Before Trouble Strikes

When disaster strikes, recovering the data center is essential. But even more important is getting all the critical business functions back in operation ASAP. Here's a checklist and template for all the steps you need to go through to create a comprehensive disaster recovery plan -- before trouble takes you down. This article is being re-published due to its timeliness.

 By Elizabeth Ferrarini
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In 1992 Hurricane Andrew put 39 major data centers out of commission. And in 1993, the World Trade Center bombing caused 21 data centers to shut down. While you don't like to think about it, every organization, regardless of its size, runs the risk of a major systems outage, such as a tornado demolishing a data center or a building fire destroying the facility and everything in it. A study by the University of Texas found that 85 percent of businesses depend totally or heavily on information technology systems to stay in business, and that a loss of those systems would cost businesses up to 40 percent of their daily revenues.

Disaster can strike at any time. In fact, there are more than 35 types of disasters, ranging from the most common, such as power outages, to the most catastrophic, such as earthquakes. In essence, a disaster includes any type of interruption of service that results from some force beyond the organization's control. Disaster recovery provides systematic procedures for how to react to and how to recover from that ominous external or internal force. Disaster recovery planning, which complements business continuity and contingency planning, ensures the ability of the organization to function effectively if an unforeseen event severely disrupted normal operations.

The following checklist will help the key individuals in your organization to go through the thought process for preparing a disaster recovery plan. The objective is to restore all critical business functions, rather than such disparate functions as only the data center.

Gather Information

Organize the Project
A successful initiative of this magnitude requires support from senior management associated with the organization, a dedicated disaster recovery team whose members have knowledge of critical business systems, and a well thought out planning strategy and testing strategy.

Senior executives responsible for disaster recovery planning will perform the first two steps. The disaster recovery coordinator, working with the appropriate team leaders, should perform steps 3 to 7.

  1. Determine which senior executive(s) will have overall responsibility for disaster recovery.
  2. Have this executive appoint disaster recovery coordinator.
  3. Appoint a disaster recovery team leader for each operational unit, such as server backup or telephone system.
  4. Convene disaster recovery planning team and sub-teams as appropriate.
  5. Working with senior executives responsible for disaster recovery, the disaster recovery coordinator should identify the following:
    • Scope -- the areas to be covered by the disaster recovery plan
    • Objectives -- what is worked towards and what is the course of action that the disaster recovery team intends to follow
    • Assumptions -- what is being taken for granted or accepted as true without proof?
  6. Set project timetable and draft project plan, including assignment of task responsibilities.
  7. Obtain senior management's approval for scope, assumptions, and project plan.

This article was originally published on Jul 12, 2001
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