracle Active Data Guard, on the other hand, is the best tool to use for your database disaster recovery plan if you are using Oracle Database 11g or newer versions.  If you are using non-Oracle databases, then you can use Oracle GoldenGate.  You can also use Oracle GoldenGate to backup and recover heterogeneous databases.

Oracle also has a range of backup and recovery solutions such as the Oracle Secure Backup for tape backup of file system data. Databases maybe managed via Oracle Recovery Manager and Oracle Secure Backup Cloud. This covers your whole IT environment and meets your service level agreements including local disk, physical tape, cloud storage and virtual tape.

Your database disaster recovery plan is like an insurance policy. You take time to go over it, pay for it and hope you never have to use it. But when the need arises, you would be very glad that you have it in place. With Oracle, you just get the right tools and software to help ease things along.

Are you using Oracle products now? Or do you want to switch over to Oracle for your database and other applications? Four Cornerstone can help you with that. We can also help you formulate, write and test your database disaster recovery plan using Oracle systems. Call us at (817) 377-1144 or fill out our contact form and a representative will get in touch with you.

Photo courtesy of Stefanos Kofopoulos.

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