Disaster Recovery

ICT Disaster Recovery plans should form a critical part of business continuity planning.

How long could your organisation operate without your information technology and communications systems?

Information technology and communications systems can fail for a multitude of reasons. Disaster Recovery focuses on responses to a defined subset of these. Each organisation will have a different definition of a disaster. Examples may include the obvious natural disasters such as fire, earthquake or flood or less obvious ones such as prolonged industrial disputes affecting power or communications services. The organisation must decide the likelihood of these events and subsequently plan how to deal with them so that the business can continue to operate.

Whatever the definition of a disaster, planning is needed to formulate appropriate responses. This is where disaster recovery planning occurs. The disaster recovery plan (DRP) must describe what disasters are catered for, when the DRP will be invoked and by whom, the activities to be undertaken, who is responsible for doing what, how long it will take, testing procedures, and how the disaster is declared finished. It may also cover how services are returned to a normal operational state once the disaster is over and normality is re-established.

Once a disaster recovery plan has been developed it must be tested. Disaster recovery testing is the only way to determine if the DRP will actually work and this step often identifies previously unknown dependencies and weaknesses in the plan. It is important that testing be repeated on a scheduled basis to identify and capture changes that may have been introduced to the organisation but have not been reflected in updates to the DRP.

In many cases an effective DRP is heavily dependent on good system documentation. In Openet's opinion, too much faith is placed in backup and recovery systems. There are many situations in which backup and recovery systems cannot fully restore services. It is good system documentation that will allow skilled professionals to deal with these situations to implement workarounds.

Openet has been involved in several disaster recovery projects from both a planning and testing perspective and can assist clients in the development of appropriate processes, DR testing and documentation.