3 Things to Ask Yourself as You Work through Your Disaster Recovery Plan

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Be prepared; it’s a mantra that has been ingrained in us since grade school, and being prepared and having a plan for the unexpected is incredibly smart.  This is especially true for organizations.  In a world where technology is essential to operations, the sheer volume of data being gathered by organizations is astounding.  Some 2.5 quintillion bytes a day of data is accumulated worldwide!  Being prepared to lose critical systems and services is something every IT professional should be ready for. 

When disaster and disruption strikes, ensuring the necessary systems and information is available when you need it ought to be a top priority.  Any organization that has prepared a disaster recovery plan knows it is a complex and expensive process; and considering what needs to be covered, and to what extent, always opens a proverbial Pandora’s Box.  It is easy to become overwhelmed in the process. 

Starting with your business workflow, understanding the scope of your needs and goals is vital to laying the foundation of your plan. Once that plan is in place, you can start to consider the proper sequence for things to come back and why.  Knowing the “what” and then “why” leads to the “how”.  So what are the key questions to ask as you begin the arduous process of crafting your plan? 

What business systems need to be protected? 

Prioritizing which business systems are protected, and in what order, helps to narrow down the vital needs of the organization during disaster or outage.  Through identifying which systems need to be protected, you can get a better idea for the scale of recovery necessary, as well as what types of recovery options best fit for your goals.  You might also consider what type of encryption key management should be implemented for these systems, and if the active directory depends on access for the encrypted storage.  Also, take into account whether a management computer is needed to bring the network back up, and if the index and database for the backups is replicated, so it can be brought back before restoring from the backups can occur. 

What is the Recovery Point Objective (RPO) for each system? 

Having a clear picture of your RPO helps determine the maximum targeted period in which data might be lost.  This gives systems designers a limit to work to.  So, if the RPO is set to four hours, then in practice, off-site mirrored snapshots must be continuously maintained since a daily off-site backup will not suffice.  Knowing the cadence to which you want systems to run, goes a long ways towards programming and implementing the plan you want in place. 

What is the Recovery Time Objective (RTO) for each system? 

Deciding on the ideal targeted duration of time from which a business process must be restored after a disaster or disruption is another consideration mandatory in an effective disaster recovery plan. This should include time for trying to fix the problem, the recovery itself, testing, and of course, the required communication to the users affected.  Setting realistic expectations helps develop the procedures needed to achieve the desired result, while establishing the precedent should the recovery process need to be implemented. 

 

No one expects disaster or disruption to strike, so when it does happen it can be devastating.  Knowing you have a plan in place, when and if the time happens, offers piece of mind, organization in a potentially chaotic time, and can even save your organization a lot of time and money in the long run.  While it takes a little forethought and effort to plan ahead, it is well worth it when considering the larger picture of what disaster and disruption would look like should you have to respond on the fly.  Being prepared means being in control, and taking charge of your systems and being able to respond under pressure is what it is all about. 

Risky Business Continuity Planning Assumptions

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In a previous blog post we talked about several common misconceptions that companies have about their business continuity solutions that make their disaster recovery plans less effective. Those three misconceptions were:

  • Assuming employees can work from home. Not true since even employee homes could have damage and loss of access
  • Assuming the communication plan is fully fleshed out. It is important to remember all stakeholders in a disaster event and that includes employees, business partners and customers
  • Assuming the data backup solution will make restoring no problem. A one-size-fits-all solution is not the most effective way to backup your data. A better approach is to tier your data and applications by importance and look to a variety of data backup solutions that can help speed recovery of crucial pieces.

Today, let’s add to that list and talk about two other risky assumptions that are common with business continuity planning.

Risky Assumption #1 – My disaster recovery plan works because it is tested every year.

Unfortunately, a yearly test is not viable in today’s data center environments.  More data, the combination of physical and virtual infrastructures and fast changing applications mean that your periodic testing may not be in sync with your data center as it is at the present moment.  Also many times tests only occur for a subset of data and systems vs. full-scale testing. Testing can be expensive and time-consuming for most organizations. Cloud-based business continuity and disaster recovery solutions can be the key to gaining not only more comprehensive testing but also access to expertise and skills that your team may not have which could ultimately speed recovery when it is needed.

Risky Assumption #2 – The plan works because we successfully recovered our data and systems.

The initial recovery is one piece of a disaster recovery plan. A complete business continuity solution needs to also account for failover, or the process of returning operations back to the production environment.  This too challenges many data center teams because employees lack the expertise needed for seamless failover processes.

Create a more effective business continuity solution.

If these assumptions sound familiar to you, it may be time for you to sit down with a trusted IT partner to assess your business continuity and disaster recovery solution.  You may be surprised to learn about new technologies in disaster recovery, like cloud, that can bring you more protection and faster recovery.  Contact Evolving Solutions and let our team help you better protect your data.

Business Continuity Solutions – Common Misconceptions

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Most businesses are not in the “business” of disaster recovery and business continuity.  Your IT team is focused on your specific industry and customers and the IT solutions and systems that support your bottom line.  At the enterprise-level, IBM found that just a little over 6% of IT budgets are spent on disaster recovery and business continuity solutions.  Most companies of any size create a plan and test it periodically but that is it.  That sounds fine at first, but today’s challenges require that your business continuity solution and disaster recovery plan become ever-evolving and not a periodic item to be checked off the list.  Today when disaster strikes the risks are more than just a systems outage, there is also the risk of a breakdown in customer trust.

Here are three common misconceptions that IT teams often have about business continuity that reduce the effectiveness of their disaster recovery plans.

  • My employees can work from home in a disaster scenario. This is not always the case. In a weather event your employees may have damage at their own homes, loss of access to connect or even have had to evacuate from the local area.

 

  • My communication plan adequately covers employees and supply chain partners. You may have a detailed communication plan in place to talk to employees and business partners but what about your customers? Today’s disaster recovery plans need a fully fleshed out communication plan that covers all key stakeholders and takes into account the variety of channels available from phone and text to news media and social media channels.

 

  • My data is all backed up so restoring it will be no problem. Not so true.  It is great to have a data backup solution in place, but have you examined how that backup solution will work in relation to an actual disaster.   It may be necessary to tier your applications and data for importance vs. a one-size-fits approach.  Different data backup solutions can offer faster recovery of your most critical systems and data.

Working with a partner with disaster recovery expertise can help you design a business continuity solution that takes into account the right hardware – for both inside and outside of your data center -, including whether a cloud-based disaster recovery is right for your business. Evolving Solutions works with clients from the early assessment stage all the way through to planning and implementation. Contact us to learn more about how the right business continuity solution can help your business recover faster.

Stay tuned for our next blog post with more helpful information on disaster recovery and business continuity solutions.