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6 Ways To Mess Up Your Disaster Recovery Planning Efforts

21st July 2015

Anthony Kessel of Sungard Availability Services US recently wrote this article which first appeared in Forbes

Disaster recovery planning: it’s essential to business resilience, business continuity, business agility and all those other buzz words you see plastered over the web nowadays. However, there is a caveat; namely, you have to do it right, or your disaster recovery planning will aggravate – not assist – any disaster you may experience. Here are six ways companies mess up their disaster recovery planning that I have personally seen (and cleaned up after) time and again.


1. Overlook the foundational principles of disaster recovery planning

Let’s start at the beginning. There are three foundational principles to all disaster recovery (DR) planning:

  • Protect your data. This is straightforward: make sure you have a copy of your data someplace safe.
  • Connect your data to your compute power. You have to be able to connect to the secondary copy of your data if you want to be able to use it for DR purposes.
  • Decide which DR responsibilities are yours. If you are working with a DR vendor, determine who does what in the event of a disaster.

“There are three foundational principles to all disaster recovery planning: Protect your data. Connect your data to your compute power. Decide which DR responsibilities are yours.”

— Anthony Kessel, Sungard AS

Failing to apply these three foundational principles is the first way to mess up your disaster recovery planning. For instance, you could:

  • Forget to backup some or all of your data (you wouldn’t believe what people forget to backup).
  • Have servers sitting somewhere, but have no way of getting your data to those servers.
  • Assume – but never define or verify – that you and your vendor know what to do if a disaster strikes.

But this is just the beginning. There are more ways you can foul up a disaster recovery scenario.

2. Have your data recovered from different points in time

So you have a secondary copy of your data – you’re covered in that area, right? Maybe, maybe not. The question you’d better ask yourself now is, “Is all that data recoverable from the same point in time?”

For example, suppose the majority of your company data is backed up onto tapes each night. But a key portion of your production environment is replicated every 30 minutes. Disaster strikes Tuesday, late in the afternoon. What happens when you try to recover using Monday evening’s tapes coupled with replicated data from 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday? Major synchronicity errors – a nightmare for all concerned.

3. Forget the three Fs

Do you know the three Fs of disaster recovery planning? They are food, folding cots, and phones. (Okay … so I can’t spell!) These are all about people. If you have a disaster, you may need to bring people to your failover site. Those people are going to get hungry and tired, so you’ll need to provide food and a place to sleep – possibly for days. They also have to talk to each other and to others who aren’t at the failover site, so you need good communication systems.

The three Fs aren’t high tech. They aren’t complicated. But they are essential. Fail in any one, and your disaster recovery planning can get seriously derailed.

4. Ignore human nature

Remember we said up front that you need to decide who is responsible for what during a disaster recovery situation? Disaster recovery solutions span the entire spectrum: you can elect to do everything yourself or have your vendor do everything, and every possible combination in between.

But here’s the stumbling block: when engaging in DR planning, many companies ignore human nature. They may say, “We’ll handle X, Y, and Z ourselves. We have the resources and expertise to cover all those areas.”

“…when engaging in DR planning, many companies ignore human nature. They may say, “We’ll handle X, Y, and Z ourselves. We have the resources and expertise to cover all those areas.”

— Anthony Kessel, Sungard AS

Then, disaster strikes. And – surprise, surprise – the people they were counting on to recover the business don’t show up. Instead, those folk decide to take care of their home and family. (Think of a hurricane situation. Would you tell the National Guard, “I’m sorry, I can’t evacuate – I need to handle disaster recovery for my company.”)

Contracting with a provider to handle your disaster recovery may be an expense, but it could be a necessary one. The DR provider can call on personnel not affected by the disaster situation to handle your failover and recovery, letting your employees deal with more pressing personal needs.

5. Get behind in change management

Do you know of any company today whose applications, systems, and networks remain unchanged year after year? Me, neither! IT departments today can barely keep up with the demand for new software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, cloud migrations, security protocols, and all the rest of it. And that’s just in the production environment!

But if all those new applications, cloud environments, storage options, integrations, etc. aren’t accounted for in your DR planning, then getting back up and running after a disaster is going to be dicey at best and impossible at worst.

6. Use your disaster recovery resources only for disaster recovery

Okay, let’s assume you have taken care to avoid all of the first five mess-ups. You’re home free! Well, not so fast. There’s one more way you can botch your disaster recovery planning – and that is to use all those carefully-assigned resources only for disaster recovery!

Think about it: you have all this storage. All this data. All this compute power. A perfectly-tuned DR environment that exactly matches your production environment. Are you really just going to let that sit there doing nothing for all but two days of the year when you actually do disaster recovery testing? What a waste of your investment that would be!

Instead, use your DR environment every day to further your business aims. Use it for developers and testers. Break in new code. Perform penetration tests. Run big data. The possibilities – and the ROI – are enormous.

“Disaster recovery planning is one of the best things you can do for your business – but for it to bring the business resilience, business continuity, and business agility you’re looking for, make sure you do it right!”

— Anthony Kessel, Sungard AS

For more insights into how to ensuring your business’s uptime and availability, check out our Resource Centre.  Because everything is all-time.