National Preparedness Month: Is Your Data Infrastructure Prepared for Hurricane Season?
By Greg Schulz
According to the Weather Channel, fall of 2016 is supposed to be the most active Atlantic hurricane season since 2012. As September is National Preparedness Month (NPM), it's the perfect time to review your business continuance (BC), business resiliency (BR) and disaster recovery (DR) plans. It's important to prepare your information and data infrastructure (including your servers, storage systems, networks, software, applications, data and configuration settings) for the worst.
Here are some tips on how to prepare for hurricane season and other potential disasters:
1.Assess Your Disaster Plan
Start by gaining insight into applicable threat risks and how they might impact your organization. If you already have an active preparedness plan that will protect and preserve your digital assets and associated resources, you should take any necessary steps to make sure it is ready to be put into action.
On the other hand, if you have an existing dormant plan or simply some thoughts and ideas on how to go about putting a plan together, now is the time to take action. You can review what you've learned from the past and then take the necessary steps to find and fix any issues with technologies, techniques, processes, policies or procedures.
2.Plan and Prepare
Based on the lessons you've learned, you should assess any changes to the environment, applications, technology and other items. In order to be fully prepared, you should also have contingency plans. For example, you can maintain copies of your data via backups, snapshots, clones or replicas onsite and offsite. You must also think about the tools you'll need to restore or restart your applications. Do you have the required security keys, certificates and other items to unlock data and any associated applications?
You should also strive to complete any and all maintenance updates before the threat window. Be sure to verify that you have all the necessary supplies, such as fuel for generators. Consider creating an emergency recovery kit that includes the following items:
- software tools, utilities, keys, certificates, notes and run books,
- vendor contact information,
- lists of software and other tools.
Once you've prepared or updated your plan, it's important to think about how it will be implemented in terms of processes, practices, policies and procedures. This often involves applying fixes from lessons learned or prior tests to make sure you are prepared. Ask yourself: Are your systems, including application and data infrastructure software tools, up-to-date? Are there pending changes that have not been tested or applied to recovery systems? You want to avoid a situation in which you recover your data only to find out that your backup or replicas are out-of-date or did not apply the required fixes.
Make sure that all parties involved know the plan, processes and where to find the necessary instructions, which can be hosted online on an external, secure hosted site or service. As an extra precaution, you might also want to hand out some hard copies of this information.
At this point in the process, you can use virtualization technology to create a simulated recovery environment to test and practice your plan. After all, practice makes perfect, and testing can help you find any potential issues in your processes and procedures. While you may be tempted to have your most experienced employees perform these tests, you should also leverage your newer, less experienced team members to see how they implement failover, restart or recovery. As they might not know all the tips and tricks, they can potentially shed light on what to document or fix moving forward.
Repeat steps one through five on a regular basis to perfect your plan and processes. Be sure to check that your standby power batteries are maintained and fully charged and that your power switches are working properly. In addition to your battery and uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), you should double-check your alternate power generator to see that it is working properly. Make sure that your data center (and home) generators have fuel, oil and spare filters. By being prepared for the worst this National Preparedness Month, you can ensure that your data is protected if and when disaster strikes.