Disaster recovery planning is a must. However, DR plans that tell you to carry out step 19 by checking the status of your accountancy systems may not be useful in the heat of the action, meaning when disaster really does strike.

Not only do you need to remember or find individual steps to be carried out, but you probably also need to communicate DR steps and their status to the rest of your organization.

For most people, an IT disaster is already bad enough, but not knowing what progress is being made to resolve matters can be even more frustrating. A dashboard with critical information that is updated and posted at regular intervals can help enormously.

How should you make such a dashboard? There are commercial products and templates available.

If you are using DR management or IT service management software, you may find suitable dashboards there.

Otherwise, if you’ve already dabbled with Excel (and who hasn’t!), you may well have seen the sort of dashboard graphic displays available for your data.

You can have bar charts, pie charts and – with a little more effort – “speedometer” or “fuel gauge” type displays to show you the status of different items, and if that status is what you want.

These tools or ones like them can be used to build a disaster recovery dashboard. The dashboard may be very simple or more complex, but it should always respect the principle of making things clear “at a glance”.

For critical systems, this may be as simple as a relatively big red/green “light” on the dashboard, next to the name of each system.

Red means it’s down, green means it’s back working again. Speedometer gauges can show overall progress, for example, 70% of resources now up and running.

Remember also that dashboards are handy tools to communicate DR needs before disaster, as well.

For example, your lights and gauges can show levels of business impact and vulnerability of critical systems, and show senior management “at a glance” what DR initiative should be funded next.