Disaster Recovery Done Right

IT disaster recovery isn’t fun. In fact, it’s the opposite of fun. It usually involves going through all the things that could go wrong and preparing for every worst case which may never come to fruition. All of this costs time and money. It’s no wonder many organisations are foregoing disaster recovery all together; often to their great peril. But experts say disaster recovery is still vital to businesses and we have some advice to make the whole process less painful.

Server failure picture from Shutterstock

IT disaster recovery is probably the least sexy topic for businesses. I’m falling asleep just writing about it. It’s a pain in the backside for organisations to prepare for the worst which is why a number of organisations are abandoning disaster recovery (DR) and, instead, seeking high availability IT. In 2013, a PricewaterhouseCoopers report showed companies that have a DR plan in place dropped from 50 per cent to 39 per cent, and Gartner has confirmed it is still on a decline.

But DR is vital if organisations want to maintain business continuity when things go wrong (and, invariably, they do) so it should not be neglected. You can’t predict the weather or natural disasters. Remember the Black Saturday Bushfires in 2009 and the Queensland floods in 2011? Those catastrophic events wreaked havoc on the lives of the citizens on the ground as well as surrounding businesses. IT equipment can’t withstand fires or floods and when disaster hits, organisations that are ill-prepared would be wishing they had a DR plan in place.

Sadly, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for DR. Companies need to do the hard yards to figure out what works for them. Gartner does have a few guidelines that businesses can follow to make planning for DR a little easier:

Build resilience into your IT infrastructure

Some critical IT applications and services that are widely used by the organisation may be protected using redundancy-enhancing mechanisms that enable IT service availability/continuity even if there is a local failure. For the stuff that’s not so critical, using third-party cloud services is a good option considering most major providers have fairly robust uptime capabilities (it’s their bread and butter so it’s in their best interest to ensure everything is running as smoothly as possible for customers).

Virtualise everything

Virtualise IT servers, storage and networks to accelerate and simply DR and improve IT service availability. Take advantage of virtualisation to automate DR plans as much as possible.

Simplify your IT

Complexity and recovery assurance are inversely related. Simplify the IT environment, IT servce continuity management (ITSCM), DR procedures and DR plans whenever possible. This will not only save you big bucks in the long run, but it makes the whole DR process a whole lot easier.

Drill, drill, drill

Office workers are familiar with fire drills which are designed to ensure we know what to do in case of a fire. So why not do disaster recovery drills? Exercising existing DR plans on a regular basis will improve DR assurance, but don’t let DR tests or exercises become disaster events. Test out different scenarios every time you do a drill to tackle even more ground and aim to make improvements every time. The objective is to consume fewer resources and cause less disruption with every drill. Get executives involved so they know exactly what’s going on and make them help in closing the gaps that DR exercises uncover.

Does your organisation have an IT DR plan in place? Or maybe your company has just abandoned DR all together. Let us know in the comments.

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