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Issue of December 2005 
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Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity

The factory as a fortress

Manufacturing has been one of the first verticals to adopt enterprise applications such as ERP and SCM. Naturally, disaster recovery and business continuity are top priorities on the sector’s agenda. That is why most manufacturers have started to invest heavily in DR/BC plans, says Sneha Khanna

If business continuity planning is a buzzword in the manufacturing sector, it’s largely because many of the forerunners in this field have burnt their fingers in earlier run-ins with disaster.

It is interesting to note that many manufacturers have learned from their bitter experiences and used those lessons effectively. Here we take a look at some of the companies like BPCL, HLL, Godrej Industries and Hindustan Lever which have put comprehensive DR/BC strategies in place to protect their operations.

Mani Mulki

Here we examine case 1, and Mani Mulki of Godrej Industries discusses the DR/BC strategies which helped the organisation survive even as many of its locations in Mumbai were flooded on July 26, 2005.

BC: More Than IT

The organisation’s business continuity plan is divided into two parts. The first part looks at the non-technical side of business continuity such as suppliers and distributors. For example, Godrej’s business depends on suppliers who provide vital ingredients for its business. The BCP involved here is to find alternatives in case the supplier says that it does not want to work with the company anymore, or if it goes out of business. In that case, other suppliers are identified and materials are sourced from them after checking whether they match the company’s quality specifications.

The other part of BCP is technology-related. Here, all the major processes or areas critical to the company’s day-to-day operations (such as logistics, supply of key items, IT and despatches) are included in the DR set-up. This is critical since their disruption can bring the business to its knees.

Reliance Data Centre

Billing takes place all over the country at Godrej. To avoid the scenario of billing not being possible from a particular Carry and Forwarding Agent (CFA) who has been affected, backups are done on a daily basis. For this, an authorised person takes the call that billing is affected and that it must be done from another location. The alternative procedure entails an elaborate recovery plan. This plan first identifies the disaster levels and then guides the emergency alternative procedures. Godrej uses the Reliance data centre in Navi Mumbai for backups.

Dedicated Group

A joint team consisting of personnel from corporate audit, assurance and IT looks after DR. The team visits locations, creates awareness and conducts educational sessions to inform staff of the risks involved. Topics covered include vulnerable areas, how certain processes run in times of disaster, their criticality, and their impact on the business.

The team disseminates the Standard Operating Procedures to be implemented (in case of a disaster) as laid down by the company. Some of the areas covered include how to take a call and whether there is an alternative emergency procedure which should be adopted. There is an elaborate recovery plan which firstly identifies the disaster levels. Emergency personnel are also trained in how to return to normalcy when the disaster abates.

“So the moment a disaster strikes, there is a champion who is nominated by the SOP to take a call and identify the disaster, and put emergency plans into action as per the intensity of the disaster,” explains Mulki.

Annual Tests

Mock tests are conducted on a yearly basis. This includes two types of mock tests.

The first is the informed mock test where a site is informed that there are going to be DRP drills on a specified date. This is done by a team consisting of the corporate audit and IT departments. The team goes to a particular location and brings the required infrastructure to a standstill. This helps them see the emergency procedures in place to ensure that business operation does not come to a halt. All this is reviewed and a report is prepared.

The other is a surprise mock test where the team goes unannounced to a particular location and conducts drills to see how they are managing. There is a periodical summary report which goes to the business head.

Managing Risks

For identifying potential threats, an evolved and detailed risk management assessment is done regularly. The processes and stringency depends on the risk involved. Mulki says that risk assessment was performed before the DR plan was prepared.

At present Godrej has a warm site. It has operations at 45 locations. These locations send back a database instance to the servers hosted at the Reliance data centre at the end of each day; this ensures that data is replicated. Backups of the ERP database for a particular location are preserved at another location on a weekly basis.

26/7 Management

The most important part of Godrej's business is goods shipment. This was not affected as Godrej's key processes were hosted at the Reliance data centre which was safe from flooding

The most important part of Godrej’s business is goods shipment. This was not affected as Godrej’s key processes were hosted at the Reliance data centre which was safe from flooding. So even when the land was flooded, the data was accessible to users.

Since the Internet was working, people could still take stock of the situation and give instructions. Even though Godrej’s warehouses and CFAs located in Bombay were flooded, it was still possible to make decisions as the data was stored in the central server which was accessible from anywhere. Business operations continued without a hitch while many other organisations stopped functioning.


BPCL’s 2+1 plan

M D Agrawal, Chief Manager, IS, Refinery System, BPCL, explains the DR/BC strategies followed at their Mahul refinery

On the technology front, we are using a strategy of two-plus-one i.e. having a data centre within the refinery itself, a secondary data centre, and storing backups at a remote site.

BPCL has divided its servers into two categories—critical and non-critical. There are 47 servers out of which 20 are critical. If a critical server goes down it is switched over at the backup.

Multiple Levels

Backup at BPCL is divided into two parts—at the site and at a remote site. So if a primary server is down at the site, users are handed over to a secondary server. If this one also is down, data is accessed from a remote site.

While non-critical applications are given varying levels of priority, critical ones are hosted at the primary data centre. BPCL has its corporate data centre at the company’s Ballard Estate (in Mumbai) site. “At BPCL we have a centralised backup system, and daily backups are taken—incremental as well as full,” says Agrawal. BPCL is in the process of implementing COBIT practices to improve its operational efficiencies.

At the corporate level there is a DR site. For their mission-critical ERP, BPCL has a corporate data site at Noida. “BPCL has 100 percent redundancy in the campus network through the use of VLAN. Base network segment technology is used along with Layer 3 switching for the terrestrial network,” informs Agrawal.

Power Of The Mesh

The oil major relies on mesh networks for higher redundancy. For example, if the terrestrial network is down, the wireless network (VSAT and radio links) takes over.

The organisation relies on leased lines for primary connectivity. In areas where there are no leased lines, the primary link is VSAT with a radio link as the backup for each leased line.

BPCL’s Mahul refinery at Mumbai has four-way connections for link redundancy. One is through leased lines (4 Mbps). When these lines are down, BPCL switches over to radio links (1 Mbps). If the radio links are also down, ISDN steps into the breach.

Microsoft stretch cluster and replication software are utilised. Storage consolidation is achieved by means of SANs located at two data centres. Each SAN is connected to a server cluster.

Management Plan

The company has laid down procedures for various disaster scenarios which decide the plan of action. For example, there are clearly laid down procedures for situations ranging from when one server goes down or when the entire set-up fails.

The refinery’s departments take care of electrical and AC maintenance. At the data centre there is a backup electricity supply. For AC and electricity, BPCL conducts annual checks. Reviews are also regularly undertaken with well-defined procedures on a departmental basis. BPCL conducts dry runs (for testing individual servers) every three to six months.

There are clearly defined documents that detail handling of a disaster. BPCL conducts mock drills once a year. In this the site’s electric supply is brought down and operations are run from the secondary site. Departmental meetings with the staff are held once in two months. A risk management study is conducted every three years.

The 26/7 Story

BPCL found itself lucky during the Mumbai floods as there was not much flooding at its corporate office in Mumbai. The organisation’s network and IT systems were not affected in any manner.


The HLL saga

S Narayanan, Corporate Information Security Manager, Hindustan Lever, on the DR/BC strategies that keep the FMCG giant on the move—always

Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL) is a good example of how technical DR mechanisms and effective BC policies can power an organisation in tough times. According to S Narayanan, the company’s Corporate Information Security Manager, this has been a result of years of effort and leveraging on the lessons learnt from its many experiences with disasters over the years.

It has three outsourced data centres at Mumbai, Bangalore, and Gurgaon. The Mumbai and Bangalore data centres are hosted with Reliance Infocomm.

Tough Lessons

The organisation used to have a decentralised DRP before a series of disasters led it to consider the need for a centralised architecture. Till this point of time each of the units did its own DRP.

Earlier, HLL had hot sites at four metros with each unit doing its own DRP testing. Even at that time, it conducted yearly IT operational risk assessments. After the disasters that befell it, the company moved to a centralised set-up.

Classification of servers is done based on the business criticality. Support tools are also in place for DRP monitoring.

DRP Architecture

Earlier, HLL had a decentralised DRP architecture. It has since shifted to a centralised approach. DRP is done from the unit level to the three data centres at Bangalore, Gurgaon and Mumbai. “We can respond to any disaster situation within 15 minutes,” states Narayanan.

He says that the use of centralised communication links has made DRP more reliable. These consist of the VSAT network from HECL with Gurgaon as the first hub connecting around 180 locations. The network also consists of terrestrial links (about 90) across the country backed by ISDN links to cover Indian offices. Network redundancy is achieved through triangulation.

HLL’s application-level DRP strategy is to have the application hosted in not less than two cities. Some critical servers are hosted at HECL, Gurgaon, since the transaction speed is faster. There is one live location and one DR location. DR strategies for all critical applications are in place. Incremental backups are performed at specified frequencies. The risk management is done internally at Bangalore.

Policy Matters

Emergency response procedures for DR are in place. Procedures are defined for different categories of disasters. The organisation decides on suitable DR/BC policies based on the risks involved.

This is followed by periodic education and audits. Auditing, monitoring and compliance reviews are done every quarter, as is ongoing compliance-monitoring. Reports are generated for DRP monitoring.

User training is also done on a periodic basis. “We educate everybody in the organisation. Periodic tests are held, feedback taken, and corrections done,” says Narayanan.

khannasneha@networkmagazineindia.com

 
     
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