Disaster Recovery Plan: 7 Ways to Prepare for Disaster Before it Happens

Topics: Disaster Recovery

As the winter season brings more extreme weather, it's natural for organisations to start thinking about their disaster recovery plans. For those serious about disaster recovery, no one thing can replace careful planning and ongoing work. However, you can take advantage of useful disaster preparation tips that you may not have considered.

Beyond the £1 billion annual flooding costs in the UK, a 2014 Disaster Recovery Journal report on the state of IT resiliency and preparedness indicates man-made events are the cause of 60 percent of survey respondents' most-significant disaster declarations or major business disruptions. This includes everything from human error to the failure of IT hardware or software.

It pays to plan ahead. When things go wrong, stress mounts, and subsequent mistakes can prolong an outage if the disaster recovery plan is not updated, complete and easy to follow. The following are some specific disaster preparedness tips organisations should keep in mind — before they need them:

1. Know When to Declare a Disaster

Although it may be easy to declare a disaster when there’s a major winter storm, a host of other downtime events may be less clear. It is important that organisations have a designated person to make the call and a written script of the steps that follow.

2. Have Multiple Ways to Contact People

In the age of smartphones, emails and landlines, companies should ensure they have more than one way to contact key team members. If the technology is still available, a conference bridge may save time to sort out next-step recovery and communication details.

3. Do Not Forget the Keys

Experienced database administrators recommend organisations gather all the parts they need ahead of time to help fully recover systems. Then, they should document and share their location(s) with the IT team. A short list might include details about the type of backup copies available, the media or vendor used and instructions to access or restore them. Details might also include copies of original software, related license or encrypted keys, subsequent software patches and system passwords or logins that could be needed.

4. Have Vendor and Partner Details Readily Available

Some organisations keep spare parts on hand for disk drives or servers. Others arrange service-level agreements (SLAs) with vendors and partners to ensure a rapid response or parts replacement in an outage. After an outage, organisations should make sure they have access to vendor and partner details, including relevant contact names and numbers, the names and numbers associated with the account or contract and any associated SLA details.

5. Cross-Train

IT experts may not be available when a disaster strikes. This is why it makes sense to cross-train less-experienced IT staff in what it takes to restore a system. Organisations should make sure the steps can also be followed over the telephone, if needed.

6. Test But Verify

Frequent testing and the use of test scripts to verify the good state of a restored database are of the upmost importance. Unfortunately, most companies do not test their disaster recovery plans often enough.

7. Make Disaster Recovery Part of the Configuration and Change Management Processes

People leave positions, new software gets added or changed and companies are merged or acquired. All of these scenarios require an update to specific disaster recovery plans. Effective configuration management will also help prevent outages.

Other Elements to Keep in Mind

Some details may not always reduce recovery times but can still help minimise stress after a disaster. To prepare, organisations must include a map to their disaster recovery site and include an up-to-date diagram of the network and key systems at their primary and disaster recovery sites. Location and phone numbers of any office supply or hardware stores near the disaster recovery site should also be included.

While these disaster preparation tips can help organisations fill a few gaps in their disaster recovery plans, you should still consider comparing your plans to best practices with the help of industry experts before you face your next outage. Download our workbook, 5 Critical Lessons in Disaster Recovery, to get started.