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What is a change control process and how does it relate to disaster recovery?

What is a change control process and how does it relate to DR?

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A change control process, or change management, is a formal process that ensures that any modifications to an existing IT environment are handled smoothly and efficiently. According to the Project Management Dictionary and the ITIL Change Management Toolkit, the change control process is "introduced in a controlled and coordinated fashion" for "efficient and prompt handling of all changes to controlled IT infrastructure, in order to minimize the number and impact of any related incidents upon service."

So why is the change control process important in a disaster recovery (DR) environment? Your disaster recovery site is expected to be ready on short notice to take over for the main production environment if there is any significant interruption in service. Any upgrades to the normal operational environment such as modified software, updated versions of operating systems or software, modified drivers etc., must be reflected in the DR site as well. I often find that people put shortcuts on their PC desktops, then forget the actual location referred to by the shortcut. So, when they get to the disaster recovery site, they expect their "DR" desktop to look like their "normal" desktop, and have difficulty remembering how to get to their proper site.

When change management or change control is used correctly, a procedure exists for any modifications made to the IT environment. One step you should not forget is to include the DR site in all of the modifications. The organization can decide how this is accomplished, but some type of written procedure that can be easily followed must be available at the disaster recovery site. Also, some organizations use the DR environment as their testing or staging area for software or other changes. If this is the case, one must be aware of the procedures required to "downgrade back" to the original production environment. Again, the key to a well-prepared disaster recovery site is the ability to transform the DR site to the production site in the shortest period of time with the least amount of errors.

This was first published in June 2010

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