Disaster Recovery Planning for the Infrastructure and Beyond

While the term ‘disaster recovery planning’ often conjures up images of servers in racks, disk drives and IT personnel monitoring system consoles, it takes more than that to keep today’s IT systems going. Power, air-conditioning, networks and the buildings that house IT systems are all part of the infrastructure required for IT operations. Any damage or unavailability of these items can quickly result in overall IT outage. But that’s not all. A really effective DR plan must prepare a business for handling not only hardware requirements, but also those for software and people as well.

Software aspects for disaster recovery planning include data backup and restore, but must extend to all the items that an enterprise needs to recover operations and productivity after an incident. While it may be tempting to consider that reliable procedures for backing up files and databases and storing data safely are sufficient, there are at least two more dimensions to be considered. Firstly, software applications often need more than just user data to function correctly: they need administrative information, such as configuration data, too. Secondly, no DR procedure for data can be considered viable unless it is regularly tested and shown to work – meaning that data backups really do allow systems to get running again.

But perhaps the factor that is too often forgotten is human resources. For most organisations, IT systems only exist as supports for work carried out by people. IT downtime becomes a problem when it has a negative impact on people’s ability to do their work, or do resume doing their work even after the outage has been resolved. In extreme situations where natural disasters such as storms or floods have affected a whole region, people may need as much attention and consideration as any system or machine. Stress and worry about their personal or family situation may stop them from being able to work effectively, even if IT hardware, software and infrastructure problems have been fixed. Good disaster recovery planning takes these aspects into account as well.

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