Unfortunately, disaster recovery, most often just referred to as DR, is something that every IT department has to deal with at some time or another.  Whether an organization was hit by a disaster without a plan, a disaster with a plan that didn’t quite work, or realized through their typical yearly DR test that they were not prepared, the time often comes to pick a new disaster recovery solution.

If you find yourself beginning to look for a new DR solution, there are three major challenges you should focus on overcoming.  Let’s talk about what you should be thinking about when it comes to:

  • The Business Challenges
  • The People Challenges
  • The Technology Challenges

You may be wondering why I listed technology last.  That’s actually the simple one, since it is the easiest to overcome.  While you must solve this challenge, it is not where you will end up spending the bulk of your time and planning.

Now, let’s break down some of these challenges.

Disaster Recovery and The Business Challenges

First things first.  Do you understand what you are protecting from a disaster, and what the business impact of a disaster is?

If you answered some servers, and a lot of money. You have some homework to do before you can even begin to look at a new DR solution.

What you need to do is to conduct a Business Impact Analysis or BIA and understand what the impact of an outage to your company is.

This of course is no easy feat, because many organizations may not even understand the impact of an outage.  It is important for key stakeholders across business groups and IT to get together and figure things out.

Start by defining the critical applications to your business.  One you have a list, go over it a second and third time.  Circulate it across the organization.  You may be surprised at what is critical, and what isn’t.  For example, someone in finance may say the payroll system is critical, since it is to them, but may completely overlook a manufacturing system since it is not something the ever see.

A cross functional team is essential to conducing a BIA.

The People Problems

Once you have conducted a BIA, and have an understanding of what applications and systems are in your environment, and how critical they are, then the next thing to think about are the people challenges.

The people challenges come in many forms.  For example, disasters don’t always happen from 8 AM to 5 PM, so it may not be normal staff members who respond.  The response may come from ops teams, or whoever it is on call.

It is important to clearly define who will be responding to a disaster when it happens, and it should always be more than one person on this list.

These people will need to be trained on how to respond to a disaster, and what the DR processes are.  Perhaps this should be more of a people and a process problem.

It is important to put strong DR processes in place.  In my view, the same processes should be followed no matter how critical an application is.

While a critical application may have more steps and verification than say a development application, the general process should be the same, so that key personally are comfortable with the flow, no matter what they are recovering.

Remember, whatever DR product you choose, your staff will need to be trained on it.  Be sure to cover training both in your budget and in your project timeline.

The Technology Problems

Believe it or not, the technology problems are the easiest to solve, because there are many solutions out there.  Even if you are implementing your first DR plan, many organizations have come before you, and many have successful implementation.

You may find it helpful to make a list of technologies you are using in house, so you can get ahead of any product incompatibilities ahead of time.  You may even be using vendors that have a DR product, and might not even realize it.  If you are using a value added reseller in your organization for technology purchasing, now is a great time for them to add some value.

As you narrow your list of products down, be sure to think about who is implementing the product you are going to use.  Will you be doing it in house?  Will the vendor be doing it?  Will a value added reseller be doing it?  No matter the scenario, you can always ask your vendor or reseller for customer references to really understand what an implementation takes, and any potential gotchas along the way.

No matter where you are in your disaster recovery DR planning journey, it is important to have a handle on a number of key areas before you even begin to select a product.  Be sure to have a good understanding of your business requirements, the needs of your employees, and the technology you use on a daily basis before you start narrowing down the list of products.

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