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8 ingredients of an effective disaster recovery plan

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff | July 7, 2016
IT executives and disaster recovery experts share their advice on how businesses can create an effective DR plan.

Earlier this month, a monkey caused a nationwide power outage in Kenya. Millions of homes and businesses were without electricity. Which just goes to show that “not all disasters come in the form of major storms with names and categories,” says Bob Davis, CMO, Atlantis Computing.

“Electrical fires, broken water pipes, failed air conditioning units [and rogue monkeys] can cause just as much damage,” he says. And while “business executives might think they’re safe based on their geographic location,” it’s important to remember that “day-to-day threats can destroy data [and] ruin a business,” too, he says. That’s why it is critical for all businesses to have a disaster recovery (DR) plan.

However, not all DR plans are created equal. To ensure that your systems, data and personnel are protected and your business can continue to operate in the event of an actual emergency or disaster, use the following guidelines to create a disaster plan that will help you quickly recover.

1. Inventory hardware and software. Your DR plan should include “a complete inventory of [hardware and] applications in priority order,” says Oussama El-Hilali, vice president of Products for Arcserve. “Each application [and piece of hardware] should have the vendor technical support contract information and contact numbers,” so you can get back up and running quickly.

2. Define your tolerance for downtime and data loss. “This is the starting point of your planning,” says Tim Singleton, president, Strive Technology Consulting. “If you are a plumber, you can probably be in business without servers or technology [for] a while. [But] if you are eBay, you can’t be down for more than seconds. Figuring out where you are on this spectrum will determine what type of solution you will need to recover from a disaster.”

“Evaluate what an acceptable recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO) is for each set of applications,” advises says David Grimes, CTO, NaviSite. “In an ideal situation, every application would have an RPO and RTO of just a few milliseconds, but that’s often neither technically nor financially feasible. By properly identifying these two metrics businesses can prioritize what is needed to successfully survive a disaster, ensure a cost-effective level of disaster recovery and lower the potential risk of miscalculating what they’re able to recover during a disaster.”

“When putting your disaster recovery plan in writing, divide your applications into three tiers,” says Robert DiLossi, senior director, Testing & Crisis Management, Sungard Availability Services. “Tier 1 should include the applications you need immediately. These are the mission-critical apps you can’t do business without. Tier 2 covers applications you need within eight to 10 hours, even up to 24 hours. They’re essential, but you don’t need them right away. Tier 3 applications can be comfortably recovered within a few days,” he explains.

 

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