The biggest problem with a disaster recovery plan is when there isn’t one. If nothing has been prepared, planned or backed-up, then that’s what you can expect to salvage in the case of a serious incident – nothing. But even when the plan exists, too many organisations leave gaping holes. If you’re starting in a new position as disaster recovery manager, you have the advantage of bringing a fresh pair of eyes and seeing things that your colleagues have missed or dismissed as unimportant. Here’s a checklist to help you spot what might need to be fixed, and underlying causes of the problems.

  1. The disaster recovery plan is non-existent. If there is no plan, it’s possible that senior management is unaware or doesn’t care. You’ll have to use your DR management expertise to convince all concerned that DR planning is both vital and positive for the company.
  2. It’s incomplete. Disaster recovery goes beyond daily data backups. Backup sites for high priority operations like sales, home-working and communication plans for employees, and appropriate insurance policies are all part of the deal too.
  3. It’s too long. Often DR plans become bloated because the focus is on trying to provide a solution for every possible cause, instead of focusing on possible outcomes and what to do about them. You need to know what to do if your application servers are out, rather than how to react if a meteorite strikes your systems room.
  4. It hasn’t been tested. That means more than meeting-room ‘thought experiments’. You have to try restoring an entire server with all its applications and data and check it all really works, for instance. And you have to test regularly thereafter too.
  5. No backup for the DR plan actors. If key members of your organisation become unavailable in a disaster, your plan must define the backup contacts who will act in their place. Otherwise your recovery will stall for lack of decisive action.

You may discover other shortcomings too. Remember – it’s often the thing you didn’t check that breaks down on you just when you need it!