Disaster Recovery: Plan for Recovery, Not for Disaster

So many elements to business IT operations -- so many elements that can get sliced, diced, slammed, flooded, flamed, hacked, attacked, smashed and just plain hammered that your disaster recovery plan has to be universal to be effective.
So many elements to business IT operations -- so many elements that can get sliced, diced, slammed, flooded, flamed, hacked, attacked, smashed and just plain hammered that your disaster recovery plan has to be universal to be effective.Disaster takes many forms -- one region faces floods while wildfires threaten another. Power outages can happen anywhere. For that matter, there's the built-in disaster-potential that's everywhere: according to some experts, 80 percent of IT outages are caused by human error.

In such an environment, a business operating without a detailed and broad disaster recovery plan is, well, a disaster waiting for a disaster to happen.

And that's an important part of the point: your disaster recovery plan needs to be able to respond to any disaster, no matter what its cause.

Clearly, localized or regionalized natural disasters present physical challenges -- and trauma -- that add an order of recovery magnitude to a purely digital catastrophe. Take a look at the IT lessons from Katrina to get a sense of how damage to the larger infrastructure can affect your specific recovery operations.

But just as clearly, an effective, comprehensive disaster recovery plan will have you ready for anything. Which means you have to plan for everything:

Triage time: What materials, information, records do you have to have to keep your business running? Know this, make sure your employees know this, and have these materials targeted for first recovery, with bells, whistles and "it would be easier ifs" deferred until the immediate crisis has been contained.

Backups: How they are accomplished and where they reside is as important as how often your information is saved. Whether you perform manual backups or use a remote software service, your duplicate information should be secure from even a widespread natural disaster, and accessible as soon as your business is able to get back online.

Personal knowledge: Key personnel are as critical as key data. Who can your business not do without -- and who's ready to take their place in the event that you have to do without then?

Physical recovery: In a Katrina-sized disaster your business will be in the same boat (as it were) as thousands of others. But suppose you're facing the most local of physical disasters -- a fire, say, that guts your facility. How quickly can you put together the necessary IT and communications gear you need to get the business going again? Check, by the way, with your insurance carrier to make sure that a) your policy covers IT/telecomm equipment replacement and b) whether or not a detailed disaster recovery plan qualifies you for a discount on your premium.

Remote readiness: What goes for the home office goes double for remote employees and facilities. Not only must each remote worker and site be ready to recover from a disaster restricted to their location, they should also be prepared to carry extra IT weight should your central operations go down.

Rehearsed and ready: Just like fire drills when we were schoolkids, rehearsals for disaster and disaster recovery are an essential part of a disaster recovery plan

Bigger picture preparedness: Your infrastructure, preparedness and employees can play a crucial part in the larger first responder and civic response to a natural disaster. Check with local officials and organizations to see if there are specific roles you, your business and its resources can play in the event of a large disaster. (And while you're at it, coordinate with local responder organization to design and practice a physical safety/evacuation program for your employees.)

Business continuity is among the largest of responsibilities -- and challenges. Planning in depth and detail for that continuity, for staged recovery that moves from employee (and local community) safety to essential information restoration and customer/client notification, to basic business services to broader and broader operational revival is as vital to your "normal" day-to-day functioning as anything you do.

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Kirsten Powell, Senior Manager for Security & Risk Management at Adobe
Joshua Goldfarb, Director of Product Management at F5