If your IT operation needs to stay online reliably, you need a disaster recovery plan. An organization can face physical disasters, such as fires, floods, and theft, as well as data disasters, such as malware and disk failure. Internet attacks are on the rise, and so are expectations of reliable online service. You don’t just have to recover; you have to recover fast. On the positive side, the growth of virtual hosting puts disaster-proofing within the reach even of small organizations. Planning is essential to a successful recovery, and the people in IT need to know how to execute it.
Disaster recovery planning begins with backup. Back up all data necessary to continuing operations to a remote location. If fast recovery is really vital, an organization should have servers at multiple locations so that at least one server can stay online if another fails.
It’s important to document and test recovery procedures. When a critical failure happens, the support team will be under stress, perhaps even dragged out of bed. If they know exactly what they’re supposed to do, they’ll fix things faster rather than making them worse. If your backup leaves some critical data out, or if the restoration process doesn’t work as expected, you want to know about that and fix it before there’s a real emergency.
Naturally, you shouldn’t run a recovery test on a production system. You can run it on a spare machine or lease a virtual host for the purpose. If you can reconstruct your full system on a fresh host, you’re in good shape.
A physical disaster might put your facility out of reach. If this is a concern, run a test in which the IT people have to restore everything from offsite without talking to anyone in the office.
After a test recovery, review how everything went. If it failed, make necessary changes to the plan. If it succeeded, give out bonuses but ask how the plan could be still better.
You have to find the right trade off between a recovery plan that will cover all possibilities and its cost. Where it lies depends on how urgent continuous service is for your organization.
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