Elements of an Effective Disaster Prevention System
Until only a short time ago, Disaster Prevention Systems relied almost entirely upon an on-site person's ability to detect and diagnose irregular conditions in the computer room. Unsophisticated mechanical solutions, such as high-temperature cut-off switches, could interrupt power to equipment in case of fire or reduced air-conditioning, but would likely corrupt active data files in the process of protecting the Hardware.
Current technology, based upon 'intelligent' devices dedicated to the task of protecting computer systems from environmental hazards, can aid personnel in the early detection of problems, and enable the automation of protective procedures when persons are unable to respond effectively.
As a first step in responding to an irregular condition, the selected technology should attempt to notify both the people who depend upon the continuance of computing services for the performance of their duties, and those people who may be expected to be capable of dealing with the detected problem. It should maintain a history log, for future reference, of sensed conditions and actions taken. The roster of people to notify should include:
If monitored conditions are determined by the Disaster Prevention System to be dangerous, the technology must be capable, by selected option, of 'gracefully' terminating normal operations, closing and protecting data files, and disconnecting AC Power from protected equipment.
To accomplish these tasks, the Disaster Prevention System must become an integral component of the Protected Host System, yet remain independent of the Protected Host's functional state to operate. It must be a system based upon dedicated Hardware and Software specific to the requirements of the Operating System of the Protected Host. Furthermore, as computer configurations have migrated from single-CPU to distributed architectures involving Clustered and Networked solutions, Protection Systems should now be capable of securing all of the linked resources in the event of an emergency.
Distributed architectures can link nodes by several techniques: Clustering (via Channel Interface), Networking (via EtherNET, DECnet, Token Ring, etc.) or Sync/Asynchronously (via Communications Port). As the Asynchronous Comm Port is common to most systems for Terminal Interface, even those using Clustered or Networked topologies, Computer Protection Systems can be most easily interfaced to the Protected Host using an RS-232 Serial Interface. Such a connection provides uncomplicated connectivity and a high-degree of flexibility in selecting the site of attachment. An RS-232 interface also permits remote site monitoring via modem attachment.
To provide total protection, an Environmental Security System must be capable of supporting the variety of sensors necessary to measure the multitude of parameters upon which computer reliability depends. These include:
An Environmental Monitoring System would be ineffectual if it could not also perform preventive and reactive functions. Typical requirements include the following abilities:
To organize the above-mentioned Monitoring and Control capabilities in a cohesive way, a Computer Protection / Disaster Prevention System must be 'intelligent'; using a self-contained, highly reliable computer to manage implementation of the noted functions. The required intelligence can be demonstrated in its ability to:
As a final consideration, the acquisition of a Disaster Prevention System must be cost-justified.
In a survey commissioned by INTRA COMPUTER, Inc., it was revealed that 16% of those responding reported a system-stopping 'incident' caused by environmental conditions at least six times annually, and that for 12% of respondents the minimum estimated dollar cost of each incident was over $50,000.
It is clear, from these statistics, that for companies meeting the respondent's profile with an annual risk exceeding $300K, the cost of Disaster Prevention can be instantly justified. But what about smaller installations, or those with lower risk factors? If, during the site-planning stage, a Disaster Prevention System is selected with the ability to monitor UPS Battery Switch-Over and 'gracefully' shut-down the Protected Host in such event, the Protection System (typically starting under $10,000) can be immediately paid for out of savings on long-term Batteries which would, otherwise, be required. Also, let us not forget that the cost of the hardware to be protected is often insignificant when compared to the value of uncorrupted and uninterrupted data flow within the organization.
For those who may look at the issue of Disaster Prevention as they would the purchase of an insurance policy (though the contrast in capability has been previously described), the non-recurring, low entry cost of acquiring and installing a Disaster Prevention System can be shown to pay for itself many times over the first time it is called into action. Also, unlike an insurance policy, an effective Disaster Prevention System pays off BEFORE costly damage occurs, protecting Hardware, Software and Data.
© INTRA COMPUTER, Inc. , 2005-Present