Disaster recovery training and staffing strategies

Paul Kirvan

What are some steps companies can do to mitigate downtime resulting from a lack of trained IT staff in the aftermath of a disaster? Obviously, one answer is "Train additional IT staff members to perform IT tasks," but how realistic is that? And what if those staffers are unable to respond following a disaster as well?

Business continuity plans and disaster recovery training plans should examine the staffing issue initially as part of the business impact analysis (BIA) and risk assessment (RA) phases. These initiatives should identify staffing issues that need to be addressed. From a budget perspective, adding staff may not be an option. If that's the case, cross-training of existing IT staff is highly recommended, as is rotating the alternate staff in and out of production assignments, if possible, to ensure their skills are current.

If your organization has only one data center and your budget cannot underwrite a second data center, consider one of the many hosted data center options currently available. These can be found under such headings as Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) or Data Center as a Service (DCaaS). You can subscribe to as much (or as little) resources as your budget can handle. You'll also be contracting with trained IT professionals, who should be able (with advance training, knowledge and suitable documentation) to step in and support your production systems if your existing staff is unavailable.

If your recovery time objectives (RTOs) are aggressive, it may be necessary to arrange for data backup and recovery services, in addition to other managed IT services, to ensure that interruptions to your production systems will be minimal. Of course, if your organization has more than one data center, and if the data centers are sufficiently distant from each other (e.g., at least 20-30 miles), you could replicate data from one data center to the other and mitigate the impact of a staffing loss by spreading your IT staff across sites and ensuring there is plenty of cross-training of all employees.

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