Part 2: Disaster Recovery Solutions

As a reminder, in part one of this article we discussed the principles of Data Backup and Data Recovery Services.  We are talking about Back and UP!  The whole purpose of this function within your environment is to bring your system back to operational status.

Now, let’s discuss something we all hope never happens: Disaster!  This could mean a flood (sprinkler systems, busted toilets from above), fire, or as we are all too familiar natural disasters.  The difference in these types of situations is that it is not as simple as a hardware and software repair.  Instead, we have the added components of employee dislocation, telecommunications, and operational systems.  Let’s discuss some of the techniques that can be used to mitigate extended outages due to these types of displacement.

One principle that every organization needs to discuss is Who and What are the core people and functions I need to operate in a limited capacity.  This is not to suggest that all employees are not needed.  Instead, we suggest you discuss Circles of Relationship.  An example might be as follows:  I need my customer service desk, accounting and sales team in the center circle.  The next layer might be field communications; the next might be production support, etc… This layer of importance allows you to devise a communication strategy to maintain a basic level of operation. Do not forget to apply the Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO) principles discussed in part 1 of this article.  These also drive the corresponding discussion for employee dislocation and telecommunications.

With employee dislocation, how do company employees receive communications and where will they constitute their work functions? The first step is to have in place a means of communications with employees that is not based on internal systems.  One simple solution is to host email services outside your core operational systems.  This protects the organization’s ability to communicate reliably with employees, customers and vendors regardless of their location.  For organizations who provide complex services or work in the public sector, a workforce continuity application layer may be needed.  The ability to communicate according to groups and have communications managed by a given structure is useful.  One such application is RallyPoint which was created after Hurricane Katrina, one of the largest dislocation events in modern history.

In thinking about telecommunications, it is important to understand the age and function of your current telecommunications systems.  Modern VoIP-based phone systems and accompanying telecommunications services provide for many capabilities to re-route services to new locations.  Depending on the systems, many services can be reconstituted on new services in a matter of hours.    If you have an older Analog-based system, one option to discuss with your telecommunications vendor is the ability to route/forward lines to cellular services for basic call management.  While not glamorous, it does provide some level of communications.

In the previous article we discussed operational systems with respect to an onsite hardware or software issue.  The next layer in managing a dislocation event is the ability to replicate data to an external facility.  The fundamental question is not only am I replicating data, but can I ACCESS this data in a productive way to operate my organization. This fundamental question, along with the knowledge of core employees and functions will drive the answer.  In order to provide for services, operational systems must be architected in a way that ALLOW for remote access and have that ACCESS available in a dislocation event. In addition, computing resources must be available to the replicated data sets in order for the organization to initiate services.  Many offsite data backup providers will provide for system provisioning providing the underlying architecture is in place to utilize these resources.  Planning and testing in this type of situation is the key to making sure this will operate if a disaster ever occurs.

As we have discussed, implementing a comprehensive disaster recovery solution which includes disaster recovery services like workforce and business continuity is a complex topic.  Organization size, geographic footprint, and customer/vendor relationships will all affect the planning process.  Budgeting is obviously a factor as balance between what is desired and economically viable will become a central item.  With proper time, personnel involvement and planning, organizations can be prepared for disasters when they strike.

Don’t get caught without a plan.  Designate a person/team that is responsible for both the data backup and disaster recovery components of your plan and begin to execute your process.

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