Creating a Fail-safe Data Centre Disaster Recovery Plan

Whether you host the bulk of your infrastructure in your own data centre, a third-party data centre or a mix of both, you need a data center disaster recovery plan. These plans differ from the traditional disaster recovery plan as they take into account the actual data centre, its location, infrastructure and environmental systems, amongst other things. A DR plan, whilst still necessary, deals more with the actual IT systems that could be disrupted during an outage or event and the process of recovering them. The right data centre services provider can help you create your plan whether it’s for your own data centre or a third-party facility.

Check the operations

Depending on your arrangement, this exercise could involve input from internal data centre teams, external data centre providers and other resources. Anything related to the data centre infrastructure you use should be considered in your assessment. This will include building and floor plans, environmental features and network configuration documents. If you’re using a third-party facility, they might already have their own data centre disaster recovery plan. If you’re relying on your own facility, you’ll need to assess the biggest potential issues that could affect the data centre, such as security breaches and power outages, which types of disruptions have affected you in the past and what the current process is for addressing them.

Depending on the information you uncover, you might need to retest certain procedures and redefine the maximum outage time you can bear. You’ll also want to ensure you know which key staff will need to be available to respond to data centre incidents and whether they need any additional training or retraining. In addition, outline the response procedures of any third-party providers and if they ran smoothly last time they were used.

Know your gaps

Mining this information will give you a current-state picture of what you are missing in your data centre disaster recovery plan strategy. It will also help you identify the most pressing risk scenarios, whether they are related to nature, security or human error. You’ll aim to list these potential situations in order of impact, seriousness and probability to help formulate the proper steps and procedures to take to respond to them. Then you’ll outline how to achieve your desired future state of data centre readiness and what this will require in terms of resourcing, staff training and budget.

After the plans are reviewed and next steps are actioned, the data centre disaster recovery plan should be tested and implemented once any tweaks needed are made. Going forward, you’ll want to schedule regular audits of the plan to ensure it still meets your business’s needs and reflects the current state of your data centre assets and arrangement.

Remember to enlist the help of your data centre services provider or hosting facility in creating your data centre disaster recovery plan. Their expertise will help ensure all your bases are covered so you have the most protection from potential outages and incidents.

Why Disaster Recovery Should Be Standard Operating Procedure

Not that long ago, disaster recovery often simply entailed organisations making back-ups of critical files and a staff member taking tape back-ups home “just in case” anything happened.

Of course, the IT field has evolved considerably since those simpler times. Yet, many organisations aren’t keeping pace with current disaster recovery technology and standards. Failing to update your approach to disaster recovery doesn’t leave your organisation at risk during a catastrophe — it puts your organisation at risk every day. Taking a holistic approach to disaster recovery planning — with the help of a DR or data centre services provider — will help you cover each minute detail so your organisation is ready to withstand the simplest and worst of unplanned incidents.

The Full Scope of Disaster Recovery

Disaster recovery is not simply what you do when the disaster strikes, but what you do to mitigate risk and ensure business continuity for technology and the related processes. CSO Online defines disaster recovery as the “planning and processes that help organisations prepare for disruptive events — whether those events might include a hurricane or simply a power outage caused by a backhoe in the parking lot.” Preparing for such an event, whether it be hurricane or errant backhoe, means creating and maintaining a solution that covers:

  • Scalability that accounts for new processes and data beyond planned growth
  • Redundancy of critical servers and infrastructure — particularly for customer-facing processes
  • Failover systems that continue business operations if a disaster strikes
  • Secure back-ups that aren’t harmed in an emergency and can be retrieved as soon as possible
  • Vetting all SaaS programs to ensure vendors meet your disaster recovery standards
  • Written and known procedures for your staff to follow in a disaster, and for end-users if their workflow changes during the process of an event

Creating a Disaster Recovery Plan

Like most large-scale IT projects, the process of crafting a disaster recovery plan will demand two very important elements:

  • A large majority of your staff’s time and resources, likely meaning an adjustment in their day-to-day duties that could hamper operations
  • Experts who are familiar with the best disaster recovery technology and protocols, particularly if you’re in a highly regulated industry

Instead of continually postponing planning until your internal resources are available and the stars have aligned, you can rely on a disaster recovery partner to guide your business through the process. Besides freeing your staff, a team of experts will help you:

  • Assess how all business processes — inside IT and within your organisation — will be affected during a disaster
  • Audit your infrastructure, technology and technology vendors to determine gaps in disaster recovery, including redundancy and failovers
  • Draft plans for everyone in your organisation that explain any alternate workflows, work locations or different technology to use during a disaster
  • Manage the implementation of disaster recovery technology and plans

If your fellow executives question the cost of this project, a cost-benefits analysis demonstrating how much business you’ll lose during days of downtime if you didn’t have a plan versus how much you’ll lose if a catastrophe strikes and you were prepared properly will likely make them start humming a different tune. But most importantly: Start planning now. After all, you never know when that backhoe will strike.

4 Indications You Have a Good Disaster Recovery Provider

Not all disaster recovery services are created equal — and the differences between them could mean the difference between a solution that works and one that fails during a catastrophic incident. Deciphering the differences between good and bad disaster recovery services takes more than a technical eye. Organisations must also look at what the disaster recovery provider delivers from a business impact perspective as well.

1. They help you identify what’s critical to protect

You might go into a disaster recovery plan thinking you should try to protect everything. But putting everything but the kitchen sink in your disaster recovery plan can significantly increase your costs. What are the core systems you need to get up and running during a disaster? What are your most critical applications? A good disaster recovery provider will help you identify what your highly critical, moderately critical or non-critical systems are and prioritise them for your disaster recovery plan. The disaster recovery provider will then analyse your recovery point objective and recovery time objective so you know exactly what you will be able to recover in what time frame.

2. They help you determine how you want disaster recovery to play out

After you’ve decided what you need to make recoverable, you need to identify the mechanisms for doing it. Do you want automatic disaster recovery? Which scenarios will activate disaster recovery and which won’t? Who are the individuals in your organisation that decide these answers? A good disaster recovery provider will guide you along this path and ensure your plans map to your business requirements.

3. They give you configuration and recovery site options

There are different ways and places to configure your disaster recovery site. A cold site is a low-fuss, low-cost option for organisations that simply want to set up new equipment in a data centre during a disaster. Hot sites offer the most protection and the most minimal disruption during a disaster, with all critical data duplicated at another data centre site up within the time frame you need it. Look for a data centre provider that offers these options in addition to inter-data centre capability between local and regional nodes and high-availability disaster recovery available within the cloud.

4. They monitor and test your plan

How do you know your disaster recovery plan will actually work? You can reduce the risk of disaster recovery failure by choosing a provider that will monitor, test and document gaps and put corrective actions in your plan. A provider with different types of monthly and annual tests that suit your business needs can help you feel more secure about your disaster recovery investment. The best providers will have a managed service offering that addresses disaster recovery maintenance so all aspects of your plan are serviced through one local contact and contract.