Disaster Recovery Planning Is Simpler, and Harder, Than Ever

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2008-07-17 Print this article Print

=The Human Factor}

Even with systems and automated processes in place, staff members are still the key to making sure everything happens as it should during a crisis.

"Every company is becoming more and more dependent on [disaster recovery] technology, and it's all important. But the No. 1 thing I see that is ignored or not addressed properly is the people [in the organization]," IBM business continuity service manager Pat Corcoran told eWEEK.

"Companies say, 'Well, during a disaster, we'll depend on these five, six seven or 10 people to do our disaster recovery plans.' They put the plan in place, do the testing, and so on, but when a disaster happens, [these people are] not going to be available. So it comes down to: Do your people know what to do during a crisis? Do you know what to do in a crisis? Do you know how to communicate with your people when the power's gone?"

One of the most important elements of any disaster recovery plan or system is testing. A plan set up after 9/11 and never looked at again is probably a plan that won't work today.

Corcoran said enterprises don't test their disaster recovery systems often enough because it takes extra time out of staff schedules and can often interfere with daily production.

Corcoran recommends that organizations test their disaster recovery systems and processes at least twice a year, but adds that testing can be done in reasonable stages.

"I'd say that, in general, DR systems should be tested twice a year, at least," he said. "Now, that being said, I've always tested mine four times a year, but that's just me. You don't have to test the entire system each time; test part of it, but test it thoroughly.  Then, next time, test another part, and so on."

Many disaster recovery software providers--such as Ecora, Orange Parachute, Compellent, EMC, IBM, NetApp, Xiotech and Hewlett-Packard--allow IT managers to test their systems without having to take down the entire production apparatus--or even slow it down.

Neverfail, of Austin, Texas, has a continuous availability approach that detects application failures and IT outages before recovery is required and automatically switches the business to other servers to avoid business downtime.


Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on Salesforce.com and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and DevX.com and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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