Tips for an effective disaster recovery plan

Data backup, people and communications need to figure prominently in any effective disaster recovery plan.

According to some estimates, 2011 has become the year of billion-dollar natural disasters. With floods, storms and fires now a top-of-mind business risk concern, IBM has announced six tips that individuals, businesses and government agencies can use to help prepare their IT environments for natural disasters and a wide range of other threats.

The key is to assess business and disaster recovery plans before it’s too late. In today’s on-demand environment, it is vital to rapidly adapt and respond to risks, as well as opportunities, to maintain continuous access to data.

According to IBM, the following issues need to be addressed:

Validate your data backup plan

Verify that your data is out of harm's way and/or is accessible to your recovery location. Consider using a Cloud service to store key data and allow your organisation more flexibility to respond to changing conditions with minimal interruption to the business.

Consider employees and the personal impact of a disaster

A company's most important asset is its people, but the most important asset for people is their families. Consider how you would move them and their families if required, think about providing financial support to your employees during a crisis event, and consider offering counseling to help them deal with the aftermath of a crisis.

Develop various ways to communicate with employees, partners

After people, the most important element is communication. Communications efforts must be timely, clear and honest, as miscommunication can make a disaster even worse. Consider how you would communicate with your employees, partners, clients, media, industry, and vice-versa, what training you have provided, what tools are you using and — importantly — test the communications plan.

Think about the ‘domino effect’ when considering business risk

Years of monitoring regional disasters has shown that such events often create other events. For example, a cyclone’s high winds and heavy rains can lead to flooding, structural damage, power outage, telecommunication and/or travel disruptions.

Plan for catastrophic events that could last a while

Businesses must consider the impact if the duration of the disruption to the facility, network, technology, or people is longer than a period of three days, one week, etc. Over the past decade, there have been more disaster events with a longer term duration and financial impact. Companies need to consider their options if their primary environment or key people are not available for more than two weeks.

Think broadly

Each company is part of a supply chain or network. While you may do everything right, if you have a critical partner, supplier, vendor or provider of service, your preparedness is only as good as those other businesses. As part of your disaster recovery plan, ensure everyone upstream and downstream from your business is also prepared.

“People and businesses are relying on technology now more than ever, which creates an urgent need to protect critical data and keep IT systems up and running when a natural disaster or other unexpected outage occurs,” said IBM Business Continuity and Resiliency Services general manager, Rick Ruiz.

“In these situations, it's clear that those who have moved from the old model of ‘experience and react’ to a new one of ‘anticipate and adjust’ will fare much better.”

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