3 Business IT Disaster Recovery Plan Essentials

Disasters come in all sizes. Whether it’s a server crash, human error, a natural disaster, or an act of terror – how well your company weathers a disaster depends on how prepared you are. And that preparedness begins with a disaster recovery plan (DRP). Surprisingly, many companies aren’t thinking ahead. Citing the results of its survey in its 2014 annual report, the Disaster Recovery Preparedness Council notes that “more than 60% of those who took the survey do not have a fully documented DR plan.” But evidence indicates that proactively establishing a documented set of procedures will give you a greater chance to restore your IT infrastructure following a disaster.

So, As You’re Developing a Continuity Solution, Consider These Three IT Disaster Recovery Plan Essentials:

Continuity Requires Technology Investment 

Until recently, the investment in hardware, software, time, and expertise required to implement an effective DR strategy was something that only larger organizations could afford. The cloud has changed that. Today, affordable and effective data backup, remote storage and recovery, and business environment recovery capabilities are offered as-a-service (DRaaS) – opening up a whole new world of possibilities for SMBs in particular.

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Hosted solutions offer accessibility from anywhere and any device (a bonus for disasters that affect building accessibility), a failover plan for scheduled downtime, and naturally support the offsite backups. Drawbacks of the cloud often are driven by the wide variances in security, reliability, and customization among an overabundance of service providers. It’s important to shop around for one that can provide the capabilities and the service levels you need, and that is certified with credentials (such as SAS 70) that can serve as an indicator of service quality, security, and compliance.


Expert Management of Disaster Recovery Plans

To ensure that your DRP is in shape and in step with your changing data center environment and business needs, it needs a “human” touch and some nurturing. For example:

  • Ensure that ongoing changes to the data center environment are reflected in your DRP

  • Actively manage the plan to confirm the effectiveness of the recovery processes that are in place

o   e.g., check that ongoing data backups are happening and that information is being synced with your secondary systems
  • Regularly check the functionality and “fit” of your DRP in relation to your evolving business processes and IT environment to make sure the plan remains relevant

  • Test, test, test, and test again to make sure your plan actually works – before you need to rely on it

The Disaster Recovery Preparedness Council survey reveals that 23% of the participating organizations never test their DRP. Another 33% test their DRP only once or twice a year, and of those, more than 65% fail the test. Business continuity has less to do with the technology aspects and more to do with the user aspects of how information and applications can be accessed and utilized in an emergency – particularly for those users who likely are not as familiar with access to systems from outside of the office.

The ability of IT to switch over to a backup IT infrastructure – and provide reliable remote accessibility to systems and apps for employees – was critical to the continuation of business for the companies affected by recent events such as Hurricane Sandy. Therefore, the ongoing, proactive IT change process, management, and testing of DRPs as well as user awareness and training before the storm made a significant difference between a company’s ability to continue its business despite the conditions – or shut its doors as a result of this natural disaster. Which leads us into our final essential.


End-to-End Business Continuity Solutions

The business people in your company, as well as service providers and outside vendors – are critical to the ongoing support and ultimate implementation of your DRP should a disaster occur. Incorporating ongoing technical changes in your data center environment into your DRP should be straightforward – a process shift. As is true of so many aspects of the DR process, when a disaster hits, it’s too late to find out that a person with a key role in the contingency plan has left the company.

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