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What I Learned About IT Disaster Recovery from Real Life

How to thoroughly prepare and test business continuity and disaster recovery plans before an emergency arises.

Born and raised on the Emerald Coast, I have enjoyed the sunny days on the beaches and the dreary ones inside. That being said, I have first-hand experience with disaster recovery situations due to hurricanes in the area. A business continuity plan facilitates maintaining business or getting back to business as quickly as possible in the event of a business interruption. Your business continuity plan should include tasks, key people for contacts, and processes for each department based on the kind of event. 


Let’s take the time now to make a clear distinction between a business continuity plan and a disaster recovery plan. A disaster recovery plan is meant to identify key IT infrastructure and restore operations. A disaster recovery plan should be included in every business continuity plan because IT helps the other business units complete their objectives. The purpose of this article is not to tell you what all needs to be included in your business continuity or disaster recovery plans, but rather, my general advice on these necessities based on first-hand experience with storms.

Plan the work and work the plan


Test your business continuity plan, including your disaster recovery plan, as much as possible. Work through the logic of each step within each department. Remember, you are preparing your business for a cross-department event, which means setting up a plan that includes each team. You need to make sure you take a holistic approach.  

Try to simulate multi-system failures and attempt to think of any “perfect storm” scenarios that you need to prepare for. If you find yourself assuming anything outside the rules of the event you are simulating, you should work to eliminate these assumptions. The best way to remove assumptions to improve planning is to test, test, test! This kind of testing is known as disaster simulation testing, and it will help you ensure that your business continuity and disaster recovery plans are as tight-knit as they can be.  

We will never forget 


Typically, the time that everyone wants to think and talk about a business continuity or disaster recovery plan is 3 days before a hurricane is set to make landfall, or some other kind of natural disaster is about to occur. One in four businesses will end up closing their doors after a disaster, so it’s well worth the time investment to create a business continuity plan and update it at least once a year.  

Implementing change management in your IT helps with tracking updates that need to be performed with your business continuity plan. Capture after action reports when you experience failures throughout the year to investigate and improve your response time. Review the business continuity plan with everyone in the company: project management, business analysts, IT, sales, marketing, etc. The goal is to identify key people and keep them updated on changes to your plan. You should also provide a summary to executive leadership. 

Blessed are the flexible for they shall not break  


No matter how much planning you do, failure can still happen. I have seen 110 volts of electricity travel over RG6, melt the conduit on the line, and start a fire in the server room. Another time, I had significant industrial power backup fail and had to work with electricians to patch a group of smaller generators into the panel box to figure out a fuel schedule. Things happen, and you have to refer to the business continuity and disaster recovery plans so you can think on your feet and make decisions.  

I am all for access control systems, but when it locks you out of your building because of a power outage, and there is no manual override…?!??!?! Stay cool, stay calm, think through the situation variables, and talk to department leads. Your plan may change once you get into the thick of it, especially if you didn’t get to test a certain scenario. Do your best and document everything so you can improve next time. 

Show me the money 


Business continuity and disaster recovery plans cost money. Pick your level of investment wisely, or it could come back to bite you. Your business continuity plan is just like any other business process. You can track ROI on the process in the event of the plan execution, but find a cost that works for your organization and the level of risk that is acceptable. Your CFO is looking for a good plan with numbers that make sense. They want you to succeed so work with them closely.  

The cloud is an awesome way to reduce disaster recovery and business continuity time. Sometimes, the cloud means hosting somewhere else, but for organizations within industries like public works, they need their island to stay up and running even if the world outside stops. Look at hybrid and private cloud to give you a good return on investment during disaster times. Utilizing technology that has built in business continuity and disaster recovery is a quick win for most companies. 

Stay calm 


In emergency and disasters situations, you must stay cool headed. Even with the perfect plan, you can still miss things. One way to take some of the worry and stress out of situations like these is to hire partners that can help you with business continuity and disaster recovery. A managed IT services provider can help make sure your business is secure and accessible if a hurricane (or other natural disaster) hits. If your business is seeking assistance, the Bit-Wizards Managed IT Services team can help. Don’t wait for a disaster to strike, contact us today.


Wiz E. Wig, Mascot & Director of Magic
Wiz E. Wig

Director of Magic