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The How-To on Taking the Pain Out of Disaster Recovery

October 24, 2013

Plan, test, update, test again. At its most basic, this simple formula is the road to disaster recovery. Yet, so many businesses do not plan. The smaller the business, the less likely it is to be prepared for disaster, localized or widespread. Of all the businesses that close following a disaster more than 25% never reopen their doors, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

I know what you’re thinking. Devoting resources to anticipate and prepare for what might happen redirects them away from attending to what is happening right now. It’s easy to procrastinate. Yet, a company’s reliance on critical systems is ever-expanding, as is system size and complexity. The good news is that disaster recovery options – technologies, products and services – available to businesses continue to grow, too. Not coincidently, so do the number and frequency of disaster events making news headlines around the world.

If you don’t have a DR plan, start now. If you do, review, update and test it. You needn’t go it alone; tap into qualified outside expertise. Remember that quality is not necessarily expensive. But, disasters are.

Here are a few things to consider:

See the big picture. Data back-up and recovery is only part of a disaster recovery plan. You may also need phone systems and internet connection back-ups using multiple providers. Consider how and where employees will work should the main office be inaccessible for an extended period. Will there be adequate office supplies and equipment. How will they know what to do and where to go? Plan for the possibility that your suppliers will have problems of their own, and line up alternates in other locations.

Depending on the situation, getting to work may not be your employees’ first priority. Assuming all essential personnel will be available to implement the DR plan will surely spell failure; cross-training staff and identifying alternates may save the day.

Inventory and prioritize. When it comes to running your business, not all systems, data and applications are created equal. Some applications you simply can’t live without; these need to be up and running before all others, so their recovery time objective is more urgent.  You may need immediate access to some data, but waiting 24 or 48 hours for other data may be just fine. Ensure that proper levels of data security will be maintained at all times.

This fine-tuning will not only help speed your return to normal operations. It can help you be more cost-effective by using more affordable storage methods for ordinary data and faster, more secure and flexible storage options for critical data. Cold stand-by systems cost less but delay recovery. Hot sites, which are already up and running when disaster occurs, get you back on business faster but have associated operating, maintenance and monitoring costs. Hot or cold, remember to maintain and upgrade stand-by systems as you do with your production systems.

A side benefit of all this is knowing how many applications you have, where they are, who uses them for what, and are they being used to their fullest potential for driving your business success. Or, should some be trashed.

Maintain and Test. Your DR plan is only as good as the last time you tested it. Big changes can happen in business in six months or 12. Acquisitions get made, databases grow, technology refreshes and upgrades happen, new leadership comes in, or a new line of business opens up with applications to support it. The plan and your back-up systems must be as dynamic as your company. If you’ve outsourced all or portions of your DR plan, be sure the capabilities of your provider remain current with your requirements.

Keep as many employees in the know as possible: what is the plan and where is the plan (keep copies in several locations)? Who are the first-level go-to people and the next level? Have people left the company, been promoted or reassigned? Is contact information correct, can they be reach in more than one way?

No time like the present. Clearly, there is a lot to think about. Not everything needs to be done at once, however. Knowing what is most important for the continuation of your business and taking care of that first is a good step forward. Here is a checklist to help your evaluate your DR readiness and where to focus attention.

This is a process, not an event. While you might not want to do everything at once, look for solutions that are deliver what you need now and can grow with you. Find service providers with a range of solutions that adapt to your needs instead of you fitting into what they have on the shelf. This is your business we’re talking about here; work with people who want you to succeed as much as you do.

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About Peak 10

"Our values are the foundation for everything we do at Peak 10, and are ultimately what enable us to earn our customers' business and their trust."
David H. Jones,
Board Member, Peak 10 + ViaWest