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What is "Disaster Recovery"?

Disaster Recovery is essentially a backup plan, something to say "if things go horribly wrong, this is what we will do to recover from that incident". This could be a range of things, from storing file backups, storing money in case you need it when the going gets tough, or having a solid plan to get you back on track if things don't go to plan. Eveything to do with disaster recovery has one key thing in common: you hope you never need to use this plan, but if you do have to use it - it should get you back in the game quickly and with minimal disruption.

Disaster Recovery in IT

Almost every company has a disaster recovery plan - if you don't have one, you're practically treading on ice hoping for the best outcome, when it could all go wrong in the matter of seconds.
IT is the biggest sector in the industry by far, almost everything you do requires some sort of interaction with a computer.
The good news is that backups are possible - what does this mean? Not only does it mean that you are protecting yourself from data loss, it also means that you can recover computer systems - even if they completely break down.
The "Disaster Recovery" project is all about exploring ways in which disaster recovery is possible, one of the main areas of disaster recovery Access Remote focused in on was OS recovery over WAN - the type of recovery for your computer, to restore your files, applications and operating system back to how it was before a disaster even occured. For those who don't know, WAN stands for Wide Area Network, what most people refer to as "the internet".

More on the project...

Birmingham City University provided us with Cisco routers and switches, ethernet cables, 2 desktop computers and of course, a place to work in the lab environment.
Microsoft Azure for Education provided us with the Operating Systems Windows Server 2016 Standard and Windows 10 Pro.
Finally, a team consisting of Reece McCaskill, Adam Jones and Zara Sheikh attempted to put the peices together to complete the experiment.
Our goal was to create a disaster recovery environment over a Wide Area Network, so a business could recover from an Operating System failure.
Scroll down for more information on this project!

  • Network Topology - We started Disaster Recovery by setting up 3 Cisco Routers. Router 1 wan, router 2 was ISP and router 3 was - all these routers were used. ISP had PPPoE authentication so as could receive a dynamic IP address for its public interface, this comes in useful when accessing the internet and also mimics real-world environments (such as your home router) when connecting you your ISP. Our server and dummy PC was both on the router.
  • Setting up remote access - To take full advantage of our network, we decided to setup SSH connectivity, so we can configure all of our routers from a single workstation - this way, we didn't have to mess around with console cables. If we wanted to change a configuration, we could do this with a few clicks - this helped speed the configuration process up dramatically.
  • Set up - In order to get the ball rolling with this project, we needed our server to be a domain controller for - after all, we are trying to mimic a real-world scenario. We installed and setup Active Directory and moved onto the process of installing Windows 10 ADK - this allowed us to put the basics in place for use later on...
  • Preparing Network Recovery - Once Windows 10 ADK was installed, it was time to setup our dummy PC by installing Windows 10 Pro and appropiate software (such as Notepad++ and FL Studio). Once installed, we head back to our server and install Microsoft Deployment Toolkit. This works along-side the Windows 10 ADK so we can customise the image or capture process of the operating system on any target PC. In this case, we wanted to capture the image on the dummy PC.
  • Deploying the custom image - Once our image was captured, it was time to deploy this image on the local area network (this was just for testing purposes). The deployment was successful in this instance!
  • Deploying image over the internet - Unfortunately, no matter what we tried, we couldn't get our server to provide access to the recovery environment over the wide area network ("the internet"). We tried setting up a VPN to the remote network but again, failed to gain access to the network recovery environment.

Overall, this was a fun experiment which lasted over 5 days (including the setup of the routers, server, dummy PC and working on a schedule around lecture timeslots). We didn't accomplish our goals, but that's not to say we won't try again in the future!

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