The Role of WAN Clustering in Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

Posted by Stefanie Kober Tue, 10 Jun 2014 13:24:00 GMT

Remote access through a Virtual Private Network is essential when an organization’s operations have been disrupted. WAN clustering allows business continuity in the event of a natural disaster or cyber-attack.

As the majority of mission-critical business processes are IT-based, companies and institutions are becoming increasingly dependent on the availability of their digitized information in order to maintain functionality. The ability for a network to recover from a disaster is a function of its hardware and software architecture.

In today’s business environment, server clustering is essential to providing the high availability and scalability of services that are required to support 24/7 operations. Clustering increases the reliability of Internet-based systems because it eradicates several of the single points of failure that are possible in a single server system.
WAN clustering, also called geoclustering or remote clustering, is a network architecture through which multiple servers and other computing resources housed in different geographical locations form, what appears to be, a single, highly-available network. WAN clustering can be used for almost any computing resource, including mainframes, file servers and software application stacks.

Benefits of WAN Clustering
WAN clustering allows business environments to run operations uninterrupted and maximize employee productivity by ensuring information assets are available anytime, anywhere – a substantial competitive advantage.

Compared to server clusters which are not geographically distributed, WAN clustering’s main advantage is that applications are always available. Even in cases of extensive regional disaster whereby entire processing centers are destroyed, servers in the cluster continue running, with little to no interruption. 

Business Continuity
The ultimate goal of WAN clustering is to support enterprise business continuity, by providing location-independent load balancing and failover. Business continuity, defined as the ability to do business under any circumstances, is a vital to a company’s success. It aims to prevent problems before they happen, and in the case that they do, it ensures that there are the necessary tools and protocols in place to reduce the damage.

Network Connections
Formerly, stored data was connected to servers in very basic configurations: either point-to-point or cross-coupled, whereby the failure or maintenance of a single server often made data access impossible for a large number of users, until the server was back online. More recent advances, such as the storage area networks and cloud computing, make any-to-any connectivity possible among servers, data storage and other systems. Usually, these networks utilize several paths between the server and the network, each consisting of complete sets of all the components involved. A failed path can result from the failure of any individual component of a path. IT teams employ multiple connection paths, each with redundant components to avoid single points of failure, helping to ensure that the connection is still viable even if one or more paths fail.

Disrupted Communications and the Virtual Private Network (VPN)

When disaster strikes, disrupted communications inevitably ensue, rendering the normal operational tasks unavailable. However, workers can generally perform several tasks using remote access solutions such as a virtual private network (VPN).

Recovery options are extremely limited if applications and servers are not accessible via remote access or VPN service, since one may need to temporarily locate recovered users away from the server environment. A high-quality VPN facilitates safe, effective and cost-efficient WAN clustering – an architecture critical for organizations with offices around the world.

The Recovery Process
The functions of a particular server or entire network location are taken over by any server(s) at a different location should one server or network location becomes unavailable for any reason, such as scheduled down time, hardware or software failure, or a cyber-attack. This process occurs automatically, so that the procedure is as seamless as possible to the end user. A 2013 study on data center outages conducted by Ponemon Institute reported that 91% of the companies investigated had experienced an unplanned data center outage in the past 24 months; in cases of server downtime, WAN clustering makes business continuity possible.

The recovery process can apply to any aspect of a system, such as protection against a failed processor, network connection, storage device, Web server, as well as protection against locally limited natural disaster effects, such as flooding or blackouts.

Fundamentally, business continuity ensures a business can endure any emergency or disaster by safeguarding a company’s greatest assets: its employees and its data. The concepts of high availability and disaster recovery are made possible by WAN clustering, which relies on high-quality VPNs.

If you would like to learn more about WAN clustering, and explore how VPNs can help to create optimal WAN clustering solution for one’s needs, download this free eBook:
Effective WAN Clustering Relies on High-Quality VPNs

Author: Hazel Farrugia (Link to LinkedIn)

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