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Avoid a Friday 13th IT Horror Show with Disaster Recovery Planning

13 November 2015

Disaster RecoveryWhy do so many businesses not have a decent Disaster Recovery plan?

According to the Office for National Statistics, £1187.50 was spent online every second in the UK last year. If you add in the increasing value of data to all businesses, not just those that operate solely online, a critical IT failure can be much more costly than that.

Disaster can strike at any time. From natural disaster to a system failure, when something does go wrong it is important to be able to recover performance as quickly as possible.

A survey of SMBs carried out by analyst Forrester on behalf of iomart’s technology partner Cisco earlier this year revealed the top drivers behind the need to improve disaster recovery capabilities as:

  • Regulatory and legal pressures
  • Fiduciary responsibility to stakeholders
  • Cost of downtime
  • Requirement to stay online and be competitive 24x7

In the event of your business succumbing to total data loss, be it corrupted servers or loss of your working environment, how will your business continue to function? For many businesses who suffer an IT disaster, there is no way back. Makeshift operations might help you survive if you can restore order in a few days but if the problem carries on for weeks, customers and partners will quickly go elsewhere.

In reality all good businesses need a Disaster Recovery plan. It is an essential part of your business continuity planning and for long-term survival. There are two ways you can look at it:

  • Create a DR plan for a specific application, or
  • Create a DR plan for your entire IT infrastructure

Assessing whether there are critical parts of your IT that MUST be brought back as soon as possible or whether the plan needs to be for your entire infrastructure is the first step to understanding the best DR plan for your business.

The next step is to assess how long you could deal with being ‘offline’ for.

Then the decision is which software or hosting provider do you need to implement DR in a separate virtual environment. What process is best to recover your infrastructure/applications in the event you have to invoke a DR.

For enterprise business, Disaster Recovery as a Service enables you to connect remotely in to your servers hosted in a primary data centre. Upon invocation of a DR, every server and application is recovered into their secure virtual machine (VM) environment. When complete these servers are made available to all your users to connect into from wherever they happen to be.

Regular testing of a Disaster Recovery plan is also essential, as is the training of the people who will be responsible for invoking it in a real life situation if and when the time comes.

An annual DR test provides you with an accurate Recovery Time Objective (RTO), ensuring you know how long it would be offline for and sets realistic expectations for senior management who can assess the impact that would have on suppliers, stakeholders and most importantly customers.

Regular tests of your DR plan will ensure it can be activated immediately in an emergency, giving your business robust data protection and the ability to restore critical IT infrastructure efficiently and smoothly. However, the first step in any disaster recovery plan is that you actually have one.

The British Red Cross implemented an improved DR plan as part a more centralised approach to protecting its data.  As the charity’s head of IT said, “We are expected to be able to continue running the business in the event of an emergency, which means that our IT systems need to do the same.” Read the full case study here.

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Tags: Our Thoughts