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Disaster recovery planning process requires rehearsal

Disaster recovery is more than just a plan to be ready in case there's an interruption to your organization's business operations. According to analyst Jon Toigo of Toigo Partners International, a successful disaster recovery planning process starts with rehearsing how to respond to a disaster event.

"Disaster recovery planning isn't just the creation of a plan. It's the rehearsal of a plan. It is training a few people in your organization to respond with their full faculties while most people are losing their heads," Toigo told his audience at a recent Storage Decisions presentation.

He noted that organizations that develop continuity plans tend to fare better than the ones that don't, but what constitutes a disaster is determined by the unique nature of each business.

"Disasters happen. Any unplanned interruption in normal access to data to support mission-critical business operations for whatever constitutes an unacceptable period of time," Toigo said.

Knowing what systems are critical to an organization's recovery is part of the job, he said. Some applications can wait to be restored -- and some functions can't have any downtime.

"Your job in disaster recovery is to go through the inventory of applications and determine which are which -- assign some kind of criticality," Toigo said.

He said one form of disaster recovery is really outdated -- the reliance on vendors to replace damaged equipment. This approach is relatively inexpensive -- and is likely to involve a lot of downtime, he said.

"I'm going to make a copy of my data and then I'm going to count on my vendors to replace hardware with the next box off the line if my hardware gets damaged," he said. "As long as I've got that data, I can re-instantiate that application on a new box. And I'm going to weather the amount of time it takes for that box to be provisioned for me."

Another role of DR is symbolic -- an organization needs to be able to continue serving customers even when some systems are not operational.

"That, at the end of the day, is what this is really all about: Make sure your stakeholders continue to have confidence in the capability of your company to continue providing whatever services it is providing," Toigo said.

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I'm all for rehearsing a disaster recovery. How else will you know if it works? You just need to document your step in advance to make sure no steps are forgotten. Plan it for a down time to allow you time if you have issues. If your business runs 24/7 this may not make management comfortable if you suggest a rehearsal. Try to explain the if the system fails for real what are the ramifications if the disaster plan does not work. 
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