There is no shortage of solutions available to ensure minimal disruption if a server fails or you have to recover from a cyber attack. Servers do not prevent data loss A standard x86-based server typically stores data on RAID (Redundant Arrays of Independent Disks) storage devices. The capabilities of x86 servers range from vendor to vendor and support a variety of operating systems and processors. However, a standard x86 server may have only basic backup, data-replication, and failover procedures in place, which means it would be susceptible to catastrophic server failures. A standard server is not designed to prevent downtime or data loss. In the event of a crash, the server stops all processing and users lose access to their applications and information, so data loss is likely. Standard servers do not provide protection for data in transit, which means if the server goes down, this data is also lost. Though a standard x86 server does not come from its vendor as highly available, there is always the option to add availability software following initial deployment and installation. Automatic take-overs with server clusters Traditional high-availability solutions which can bring a system back up quickly are typically based on server clustering: Two or more servers that are running with the same configuration and are connected with cluster software to keep the application data updated on both/all servers.Standard servers do not provide protection for data in transit, which means if the server goes down, this data is also lost Servers (nodes) in a high-availability cluster communicate with each other by continually checking for a heartbeat which confirms other servers in the cluster are up and running. If a server fails, another server in the cluster, designated as the failover server, will automatically take over, ideally with minimal disruption to users. Computers in a cluster are connected by a local area network (LAN) or a wide area network (WAN) and are managed by cluster software. Failover clusters require a storage area network (SAN) to provide the shared access to data required to enable failover capabilities. This means that dedicated shared storage or redundant connections to the corporate SAN, are also necessary. Continuous administrative oversight While high-availability clusters improve availability, their effectiveness is highly dependent on the skills of specialised IT personnel. Clusters can be complex and time-consuming to deploy and they require programming, testing, and continuous administrative oversight. As a result, the total cost of ownership is often high. It is also important to note that downtime is not eliminated with high-availability clusters. In the event of a server failure, all users who are currently connected to that server lose their connections. Therefore, data not yet written to the database is lost. Fault-tolerant solutions are also referred to as continuous availability solutions. A fault-tolerant server provides the highest availability because it has system component redundancy with no single point of failure. This means that end users never experience an interruption in server availability because downtime is pre-empted. 67% of best-in-class organisations use fault-tolerant servers to provide high availability to at least some of their most critical applications. Fault tolerance is achieved in a server by having a second set of completely redundant hardware components in the system architecture. The server’s software automatically synchronises the replicated components, executing all processing in lockstep so that “in flight” data is always protected.The two sets of CPUs, RAM, motherboards, and power supplies are all processing the same information at the same time The two sets of CPUs, RAM, motherboards, and power supplies are all processing the same information at the same time. Therefore if one component fails, its companion component is already there and running, and the system keeps functioning. Built-In Software Technology Fault-tolerant servers also have built-in, fail-safe software technology that detects, isolates, and corrects system problems before they cause downtime. This means that the operating system, middleware, and application software are protected from errors. In-memory data is also constantly protected and maintained. A fault-tolerant server is managed exactly like a standard server, making the system easy to install, use, and maintain. No software modifications or special configurations are necessary and the sophisticated back-end technology runs in the background, invisible to anyone administering the system. In business environments where downtime needs to be minimised to the absolute minimum, ensuring you have fault tolerant systems will provide you with peace of mind that crucial data is not lost. This information was provided by Duncan Cooke.
One of the reasons there has been significant growth over recent years in the deployment of enterprise level access control systems is that advances in technology have enabled the delivery of significant benefits over and above just providing access control to a building. As a result, in addition to security managers being responsible for the security of people, property and assets, there is likely to be a number of other stakeholders involved in the decision to justify and fund the installation of an access control system. These could include but are not limited to, health & safety, operations and human resources management. Compliance A key word likely to be continuously on the lips of these stakeholders is ‘compliance’, as failure to comply with government regulations or local laws could have serious consequences for organisations that have a duty of care to the general public. An inspector’s visit to a food processing plant, for example, could prove costly and may even result in temporary closure unless it can be verified that everyone working at the plant has undertaken appropriate training and has a valid hygiene certification. The same smart access control cards which facilitate staff access through an entrance to a building, may also be configured through integration of the various systems to produce a report of all those whose hygiene certificates are due to be renewed. The weak link In this and many other scenarios, the hardware and software elements of an access control system need to be working effectively 24/7/365. The weak link will most likely be the server that the various software applications are operating upon. Unfortunately, even a well-designed and maintained system is still vulnerable to downtime as server manufacturers cannot provide a 100% guarantee that there will not be a component failure at some point. Furthermore, it is important to remember the potential impact of a cyber attack upon the associated software applications too. Knowing your options Data backups and restores: Having basic backup, data-replication, and failover procedures in place is perhaps the most basic approach to server availability. This will help speed the restoration of an application and help preserve data following a server failure. However, if backups are only occurring daily, significant amounts of data may be lost. At best, this approach delivers approximately 99% availability. This sounds good, but consider that it equates to an average of 87.5 hours of downtime per year, or more than 90 minutes of unplanned downtime per week. Having basic backup, data-replication, and failover procedures in place is perhaps the most basic approach to server availability High availability (HA): HA includes both hardware-based and software-based approaches to reducing downtime. HA clusters are systems combining two or more servers running with an identical configuration, using software to keep application data synchronised on all servers. When one fails, another server in the cluster takes over, ideally with little or no disruption. However, HA clusters can be complex to deploy and manage, and you will need to license software on all cluster servers, increasing costs. HA software HA software, on the other hand, is designed to detect evolving problems proactively and prevent downtime. It uses predictive analytics to automatically identify, report and handle faults before they cause an outage. The continuous monitoring that this software offers is an advantage over the cluster approach, which only responds after a failure has occurred. Moreover, as a software-based solution, it runs on low-cost commodity hardware. HA generally provides from 99.9% to 99.99% uptime. On average, this means from 52 minutes to 4.5 hours of downtime per year, which is significantly better than basic backup strategies. Maximum uptime Continuous availability solutions are able to deliver 99.999% uptime; this is the equivalent to just five minutes of downtime per year. Supported by specialist continuous availability software, two servers are linked and continuously synchronised via a virtualisation platform that pairs protected virtual machines together to create a single operating environment. If one physical machine should fail, the application or software platform will continue to run on the other physical machine without any interruptions. In-progress alarms and access control events, as well as data in memory and cache, are preserved. Continuous availability means that no single point of failure can stop a security software platform from running and unlike high availability, back-up and clustering solutions, there is no failover or reboot required and therefore absolute minimal downtime. In a business environment where non-compliance can have serious consequences, adding a continuous availability solution to support an existing or new access control system would seem to be one of the easiest decisions to make.
Stratus Technologies, Inc., the provider of continuous availability solutions, has launched a new resources area in support of the increasing number of security professionals who are choosing to specify the company’s software solution, everRun Enterprise. Dedicated area with all information “At Stratus, we are committed to providing unbeatable pre- and post-sales support. Our aim in creating this dedicated area within the electronic security section of the website is to provide consultants, physical security system designers and other third-party influencers with all the information they might need to recommend or specify everRun Enterprise, including A&E specifications,” said Duncan Cooke, Business Development Manager for the Electronic Security channel. “In a fast-moving technological world, we recognise the importance of keeping consultants up to date on innovations introduced in any new versions of our continuous availability technology. We are therefore also providing an opportunity to register to participate in social media discussions and receive future updates and newsletters.” Continuous availability Heightened security awareness has meant that more than ever it is crucial for access control, building management, fire, intruder alarm, perimeter protection, video management and PSIM systems to be fully operational around the clock. everRun Enterprise, is designed to provide peace of mind by ensuring that all security software platforms are continuously available 24/7/365 to protect property and assets. Unlike high availability, back-up and clustering solutions, there is no failover or reboot required which means downtime is eliminated. Compliance “The key to everRun’s success is that it is quick and simple to install as no application, software or server modifications are needed,” said Duncan Cooke. “In addition to security applications, there are many examples of where everRun Enterprise has been deployed to ensure that day-to-day operational activities are not disrupted by compliance issues and/or the ability to adhere to Health and Safety policies.”
As part of a strategic plan to focus and invest in the Electronic Security market, Stratus Technologies Inc., the provider of continuous availability solutions, has appointed Duncan Cooke as Business Development Manager, UK, and Europe. Duncan will be working closely with system integrators, technology partners, consultants and end-users operating within the Electronic Security market to identify new sales opportunities for the Stratus continuous availability software solution, everRun Enterprise. He will also be looking to build strategic alliances with companies offering mission critical applications to ensure end-users are aware that the risk of downtime can be negated. Previous experience With a career within the Electronic Security Industry which spans 28 years, Duncan has held senior sales management positions for several industry leading companies, including Arecont Vision, HID Global, G4S Technology and Johnson Controls. Commenting on his appointment, Duncan said: “I am excited to have the opportunity to drive Stratus’ business development activities in the UK and mainland Europe. Heightened security awareness has meant that more than ever it is crucial for Access Control, Building Management, Fire, Intruder Alarm, Perimeter Protection, Video Management and PSIM systems to be effective around the clock.” “Unlike high availability, back-up, and clustering solutions, I believe everRun Enterprise will increasingly attract the attention of manufacturers of electronic security solutions and system integrators as the impact and consequences of downtime are fully realised. With no application, software or server modifications needed, and with no failover or reboot required - everRun Enterprise is a highly effective continuous availability solution offering end-users absolute ‘peace of mind’ for their critical security applications.”