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Expert Recommends a 5-Step Process to Develop a Disaster Recovery Plan

disaster recovery

Floods, fires, tornados, and earthquakes—these are disasters that companies typically consider when crafting a disaster recovery (DR) plan. But what about the hungry squirrel that chews through a critical power line? It’s happened, says Peter Laz, managing consultant at Forsythe Solutions Group Inc., and nobody saw it coming—especially the squirrel.

An ongoing DR program that’s supported at the executive level can make a huge difference when it comes to a successful recovery effort. Having well-established functional relationships across the enterprise and defined roles and responsibilities for all those involved in the DR process is key to successfully responding to a disaster.

Although outages can be caused by a variety of situations (see “More Than Mother Nature,”), the plan to address the differing causes is essentially the same. The difference, however, is found at the tactical level.

“Best practice is to establish—and train—a corporate crisis-management team (CMT) with the responsibility to direct and/or manage the full lifecycle of any event that could impact business for an acceptable period of time,” Laz explains.

“The CMT should be responsible to oversee all of the response, recovery and restoration activities of the event. Different events require different resources to address the specifics of the event. A flood addresses physical damage to assets and possible loss of human life of employees and potentially customers, but computer viruses are a technology issue. Both can be devastating to a company’s survival and would require certain distinct subject matter experts to respond.”

Preparation Makes Perfect

Having a DR plan in place doesn’t ensure a successful response to threats. Not being prepared is the biggest mistake Laz has seen companies make when it comes to addressing threats. Having the recovery capability in place and the plan documented is not enough. “Rehearsing all aspects is just as important,” he continues. Whether it’s validating that the technical recovery procedures are correct and you have the technical resources available when you need them, or you’re preparing the CMT to fulfill its roles by exercising various situations to ensure each member is comfortable with the nuances of directing disruptive events, Laz says a company must review and rehearse its response to disasters.

Companies should regularly review their DR plans, but the frequency of the reviews depend on many factors—two of which, according to Laz, are plan maturity and program maturity. When the plan is first documented, you may run through several versions before the glitches can be eliminated. Before a plan “matures,” it’s tested and retested. “Program maturity is also a factor because the higher quality programs have operationalized the business-continuity and disaster recovery environment; reviews and updates to the plan are built into the daily operation of the business,” he adds.

“The CMT should be responsible to oversee all of the response, recovery and restoration activities of the event.”
—Peter Laz, managing consultant at Forsythe Solutions Group Inc.

As an example, when a new system is being installed, the DR capability is updated, the plan documented and capability validated at the same time the production environment is being designed, built and installed. But you can’t stop with just an update. It’s important to clarify the strengths and weaknesses in the plan and program after the plan is used to address a threat. Identifying what worked and what didn’t during a response or validation process can streamline the plan and improve the response time—and even the outcome—when addressing the inevitable next threat.

Caroline Vitse is a freelance writer based in Rochester, Minnesota.



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