Use offseason to update IT disaster recovery plan


POSTED: Sunday, October 25, 2009

As we near the end of another hurricane season (knock on wood), it's a good time to review and update your disaster recovery plan. After all, it's the offseason when planning and preparation are best done.

A good disaster plan is pretty straightforward to put together and relatively inexpensive. Such a plan does more than just tell you what to do after a catastrophe. A good plan prepares you for the event. Depending on the type of business, the IT-related disaster recovery plan is part of a bigger business continuity plan.

Technically, any unplanned interruption of the normal course of business can be considered a disaster. There is no set formula to determining what qualifies as a disaster; each organization must make its own determination. One key factor is not to worry about all the potential things that could happen, but to focus on your ability to conduct business. What's it going to cost if you're down for a week? A day? An hour?

A disaster recovery plan includes an inventory of all of your computer systems and related components. For each item, what type of support and/or maintenance agreements are in place? How are the systems being backed up?

With the popularity of software-as-a-service (SaaS), such an inventory must also include any assets leased or rented from a third party. This is important to consider when entering into a SaaS agreement.

The plan must outline any time-critical business processes that are IT-dependent. Defining these processes helps to prioritize the recovery operations.

Risks ranging from simple to severe should be outlined. While most often we worry about severe risks like hurricanes and fires, we should also take care in pointing out seemingly less significant problems, such as short-term power failures, especially those that affect critical systems.

Now that we know what our critical systems are, and the types of risks we are facing, we can develop a list of recommendations to help reduce the risk of outages and create an environment where systems can be recovered should a disaster occur. Like all good technical documents, the disaster recovery plan must be updated on a regular basis.

An important component of the disaster recovery plan defines the procedures to follow in the event disaster strikes.

Like any other procedure, you should rehearse the recovery scenarios on a periodic basis. This is the only way to be sure that your recovery strategy is sound.


John Agsalud is the director of professional services, Pacific region, for Decision Research Corp. Reach him at 949-8316, ext. 171., or at john agsalud@ decisionresearch.com.