By Andrew Mametz
One of the most talked about—but least implemented initiatives—concerning information technology (IT) infrastructure is the design and execution of a disaster recovery (DR) plan. Whether man-made or natural, disasters of all shapes and sizes represent costly disruptions to business practices.
Fortunately, their long-term effects can be diminished with a well prepared DR plan. An especially crucial business tool in today’s increasingly electronic world, a DR plan enables you to coordinate people and resources to mitigate downtime or any other interruption to services and operations in the event of a disaster.
Why a DR plan?
A University of Texas study revealed that half of the companies that lose their data through disaster never re-open, and of those who do re-open, 90% will be forced out of business within two years. That’s a compelling reason to prepare a plan now.
Disasters—such as hurricanes and tornadoes—are inevitable and can strike at any time. When it comes to anticipating such an event, expect the unexpected. Natural disasters may churn up conversations about DR, but statistics show that adverse situations resulting from simple human error or technical failure are far more likely to take place. These events can result in a crisis that is just as great a threat to your business’ mission-critical data.
A DR plan offers a proactive solution for times of instability. Having a DR plan creates flexibility within your organization since it requires identifying alternatives for resources, strategies, and solutions. A good plan is one that has been tested over and over to ensure effectiveness. Its success depends on high level of collaboration, initiative and ingenuity.
To calculate the true cost of downtime to your company, perform a risk assessment. This will show you the value of a DR plan, and it will help you determine your business’ level of disaster preparedness and identify potential areas for improvement.
Designing a replication strategy
Companies that have ever experienced any type of downtime recognize that having data backed up at a secondary site is a powerful form of defense against data loss. Offsite data backup at a secondary site is vital, but is only a one piece of the puzzle.
A full replication strategy includes planning for how you will restore your data from the secondary site to the workplace after the crisis has concluded. In order to enjoy such a complete business continuity solution, consider these steps:
- Design a current, written, and tested DR plan;
- Inform hardware, software, facilities, and service vendors of the plan and their expected roles at that time;
- Back up data on a regular basis at a geographically remote, hardened data center;
- Have a firewall and virus protection in place monitored regularly by expert engineers.
Data center networking
Simply storing your mission-critical data at a secure data center represents a large step toward avoiding the ill effects of disaster. A world-class facility is capable of providing IT infrastructure and resources that many companies are unable to duplicate in-house. Selecting the right data center partner is an important consideration because it can provide facility integrity, connectivity, and even technical support that is crucial for disaster preparedness.
When considering a data center partner, consider these questions:
- Does the data center monitors conditions such as temperature and humidity?
- Does it ensure you have fully conditioned power to all of your hardware and redundant power with a UPS and generator?
- Does it test critical systems regularly and perform scheduled maintenance frequently?
- Does it have multiple connections to a network service provider and multiple Internet Service Providers (ISPs)?
The data recovery team
Perhaps the most overlooked and underrated aspect of a successful DR plan is the people in your company. During a crisis, the typical volume of calls and transactions increases threefold. Employees who can approach a disaster with preset expectations will be more likely to handle the situation with flexibility and composure. Their positive energy and attitudes will go a long way toward helping your company to recover as quickly and efficiently as possible.
To successfully prepare personnel for disaster, consider the following:
- Design a DR plan with your employees in mind, making sure that roles are clearly outlined and communicated;
- Assign a designated recovery site for your people and determine whether or not staff members would be willing to relocate;
- Test your DR plan to ensure that all initiatives and expectations are clear;
- Provide each staff member with a clearly documented version of the written DR plan for reference.
The Best defense: A good offense
Being prepared in advance makes a world of difference when it comes to managing your business in the face of disaster. Having a DR plan will keep your IT infrastructure from being compromised and your company up and running. It is essential to design a plan that is appropriately tailored to your company and leverages the best methodology for your business and type of data. Pre-consideration of your company’s priorities and best practices allows for clear, logical thinking when disaster does strike. Proactive measures like these will allow you to implement the best solution when it comes to avoiding business interruption caused by disaster.