Forecast Calls for Readiness: Are You Prepared for the Worst?

Disaster recovery planning starts with a comprehensive, well-tested data backup and recovery plan—before the lights go out. But ensuring that critical operations recover smoothly requires effective communication and ongoing testing.

Make sure you establish dependable lines of communication before, during and after a crisis. A complete disaster recovery plan will outline emergency reporting structures and communications procedures.

In the story of Noah’s Ark, it wasn’t yet raining when construction began, but Noah obviously had some foresight. And though CIOs don’t get the same kind of divine heads-up as the fabled shipbuilder, that story neatly captures the importance of planning—and planning well—for impending calamities, no matter how distasteful they are to consider.

Surprisingly, plenty of organizations don’t have even the basics covered: Just 63 percent of IT professionals say their current disaster recovery plan “adequately addresses” their data recovery operations, according to a survey by the Ponemon Institute. More to the point, having a disaster recovery binder sitting on a shelf is really just the first step.

Work That Plan

It’s not enough to merely set up a standby data facility, provision backup systems, and write down what to do when lightning strikes, the water rises over the riverbanks or a hurricane hits.

Consider these five key steps to develop and maintain a disaster recovery strategy that will meet your organization’s needs if you find yourself in dire straits:

  • Be the communicator-in-chief. Consider the chaos and confusion that can arise in the middle of a crisis, when email systems and phones may be out of service. Make sure you establish dependable lines of communication before, during and after a crisis. A complete disaster recovery plan will outline reporting structures and communications procedures during an emergency, such as providing a toll-free number for staff to call to get instructions and information.
  • Keep it simple. You don’t want your disaster recovery documentation to resemble War and Peace. “In an emergency situation, people are not going to have the time to read through an entire plan to find needed information,” writes Mike Minzes, CEO of the disaster-preparedness planning company INEVOLVE. “Keeping your plans short and direct will serve recovery teams much more effectively.”
  • Get senior leadership’s buy-in. Your organization’s top managers must fully support a workable disaster plan. It’s vital to engage all stakeholders when creating contingency plans and committing resources to recovery processes so everyone understands how and why this benefits the whole enterprise. Otherwise, you’re just paying lip service to the notion of preparedness. You may also consider circulating regular reports to an executive task force—which should include finance and business unit managers—about the status of backup and recovery systems. If your organization doesn’t walk the walk, a real disaster will be devastating.
  • Test it—then retest it. Virtually all organizations have disaster recovery plans in place. But it’s crucial to stage regular drills, with some experts advising at least quarterly reviews of DR procedures and systems and a complete run-through yearly. Bottom line: You don’t want to encounter a logistics snafu when you’re standing in three feet of water.
  • Review and retool. How old is your disaster recovery plan? A thorough examination may reveal that it doesn’t account for the way your business functions today. Do routine cleaning—prune parts of the plan that aren’t needed anymore, and put in protections where you have gaps.

Does your company really have the wherewithal to rebound from the modern-day equivalent of a 100-year flood—or even a hard system crash? With the right planning and a smart approach, CIOs and their teams can be assured they have the bases well covered.

Iron Mountain Suggests:
Put Tape Vaulting Into the Recovery Picture

Offsite tape storage offers a guarantee that business-critical data and applications will be available in case your primary disaster recovery site is knocked out. Consider this best practice as you build your disaster recovery program:

  • Choose secure tape-vaulting facilities that are strategically located near major commercial centers but safely away from flood plains, earthquake zones and other high-risk areas.
  • Identify the most critical tape assets you will need immediately to get your business back up and running. You should be able to access that information using a remote management tool.
  • Ensure that your tape vaulting partner is equipped to quickly recover your physical data to any location you choose, either via secure trucks or aircraft delivery.

Dress Rehearsal: What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

To thoroughly test disaster recovery plans, organizations should consider the following scenarios, according to Disaster Recovery Journal. Losses can include:

  • Facilities (from a fire, storm or other calamity)
  • Technology, such as a catastrophic data center failure
  • Operating equipment such as manufacturing machinery
  • Suppliers

Other situations include data breaches, software bugs, malware and viruses.

Do you have questions about data backup and recovery? Read additional Knowledge Center stories on this subject, or contact Iron Mountain’s Data Backup and Recovery team. You’ll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services specialist who can address your specific challenges.

Related Content:

Tape Identification: A Smart Step in Data Retention

Prepare for Anything: The Importance of a Data Restoration

Your Mission: Archiving in the Age of Big Data