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LAN disaster recovery solutions you may already have

LAN disaster recovery solutions can be costly, but you may already have the right technology in-house for backup and recovery.

LAN disaster recovery solutions are an important strategy for protecting LAN investments, providing technology and step-by-step procedures to recover, restart, test and return networks to normal production status.

These solutions can be a costly investment, but many organizations have network assets already in place that could serve as part of a LAN disaster recovery program.

Traditional LAN disaster recovery strategies include backup power systems to keep servers and network devices operating in a power outage; supplies of spare components such as routers and switches to replace damaged units; and supplies of cable and connectors to replace damaged infrastructures. 

The following network assets, which are additional to the LAN, can be used in place of creating these backup systems in some scenarios.

Virtual Private Networks. If your organization uses a virtual private network (VPN), it may serve as an alternate to your premise-based LANs, provided you can get Internet access without using the original LAN. In that case you can continue to provide even campus-based access depending on the LAN.

Wireless Local Area Network. If your wired LAN is disabled but power remains, and an existing wireless LAN is available, you may be able to use that resource to bypass the wired LAN and obtain Internet access for users. If the wireless LAN (WLAN) currently does not connect to the Internet, you may need to reconfigure it accordingly. Ensure that security provisions such as firewalls are provided.  If power is out but your WLAN has backup power, or can run on an externally provided power source (e.g., a diesel or propane gas generator), you may still be able to use it as a LAN backup.

Cloud-based network services. A cloud-based data network may be a cost-effective short- and possibly long-term LAN disaster recovery solution option. Check service offerings from several firms and compare prices and security features. Access to cloud-based network services typically depends on the Internet, so you must have a way to secure Internet access to leverage this option. If there is a connection, users access the cloud provider using a designated URL, entering an ID and password (or other security arrangement) and establishing a secure connection in accordance with the service provider's security provisions. Once logged in, users can have the equivalent of LAN bandwidth to perform their regular activities, provided those other assets (e.g., applications, data storage, access to email servers) are readily accessible.

Voice over IP system. In voice over IP (VoIP) technology, voice and data are truly integrated in the same network. Since VoIP systems often use existing LANs, this option may not work if the premises-based LAN infrastructure has been damaged.  (This could also mean that your VoIP system's disaster recovery plan will need to be activated.)  However, if parts of the existing LAN infrastructure still work, it may be possible to connect devices via RJ45 connectors built into VoIP phones. This is likely to be a short-term option and also depends on uninterrupted connectivity to the Internet from the VoIP system. To minimize the cost of building a separate VoIP physical infrastructure, network managers often assign VoIP traffic to a subnet within a corporate LAN infrastructure. If the physical LAN infrastructure is undamaged, this approach can work as part of a disaster recovery strategy. It may be possible to use existing private branch exchange (PBX) wiring infrastructures as an alternate physical LAN, but if the cabling is older than Category 5, 6 or 6e, this resource should not be used.

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If some or all of these options make sense, the next step is to see whether existing networks need additional components, such as gateways, in order to provide alternate network access points. Also, discuss disaster recovery options with the vendors for these specific systems and contact your internet service providers and WAN carriers to see what suggestions they offer.

While you're doing this, remember that the same strategies may be used to expand disaster recovery for all existing networks. This way, you may be able to achieve a higher level of network resilience while protecting your existing network investments.

About the author
Paul Kirvan, CISA, FBCI, has more than 24 years of experience in business continuity management (BCM) as a consultant, author and educator. He has completed dozens of BCM consulting and audit engagements that address all aspects of a business continuity management system and which are aligned with global standards, including BS 25999 and ISO 22301. Kirvan currently works as an independent business continuity consultant/auditor and is secretary of the Business Continuity Institute USA chapter and member of the BCI Global Membership Council. He can be reached at atpkirvan@msn.com.

This was last published in December 2012

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