Many organisations, businesses, and companies are fully dependent and rely on information. All of their operations are based on and around information technology (IT). It means that their business is built on computers and internet applications where they store, study, retrieve and transmit data, even manipulate with it. Information is their greatest asset.
Organisations and companies that handle business within the IT infrastructure, all have set of procedures or documented contingency plans, generally in written form that they can follow and implement them in the event of a possible disaster. This way they can protect and recover data based on a proper set of actions taken before, during or after a disastrous event.
By a Disaster, it is meant anything from natural, environmental to man-made intentional or unintentional disasters.
And because there isn’t a right type or size for a Disaster Recovery Plan relies on three basic strategies included for all of them:
- Prevention – strategic measure that will try to identify and reduce the risk of a disaster event before it happens
- Detection – discovering a presence of an unwanted event or a potential threat with a help from antivirus software, servers, and network monitoring software’s and fire alarms
- Correction – the main focus is on restoring or fixing the system after a disastrous event by having the right insurance policies for critical documents.
The IT Service Community are the ones who are in charge in handling and implementing the IT services that meet the client’s needs. From planning, designing, structuring and operating IT policies and procedures to including the protocol for a recovery plan in the event of a disaster.
They offer their contracting companies proper templates and solutions and up to date software how to handle with a Disaster Recovery Plan and also, most importantly, the benefits of having one.
Every Company must answer three basic questions before they can implement a Recovery Plan in the event of a disaster:
- What’s the main objective?
- Who will be responsible if a disruption occurs?
- What will the procedure be when and if such an event occurs?
Those are the three main objectives that every company must focus on. Even so, this seems pretty straightforward and simple on paper, the question still remains why there are so many mistakes and errors made by the companies and why their plan fails, even to this day.
There are a number of reasons why: starting from things that they overlooked in the process, lack of hardware, out of date software, not enough people and failure on their part to anticipate this kind of problem that’s can lead to devastating proportions for any company.
So the main objective in this article will be to pinpoint the most common reasons why Disaster Recovery Plans are failing and where the companies usually make their mistakes in handling these plans.
Karl Palachuk, a senior systems engineer at America’s Tech Support, who has been developing disaster recovery plans for the last 20 years and is an expert in the field, wrote on some of the main weaknesses companies have with their plans.
First of all, we must mention that even if cloud computing is an important element for a DR Plan to perform and many articles have put this in the top priorities, you can be sure that it’s not.
DR plans have been occurring long before the advent of cloud computing (successful or unsuccessful).
The foundation of a strong DR Plan revolves around few basic principles that don’t necessarily involve the “cloud” and so it is not one of the main reasons why they often fail.
Let’s take a look at the most common mistakes being made, so it can be easier for you to overcome them in the future:
1. Inferior Backup Technology
If a Disaster Recovery Plan can be successfully administered, your first priority and the main focus should be the backup. It doesn’t matter what else is included in the plan if you don’t have the right data to restore. Most of the problems arise because of a corrupted data, certain applications that haven’t been downloaded or a backup data that’s not current. The reasons behind it are not having an up to date technology.
Online backups and data replication is a foundation of a strong Disaster Recovery Plan and as such is critical to ensure that you have a technology that is working. Therefore always check for the latest software available on the market.
In other words, you must make sure that your data is always in use and duplicated on an offsite, secondary location. That way, even if the primary location data centre goes down the information can be accessible on a secondary site.
The DR Plan often flounder because of a system oversight and you must never let that happen. Data Backup is only effective if you have available systems and legitimate IT infrastructure that can provide an instant recovery to your data.Also having the newest and latest online backup software can be really helpful.
If you follow this advice your data and systems will be back and up and running after a disaster occurs and the safety of your business will be assured.
2. Plan neglect or having no plan at all
If having an up to date technology is a necessity, then having an appropriate plan is a foundation of how successful the Disaster Recovery would be. It means that you need to have an actual written document as a guide on what actually should be done in the event of a disaster.
Most businesses and companies fail this step, first of all, because nobody ever thinks that a disaster could happen to them and second and more important, because of the human element. Stress, fear, and frustration come into play and the situation is out of grasp. And of course, the worst example would be if there is no plan whatsoever.
It doesn’t matter if the company has access to all the latest technology. If there isn’t a defined plan already in order, it is all for nothing.
So if you want to have a strong DR Plan it is your duty to commit in these three main areas:
- Personnel – It means that some key people should be chosen that will have a direct access to recovery systems in different locations, resources and data so they can maintain the business operations. Also, setting up an alternate form of communication via cell phones is important, if the primary communications fail. “Mobile backend as a service” or simply BaaS is a model that can be very useful in situations like this because it can link mobile and web applications to a backend cloud storage.
- Operational Infrastructure – Protect all parts of your infrastructure that is imperative to your work. You must remember at all times that the reason you want your IT infrastructure to survive a disaster is that your staff can continue using the data and the systems after the event. This way they can continue to drive revenue and make a profit to your company.
- Who does what – Step by step guidelines to make sure that the employees are aware and have practised their role in an event of a disaster
If you consider all of these aspects you can rest assured that your business is safe. And never subdue to panic. That is not helpful to anyone who is trying to do their job.
3. The DR Plan has no system
There are two fundamental mistakes that companies make when it comes to Disaster Recovery Plan testing:
- They fail to test the whole plan on a consistent basis
- They fail to test and simulate a real DR world scenario
This is a major issue for a lot of companies because they either neglect this step or they forget to revisit the Disaster Recovery Plan completely. Therefore if you don’t want to be part of that group, take this step into consideration with an utmost seriousness.
With the constant evolution of the IT infrastructure and the new emerging technologies, revisiting the DR plan is crucial because there isn’t anything worse than an outdated plan.
You must make a consistent and organised schedule and make it you own standard business practice. Yes, testing takes time and cost money but is it worth it to completely lose your business over it? More frequent testing will give you the assurance that your staff knows the procedure and what’s expected of them. Testing in simulated, controlled conditions can give you input of some of the things that have been overlooked before and if you need to implement some new applications or hardware in the plan. Revisit the plan as much as you can. That way you can always review it and make standard updates.Make sure that everything, from every correction to every new addition to the DR plan is well documented and up to date.
All of these factors can be crucial if a disaster happens and you will be more prepared and ready handling the situation.
4. Unpredictable Circumstances
All being said, you must be aware that you can never be 100% ready in the event of a disaster. You can have all the latest hardware and software, or you have conducted all of the tests and the DR plan is up to date. But you can’t know how the plan would work if an unexpected hurricane or earthquake hits. The main point is that all of the steps above can give you some assurance of safety, but in extreme circumstances like that you will always have to adapt. Having all of the details ready won’t be enough.
You must never rely on just the applications or the data you have because they might not work when you need them or they won’t be available to use at the moment.
In situations like that, it is of utmost importance to ensure that you have enough power. Disasters can cause power blackouts and failures that last longer than the disaster itself. That is why having a backup generator is necessary. Those ways your staff can continue working while the interruption lasts. Be sure to have an up to date copy of the DR Plan at multiple locations so it can be available for those who need it. And finally and most importantly you must never forget about the communication. If a disaster strikes, having a mobile or telephone line won’t be enough. In a situation like that, you must find some other way to maintain and keep the communication going.