The recent run of cold, snowy weather in my home state of Massachusetts reminded me that disasters come in many shapes and sizes and they can strike at any time of the year. While blizzards do not typically fall into the natural disaster category, they do have the potential to dramatically affect your business's access to critical data. Here in North America, it is more likely that hurricane, flood, tornado, fire or even an earthquake will test your disaster recovery plan.
Many companies that were affected by Hurricane Sandy were able to recover from flooding and wind damage; but those that have not bring cause for alarm. Power outages were a huge challenge. As of November 1, 2012 about 4.7 million people in 15 states were without electricity, down from nearly 8.5 million a day earlier. And there was no trading for two days on Wall Street as a result of the storm damage. The last time the New York Stock Exchange closed for two consecutive days for weather-related reasons was 1888.
After a disaster situation, when power is restored and your company begins to pick up the pieces, there are important questions to consider, which may be crucial for better preparedness the next time disaster strikes:
- Were you as prepared as you had hoped? What was lacking? What was excessive?
- Were you able to rely on tested Disaster Recovery (DR) processes, or were heroic efforts needed?
- What did you learn from your experience that can be used to make adjustments to your DR strategy?
Regardless of your current status for protecting your business and critical data from disaster, there are very likely several things you can do to improve your DR position.
DR Planning and Preparedness — You may not know what type of disaster will strike next or when it will happen, but there are plans and preparations you should take now to avoid what could be a business catastrophe in the event of a future disaster. Your geographic location alone can provide you with the starting point to understand the likelihood of risk due to flood, fire, power outage, hurricanes and the like. Now is the time to ensure that you can protect against downtime.
During the Disaster — You're in the thick of it. This is your moment on stage in front of a live and unforgiving audience. You are either prepared and are taking a proactive posture against potential downtime, or you are reacting to the disaster as it unfolds. In either case, key stakeholders need to know how well you were able to recover and what you will improve on, once the storm blows over. Following are several items to consider during the event:
- Treat any recovery effort, big or small, as a chance to learn and improve
- Capture information about what went smoothly, what issues arose, and what mitigation steps were taken
- Technology is only part of the improvement opportunity. How did communication go? Did your processes help or hinder you? Did methodical efforts save the day or were herculean efforts needed to resume end-user and customer operations?
Post-Disaster — Take critical stock of how you actually fared during the event.
- Were you able to resume operations in a reasonable amount of time?
- Did you confidently reassure your end users and customers that you would successfully restore critical business functions in a timely manner?
- What changes need to be made to improve success and decrease risk? Thoroughly review your DR plan from the perspective of staffing, process impact, and technological resilience.
No matter where you are located, now is the time to reevaluate your existing disaster recovery plan or begin to develop your first one. Preparing against disaster and ensuring that you can quickly resume normal business operations takes time, effort, and resources. Also, the best outcomes are likely to occur when a good dose of experience is added to this mix.
Partnering with a team of seasoned disaster recovery specialists, who are vested in your complete DR outcomes and not only in a piece of the recovery puzzle, is critical. Before the next Hurricane Sandy or even a simple power outage impacts your business, learn about Balancing Cost, Risk and Complexity in Your DR Strategy. Then begin planning your DR strategy in earnest and consider engaging the Commvault consulting services team for a fresh perspective on disaster recovery.
James Brissenden is a Service Development Manager, Professional Services, at Commvault.