When it comes to business continuity and disaster recovery, there are a couple of givens: The enterprise needs a plan to follow in the event of an outage, and backups should take place before downtime ever occurs. These processes ensure that the company is prepared and can quickly continue operations without missing a beat.
However, these aren’t the only considerations when it comes to disaster recovery. Over the past few years, experts and businesses alike have discovered a few best kept secrets that can considerably bolster any disaster recovery plan.
1) Test backups and contingency environments ahead of time
While it may seem obvious to test redundant and backup systems, one would be surprised to find how many times this process falls through the cracks. After all, how can administrators be sure that their DR solutions work correctly if they never test them?
Redgate’s Steve Jones pointed out that testing can go far beyond the system itself, and can include trials to ensure that employees understand the best processes to use in the event of a disaster. Here, decision-makers should test key staff members to ensure they know which files are backed up and how to access them after downtime.
“How can administrators be sure that their DR solutions work correctly if they never test them?”
“The mere existence of a backup file in a folder doesn’t imply that the file is usable,” Jones wrote. “If you haven’t tested fully how to recover each component of your system, including databases, there will be many things about the disaster recovery process that you don’t know. [I]f you aren’t testing the restores, you’ll never know if you can complete one.”
It’s best to practice these processes ahead of time, instead of waiting for a disaster to strike to realize that you’re unprepared.
2) Outline key responsibilities for each department manager
Instead of just having a checklist of each task that needs to be done following an outage, experts recommend noting which manager or administrator is responsible for every activity. This ensures that key stakeholders understand their individual responsibilities, and that no important processes fall through the cracks as the business works to get up and running again.
“Roles and responsibilities is a major area where organizations fall short with regard to disaster recovery,” wrote James Damoulakis, GlassHouse Technologies’ CTO and a TechTarget contributor. “The DR process is much more than restoring or replicating data; it’s about ensuring that the applications and systems they support can be returned to functional business usage. Accomplishing this requires participation from groups outside of IT, including corporate governance and oversight groups, finance groups and the business units impacted.”
3) Approve expenses ahead of time
Without a doubt, an outage will come with its share of unexpected expenses. These can cause headaches for employees and supervisors, both during downtime and after the fact. Jones advised discussing these kinds of expenses ahead of time and pre-approving certain items to ensure the company has what it needs to complete its recovery.
“Most organizations recognize that disaster situations result in unexpected expenses and will often reimburse any reasonable expense after the event,” Jones wrote. “However, it is always best to have the conversation in advance. A simple conversation with management will usually result in a workable disaster recovery budget.”
From password resets to food and office supplies, certain types of expenses should be built into DR cost planning.
4) Prioritize system resets
After a disaster, the vast majority, if not all, of a company’s systems will likely need to be reset. Especially in the case that a solution is hosted on-premises, it is important that the company understands which platforms will need to be reset and how to carry out the process. As this can become a very long list, it is best to prioritize.
For example, decision-makers should ensure that critical programs like communications and databases take priority. Other less important systems — those that do not support essential processes or are not used as often — can be rebooted afterwards.
5) Be prepared — Have a spare
While the cloud can considerably streamline the disaster recovery process, many organizations take a hybrid approach, storing some applications in the cloud and keeping others on-premises. In this case, it is best to be prepared for a failure with spare hardware. Jones noted that this can keep DR processes humming along, and will prevent employees from waiting for a part to be delivered before a full recovery can take place.
Bonus: Track system changes after recovery
It’s also imperative to keep an eye out after systems are up and running and a full recovery has been completed. On occasion, issues might creep up after the fact that could be the result of a system not being reset correctly. It is best to nip these instances in the bud, and address these problems with the help of IT as soon as possible.