The greater the role of technology in business operations, the higher the priority must be for the IT department to plan for the unexpected. Given that today’s organisations depend on IT to an unprecedented level, regular review and testing of the disaster recovery (DR) plan makes sense. But what should be on the plan?
Much comes down to how the business works, who are the clients, and what risks must be covered. Any plan must start with an outline of the business, and what is needed in order to function.
Roles and Responsibilities
It may sound obvious, but we have seen otherwise good plans that don’t outline who does what in an emergency. Tasks should be assigned, and backups named in case key personnel are on holiday when disaster strikes. Include external providers – one customer’s DR plan begins with ‘call TechPath’. Of course, make sure those consultants and IT partners know the plan and have a copy on their own premises.
People are your most valuable resource, and their safety must come before anything else. Equipment can be replaced, your people can’t.
The worst time to be making big decisions is during an emergency situation. Work with internal and external stakeholders to develop a priority list – you may be OK with losing some systems more than others. Decision factors here may include the communication methods preferred by your customers, the data you cannot live without for a while, and what you must recover soonest to be operational.
You need to determine when the plan is put into action. This varies according to business need – a bank may need 24/7 up-time, and switch into disaster mode very quickly, where a small retailer may be able to use manual processes during a longer system failure. Given it might take a day to switch fully over to the DR environment and three days for some to completely restore, the knock-on effects could be more disruptive than the actual crisis.
Build and Test Your Disaster Recovery Plan
We see many disaster recovery plans that are carefully devised, but that haven’t been tested in the last few years. We don’t need to tell you that things change fast in business IT. We have one customer that is growing so rapidly, it is necessary to test DR every quarter – they are growing at a rate where disaster recovery could otherwise run out of capacity. Regular testing and monitoring means there are no surprises, and the customer can budget accurately.
Use Your Data
Knowing how long previous recovery took will help determine when to switch over to your disaster recovery environment. Although the testing process provides critical data about recovery time, it is a moving target as you add more people, new apps and new people. Analysing your recovery data over time will help you to get it right while avoiding wasted capacity.
Whatever your business, you need to let clients know what’s happening as soon as possible. This can be done in advance of many situations. One of our suppliers informed us of emergency arrangements in the days before tornadoes hit Tampa, where their headquarters are located. They prioritised the safety of their team, sending everyone home – calls were answered by qualified colleagues in a different country, and delays were explained. At TechPath, we have templates ready for outage situations, so we are ready to communicate quickly to our customers and suppliers.
There are some simple things you can do that make everyone safer and better informed in an emergency. We keep everyone’s contact details available on a cloud-hosted database, so we can keep in touch easily. There are many online and SMS options to make communication fast and effective.
You need to plan where people in different roles will work from, where will phone calls go to, who is able to work from home. A good DR plan will determine what the impact is on each staff member – do they have laptops and remote access, and what else do they need to function? We lost power for a day when a truck ran into a power pole nearby – our people were all ready to set up at home, the customers didn’t need to be notified, and as our key systems are cloud based, we were able to conduct business as usual. Cloud gives us terrific advantages when it comes to disaster recovery.
What is Your Plan B?
Our disaster recovery specialists spend their time thinking of all the things that could go wrong with the DR plan. In case the cloud environment is affected, or there is no access to the plan A, the DR plan should always include a plan B. This plan B must be communicated via alternative means – SMS alerts may be a good option.
Is it time to assess how your current processes will affect customer service, or whether your risk level must be reduced? Contact our friendly disaster recovery team for more suggestions on how to be ready for anything.