With the recent hurricane and following flooding that has inundated Houston, TX, one must wonder what the disaster recovery plan should be for a small to medium sized business. While it was expected that the hurricane would cause damage to areas that were directly hit, it was difficult to predict the enormous impact it had on a city as large as Houston. The event highlights the importance of planning for a disaster recovery even when the threat to an organization is not readily identifiable.
Is your business safe from man made or natural disasters? Do you have a plan to respond to the disaster & recover from it? A disaster recovery plan is like an insurance policy. You need one before it's too late. Read this article to get started with your disaster recovery plan today!
Most SMBs don’t have the budget allocated or the nearly the preparation required to plan for an event of such magnitude. But is the availability and disaster recovery capability just the domain of large businesses? How can a smaller organization prepare for such an event so it can bounce back from the hit and return to normalcy in a reasonable amount of time? What should a smaller organization do to mitigate and overcome a disaster event?
Disaster recovery preparedness and planning needs to be an integral part of an organization’s strategy and the key to it, in my opinion, is education and awareness at the decision maker level. A careful plan laid out after analysis of an organization’s IT infrastructure can yield a long-term plan and strategy that over time can replace the critical points of failure in a typical IT setup with redundant and fault tolerant configuration that is both cost effective and easy to manage.
A typical disaster recovery plan should follow these steps:
- Recognize that a disaster can happen and will at some point happen.
- Identify the key people and systems that will be needed for the business to function.
- Order these people and systems by importance.
- Identify the amount of time that the business can tolerate before access to systems becomes non-functional (RTO).
- Identify the amount of information that can be lost and the business can still operate (RPO).
- Plan the alternatives for these people and systems that will need to be put in place to get the business operational again.
- Add this information to the decisions made about your people and systems so over time you have a fault tolerant business.
- Test your plan on a periodic basis to make sure your plan will indeed work as intended.
Having examined the process of planning for disaster recovery, how can a small/medium sized business implement a plan? what should a typical plan look like?
An important factor to keep in mind when creating a disaster recovery plan is that it’s not only a IT/Business systems recovery plan. It should also include a plan to ensure that key personnel have backups that can be relied on in case some key personnel becomes unavailable or incapable of participating in the disaster recovery.
Along with a plan for key personnel, backup facilities should be identified. These can be traditional or non-traditional. Depending on the size, a small/medium sized business can operate out of a make shift office from a hotel conference room of a nearby city or a café. Identifying the size and possible alternative locations will help you execute your plan efficiently. Key personnel can take care of your clients and ensure survival of your business.
To summarize, the three key factors of a good disaster recovery plan are:
- Redundancy in key personnel and job functions
- Redundancy in facilities or identification of alternative facilities
- Implementing business systems so they can function outside of your office environment and inculcate attributes such as mobility, scalability and adaptability
All of the above key factors can be achieved with careful planning at a very reasonable cost. Finally, a good plan needs to be readily accessible and known to everyone in your organization. A plan that isn’t communicated and agreed on doesn’t serve its intended purpose.
If you have read through the article, its time as a business owner or decision maker to ask that most important question; is your business ready to handle a disaster? Do you know what impact it may have on your business and how will you recover? Disaster recovery planning is like insurance; no one thinks about it until it becomes absolutely necessary and by that time, it’s usually too late.