With hurricane season just starting (and a ton of bad weather already hitting the East coast), this is a good time to talk about being able to recover from an outage or disaster.
Can you remember a big thunderstorm rolling through near your house? When the wind was so bad that the lights eventually went out? Maybe a transformer near the office was hit by lightning?
Imagine coming in the next day to work and finding out that your accounting server was fried—drives completely inoperable. It’s the end of the month and payroll is pending this equipment coming back online.
What do you need to have done?
Use a backup to restore what was lost on the server after the storm?
You might actually need to go a step farther than simply restoring your data if that server is no longer working. What you might need to do is perform a bare-metal recovery.
What’s the difference between a backup and restoring?
You can think of restoring from backup as simply recovering your data if something were to happen to it. Let’s say someone deleted some critical files by accident or a computer was hit with a virus and you lost all of your data. In many cases, all you need is to restore from your backups to get your team up and running.
But what if something actually happened to the drives storing that data (as was the case of that server after the thunderstorm)?
Restoring the data might not be good enough. You see, in addition to putting your data back onto that server (or computer), in the event everything is inoperable (the drive in your server for instance), you will need to have more than simply data to get back to functioning normally.
What else would you need?
Essentially with a bare-metal restore you are restoring everything—including software and operating system. With a routine restore from backup—say in restoring from an image backup—the data you are restoring is dependent on software and a specific operating system. In the event that hardware stops working, you probably will need more than simply the data to get your team working. You would need every configuration, every piece of software and a properly configured operating system before you’ll be able to move past this disaster.
With a backup, a user can select specifically what they want to backup and recover. With a bare-metal restore, you are restoring everything from scratch.
Note: Backups typically require some sort of agent—a piece of software that allows you to execute the backup on a machine—allowing you to store a backup outside of your server for faster recovery and to avoid data loss in the event of hardware failure. Bare-metal restores do not.
The problem with bare-metal restores?
Generally, one of the biggest problems with bare-metal restores is that if you are transferring data on hardware that is not identical (down to the manufacturer, microcode, everything), the restore from backup probably won’t go as planned. Another big issue is bare-metal restores typically take time—precious time that might not be available if you are in a hurry to get payroll rolled out ASAP.
But don’t rule out bare-metal restores completely.
A bare-metal restore is still a recommended disaster recovery tool. While bare-metal restores may be a last resort, it can be a useful tool for critical situations such as hardware failures or cyberattacks.
Experts in disaster recovery recommend taking some steps now to ensure you can recover later.
Simply understanding that threats exist and how they might damage your systems is the first step to preparing for recovery. Understanding why and when you should use a bare-metal disaster recovery strategy (and how this differs from a general recovery) is critical to ensure your team will be able to recover from threats to your business network and continuity.
Realize that you have a variety of options when it comes to bare-metal disaster recovery strategies. Make sure you’ve identified the right one for you—looking for something that is quick and efficient at recovering your systems.
Be sure your disaster recovery and business continuity plan is updated or at least reviewed annually to determine whether your current recovery strategy still fits your business.
One more note—if you have to learn the recovery process after the fact, you’ll probably face a ton of complex hurdles to overcome when your business is in crisis mode. Taking steps now to ensure you have a plan and a strategy to recover—including a bare-metal restore strategy—is invaluable to protecting your network and saving your team time and headaches later on.