Creating a Disaster Recovery Strategy for your Business

By Ritchie Fiddes, Sales Director, Backup Technology

December 04,  2009

It does not pay to be an ostrich. You cannot bury your head in the sand with an absolute conviction that while disasters overtake everyone, your organization will remain immune to disaster! Intelligent and shrewd businessmen must plan for the worst, while they hope for the best. Creating a disaster recovery strategy for your business is the best thing that you can do for ensuring the continuity and resilience of your business.

How does one create a disaster recovery strategy for a business?  How does one know what kind of disasters can overtake a business?

The first step in any disaster recovery planning is to identify potential risks to the business. Disasters can be natural or man-made. The horrors of 9/11 or the onslaught of the Tsunami or hurricane Katrina could destroy a business, if there are no recovery systems in place. Flood or fire could make the documentation, you have stored carefully, unusable. A wrong delete operation by an IT professional in your organization or a hardware crash, could wipe out the entire database of information that you have struggled to build up over the years. These are, but a few samples of the possible large scale disasters that can affect a business. There are unique and business specific disasters that also need to be considered while identifying risks.

The next step in disaster recovery is scenario planning. The plan is often divided into two parts:

  • Preventive/Defensive Planning and
  • Operative Planning

Preventive Planning would involve putting in place all measures that will prevent a disaster from destroying the business. This may include setting up mirror servers; offshore servers, document stores and online backup of data in geographically dispersed locations. It may involve training the staff to react sensibly and efficiently if and when disaster strikes. It may require putting in place emergency exits and emergency protocols that will help evacuation of staff to a safer place in the event of disaster. It will provide emergency protocols for medical disasters. It will also put in place fire safety and fire hazard preventive measures in buildings. All disaster recovery plans should be documented in detail for every possible disaster scenario. The plans also require answers to questions such as:

  • Who will be responsible for different activities that need to be done when disaster strikes?
  • How will the IT systems be saved and what needs to be done to save it?
  • Who will ensure that the personnel are taken to safe locations and
  • What will the personnel need to do to ensure their own safety and the safety of their colleagues?

Operative Planning includes conducting drills for handling the disaster for every kind of disaster scenario. It demands that a responsible hierarchy be put in place for handling disaster and this hierarchy repeatedly and continuously examines and reviews the disaster recovery plans, conducts drills, fine tunes the process and reports on the current status of the recovery measures at periodic intervals to a responsible member of the board. It is also essential that this report is frequently and regularly examined by another board member along with external auditors and assessors to ensure that the plans are working as they should and that the organization is ready to handle any kind of disaster scenario efficiently and without undue loss of life and revenue.

Business continuity and disaster recovery plans are mandated by several acts and regulations that have come into force round the world. A number of assessment frameworks have also been designed to evaluate, review and certify that the plans are correctly and effectively formulated for disaster scenarios.

It follows, disaster recovery planning is mandatory for every kind of business, both from a compliance point of view and from the business continuity point of view. Small, medium and large enterprises should spend some time and effort in this process.

About the author: Ritchie Fiddes is Sales Director at Backup Technology, a UK based disaster recovery and business continuity specialist.

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