When a disaster strikes, you need a tried-and-tested plan in place, or you risk losing everything. Here are some of the steps needed to build a successful DR plan.
By Sasha Malic, Head: Availability Services, ContinuitySA
- Get executive buy-in. A DR plan needs input from every section of the company, and requires significant resources (time, people and money) to do properly. Unless the senior leadership support the project, it will be hard to get the input needed from colleagues who are involved in operational matters.
- Make sure you have the right people on the team. DR needs the input of the people who have the most experience and deepest insight into how the company works. Resist the common tendency to put junior employees onto the DR team: they simply don’t have the knowledge to know which the critical systems are.
- Define the scope. In any sizable organisation, the scope of the DR project can get too large very fast, thus putting the project at risk. It is critical to identify which business units or departments are in scope.
- Conduct a business impact assessment (BIA). This is the essential first step when you get down to the actual DR planning. It is critical that you identify what the critical processes and systems are, as well as their resources and dependencies. Without the BIA, it’s all too likely that some dependencies will be forgotten. In fact, the BIA is usually quite a profound voyage of discovery for most companies!
- Study in-scope IT systems and applications. The interconnectedness of systems today means that running an application at the DR site is no simple undertaking. A key dependency is likely to be the complex web of data feeds in and out of each application.
- Document every detail of each critical business process and its supporting IT system. This is essential because the real possibility exists that on the day of a disaster, the core personnel might either be away or otherwise affected by the disaster. This documentation will make it easier for those less familiar with the business to bring up the DR site.
- Schedule a regular testing and update programme. A DR plan must be a living document that takes into account not only the changes in the company but also how effective it is. Testing is a discipline all on its own, but it is vital to ensure that the plan works—and any shortcomings must be fed back into the new planning cycle. Similarly, the DR must be updated periodically in line with new business realities.
An effective DR plan is vital, but it is difficult to put together. Working with a provider of a managed DRaaS solution will be of great help, because it will guarantee access to experienced specialists.
My final blog will end this series on a high note, explaining why all this trouble is so worthwhile: the 10 business benefits of DRaaS.