Disaster Recovery (as we prepare for a hurricane)

With another “Storm of the Century” banging down the door of the Northeast, the typical buy-out of all of the generators/batteries/flashlights/power inverters, etc., has occurred and families are exercising their emergency plans.  Visits to websites like ready.gov list out all of the different items that a family might need for a prolonged power outage, or disaster event.  But while people prepare their personal lives for yet another disaster, how about business recovery plans?  While disasters tend to highlight weaknesses in personal recovery plans driving the need for generators and flashlights, what do businesses need to check off of the list in preparation for this type of event?  Just thinking about the list, I’ve come up with the suggestions below.  Feel free to comment on them below, or submit any additions:

Updated contacts list
A typical exercise during recovery planning is to identify the contacts list of all individuals identified to participate in a DR scenario, but has this list been updated?  How about if e-mail is not an available form of communication?  Maintaining a list of cell phone numbers, and SMS contact information can be the deciding factor between being able to notify individuals of an event, and going forward with a limited set of people because they can’t be contacted.  A quick note to all recovery resources prior to the event can sometimes be the difference between a successful fully-staffed recovery, and the alternative.

Identify a point-person for communication
In addition, having a person identified to update and maintain this contact list as well as to communicate and correspond with resources during the recovery can make a world of difference.  This person can be contacted in the event that a resource needs to identify a new means of communication (a land-line perhaps) when the event is occurring.  Be mindful however of who is selected for this task, as this might need to be someone with a more resilient personal disaster plan, or someone who can spend additional time in the office during an event in order to protect business assets.

Accessible location for recovery plans
As cliché as it may sound, we have to re-iterate the need for an off-site location to store recovery plans.  Cloud-storage, or a redundant internal solution can often times be the difference between knowing what to do in the event of a disaster, or wasting time remembering and re-creating the recovery plan due to lack of availability.

E-Mail out to recovery personnel re-iterating recovery plans
Once these recovery plans are identified and stored in the remote location, it can’t hurt to send an e-mail to the recovery team to re-iterate their location, and a brief overview of tasks involved (i.e. – recovery location, high-level expectations, contingency plans for unavailable personnel.)   Keeping the recovery team in the loop and prepared is one key to a successful recovery.

Knowledge of recovery personnel geography and potential for long-term displacement
Often-times individuals who are close to the office, or the recovery center, cannot get access due to a major barrier such as a rising river or flooded bridge.  Knowing about these barriers and suggesting replacements, or relocating people to closer non-obstructed areas prior to the disaster can ensure resource availability if disaster strikes.

Ability to identify when a disaster occurs
Whoever (board or individual) is responsible for initiating the disaster recovery plan must be aware of the IT infrastructure in place at all times during the disaster.  In some cases, this involves a third-party monitoring service.  In others, a carefully monitored infrastructure from another location will suffice.  In either event, there are cases where time is lost during a disaster based upon the determination of whether the datacenter is still “up” and the person is just having issues accessing it, or if there is truly a disaster.  Having fail-safes in place to make this determination quickly and accurately can avoid costly time spent determining datacenter conditions rather than acting.

They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and in my opinion this holds true for disaster recovery.  While businesses spend large amounts on preparation and plans, sometimes simple communication is the last determining factor on how much the business is protected during times like these.

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