Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst

It’s three days before your company’s fiscal year end.  An earthquake (or tornado or hurricane) have hit your primary operations center and destroyed your servers hosting all of your financial data.  This was a localized event, but you have international customers waiting on their sales contracts to be processed, and you need to report accurate financials to your investors.

After verifying that it is safe to return to work, or work remotely, how do you recover from such a dramatic loss of information at such a critical time?

The key thing to acknowledge when discussing natural disasters, is that they are unpredictable and can hit a company at any point in time.  They don’t check your calendar and verify that it is a day or week that will work for you.  They happen, and it’s important for your company to maintain a prepared mindset for how to handle any of these events and their ramifications.  Below are some tips on how to prepare your IT infrastructure to allow for business continuity in the event of a disaster:

1.  Know your critical systems

–  It’s bad when a disaster hits and takes out your company’s IT services.  It’s even worse when you are made aware that these systems are critical after the disaster strikes.  Knowledge of your infrastructure will help to drastically improve your ability to react and prioritize which systems to work on and which can be brought online at a later time.

2.  Identify key team members

–  No one person in an organization has all of the answers and in a larger organization this becomes even more apparent.  Involving people from various different business units will help to create a sense of cohesion during a crisis and will help to keep everyone in the loop.

3.  Create Geo-Resiliency

–  Maintaining an alternate data center in a separate region from your primary location will help to lessen the blow if a disaster hits.  Depending on budget, some companies will utilize a shared datacenter oftentimes referred to as a co-location or co-lo for short.

4.  Deploy Redundant Systems

–  Having the data is great, but you also need a way to access it.  Oftentimes your critical content requires that you have a specialized program to access the data stores such as SAP, SQL, or SharePoint.  Rebuilding an entire backend program could take weeks or months, and many companies don’t have that kind of time.  Having a redundant system can help to drastically decrease the recovery time from a major disaster.

5.  Plan ahead and Practice

–  Once all your components and people are in place, it is important to go over everyone’s roles and simulate the steps of your disaster recovery plan.  Doing this will allow you to find any blind spots in your strategy while also improving your staff’s ability to deploy the plan.  The importance of this step cannot be understated.  Practice is absolutely key in ensuring your company is prepared to handle any disaster.

While this may seem like a somewhat gloomy post, it is absolutely critical for your business continuity that you incorporate disaster recovery planning.  If you have any questions or would like to add to the discussion, please comment below.

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