Many business organisations express fears about their ability to recover after a disaster. Business continuity and disaster recovery planning is often overlooked by businesses as it can be expensive to put in place and there’s no return seen on the investment. However, nowadays disaster recovery planning is more affordable and there are ways it can be incorporated into essential operations.

Planning for disaster recovery and business continuity

Maintaining business continuity and a successful recovery from disaster requires precise planning and management and should be a key area for consideration by IT departments. Risk assessment analysis is critical for the preparation of a working business continuity plan. The risk analysis should identify all potential threats to the IT infrastructure and also determine the elements which are critical to business operations. Once this document is in place you can start planning your disaster recovery policy. Ideally, disaster recovery plans should include the following:

– a contingency planning statement which provides the essential guidance for dealing with any contingency

– a business impact analysis, which helps identify the critical IT systems and their components

– ideas for recovery strategies to ensure the system can be effectively recovered following disruptions

– identification of preventive controls to reduce effects of system disruptions and increase availability

– an IT contingency proposal which contains instructions for restoring a damaged system

Disaster recovery plans are living documents that should be updated regularly to take into account changes and upgrades to systems. You should also test the plan and prepare all employees for putting disaster recovery into operation.

Putting together a disaster recovery plan

When you are putting a disaster recovery plan in place, the planning team need to meet on a regular basis and establish the complexity of the plan. Consideration should be given to all internal elements of the business, the external assets, links to other offices, clients and suppliers, and all resources.

Network infrastructure documents, IT and network plans should be taken into consideration. The planning team will need to conduct the following exercises:

1. Identify the most serious things that could threaten the IT infrastructure, for example fire, loss of power, or system failure.

2. Work out the vulnerabilities in the infrastructure, for example outdated backups, or lack of power for backups.

3. Review the complete previous outage history, and look at how the business handled these.

4. Identify the most important IT assets, for example call centres or internet access.

5. Identify the maximum amount of outage time the management team will accept if these important IT assets become unavailable.

6. Determine exactly what current operational procedures are in place to handle critical outages.

7. Find out when these above procedures were last tested to ensure they are still appropriate.

The planning team will then need to identify the emergency response personnel and teams that will deal with disruptions to critical IT assets.

Once all the above data has been collected it should be incorporated into a gap analysis report which details the actions currently in place and proposals for what should be done. Once this report has been approved, a full disaster recovery plan can be compiled. The key contacts should be noted at the beginning of the plan, as these are the people that will need to be immediately sourced in the event of a disaster. There should also be an inventory of the complete infrastructure included in the plan. Once the disaster recovery plan is finalised, testing of all plans and system recovery should be actioned on a regular basis.

catalyst2 offer disaster recovery and business continuity consulting services to help businesses with contingency planning. Our UK hosting provides opportunities to have servers replicated to a different data centre, for added peace of mind. We also provide backups of on premise servers to our private cloud. Our professional support helps ensure our clients experience very few problems, in the event of serious outages.