Each disaster recovery plan needs to have a maintenance program, which consists of three groups of people: management, the DR team and the technical staff, who all work together to keep their plan up-to-date.
The management team
The management team lays down the essential foundation of the maintenance program, which predetermines the endeavor's overall success or failure. These people provide resources for the planning effort, approve plans and promote awareness of the program.
The management team works under a senior manager, but application owners (AO) act as key delegates of management for DR plans at the application level. The AO is the senior manager's responsible person for the ongoing operation of an application. Ideally, the AO should serve as the "business" owner of the application and its data. Where appropriate, the application owners should also manage other application-level oversight activities, such as the access review process.
The management team is essential during a disaster recovery plan update because the AO ensures that all system stakeholders' requirements are adequately considered, with a particular focus on recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery point objectives (RPOs). If all system stakeholders don't agree on these objectives, management can settle any differences. The AO also focuses on the often daunting task of application dependencies, which have wide-ranging implications that DR plans must adequately address.
Application-level plans form the building blocks for higher-level disaster recovery plans, which should extend to the data center level. As with applications, organizations will also need to designate plan owners for data center outages. Typically, these individuals manage the data center. Their more complex plans add overall coordination and planning components which are common to the entire facility.
Disaster recovery team
The second team of people in a disaster recovery maintenance program is the DR team itself. The DR team consists of the DR program manager and DR coordinators. The DR program manager owns and directs the day-to-day activities of the DR plan update process. This person works under the overall leadership of senior management. The program manager determines the number of plans the firm requires and how they relate to each other; sustains the process by which to update and approve plans; defines mandatory plan components and assesses plan readiness. The program manager may also serve as the project manager for the update project, or may utilize one or more supporting team members in that role.
Disaster recovery coordinators (DRC) put together the building blocks of the disaster recovery plan. Along with composing a big picture of the plan, the DRC also maps out all of the plan details such as the recovery strategy, call trees, team composition and task lists. Also, the DRC fulfills all of the resource requirements in the DR plan, making sure that all technical, human and logistical aspects are accounted for.
The third group of people in the maintenance program is the technical staff. The technical staff takes on a variety of roles to keep a disaster recovery plan up-to-date. The technical members include a technical process owner, development leaders and support staff. At the most basic level, these team members manage the daily operation of their various applications. They maintain the task lists and scripts for routine system operation. At higher planning levels, this group performs database administration and release management.
Selecting a disaster recovery tool
A DR maintenance program requires people to create, execute and maintain it, but they also need planning and software tools for a DR plan to work properly. A wide range of automated planning tools are available. Some examples include DownArchive's Toolkit Suite, myCOOP and SunGard Availability Services' Living Disaster Recovery Planning System (LDRPS).
The first step in tool selection is to identify the organization's objectives for the system. Many tools will address the basic functions of plan maintenance, storage and approval. The tool also must be readily accessible in time of disaster.
The management team, DR team and technical staff must remember that choosing the wrong planning tools for their disaster recovery plan can lead to unnecessary complications. For example, run books, scripts and other operational task lists are located in databases or collaboration repositories that are separate from business continuity tools. In this case, team members should choose a planning tool that will either link directly to those repositories or coexist with them, which will avoid duplicated technical documents.
In the end, a strong key personnel combined with the correct non-industry specific tool, such as a Microsoft SharePoint site, can fully support a disaster recovery maintenance program. With the appropriate team updating and maintaining a disaster recovery plan accordingly, their organization can be rest assured that they're always ready to take on any kind of disaster that may come their way.
Frank Lady, CBCP, CISSP, PMP, has more than 15 years of experience in business continuity and contingency planning roles. He is a vice president of business continuity for a Fortune 50 company, and a member of the "Disaster Recovery Journal's" Editorial Advisory Board. Frank welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This was first published in November 2009