Learn how to develop disaster recovery strategies as well as how to write a disaster recovery plan with these step-by-step instructions. Formulating a detailed recovery plan is the main aim of the entire IT disaster recovery planning project.
Once this work is out of the way, you’re ready to move on to developing disaster recovery strategies, followed by the actual plans. Once you have identified your critical systems, RTOs, RPOs, etc, create a table, as shown below, to help you formulate the disaster recovery strategies you will use to protect them.
Once your disaster recovery strategies have been developed, you’re ready to translate them into disaster recovery plans. In addition to using the strategies previously developed, IT disaster recovery plans should form part of an incident response process that addresses the initial stages of the incident and the steps to be taken. The following section details the elements in a DR plan in the sequence defined by ISO 27031 and ISO 24762. Important: Best-in-class DR plans should begin with a few pages that summarise key action steps (such as where to assemble employees if forced to evacuate the building) and lists of key contacts and their contact information for ease of authorising and launching the plan. You need only take a quick look at the news on any given day to remind you of why your company needs a disaster recovery plan.
Disaster recovery risk assessment and business impact analysis (BIA) are crucial steps in the development of a disaster recovery plan.
To do that, let us remind ourselves of the overall goals of disaster recovery planning, which are to provide strategies and procedures that can help return IT operations to an acceptable level of performance as quickly as possible following a disruptive event. Having established our mission, and assuming we have management approval and funding for a disaster recovery initiative, we can establish a project plan. A disaster recovery project has a fairly consistent structure, which makes it easy to organise and conduct plan development activity.
As you can see from The IT Disaster Recovery Lifecycle illustration, the IT disaster recovery process has a standard process flow. Following the BIA and risk assessment, the next steps are to define, build and test detailed disaster recovery plans that can be invoked in case disaster actually strikes the organisation’s critical IT assets. Detailed response planning and the other key parts of disaster recovery planning, such as plan maintenance, are, however, outside the scope of this article so let us get back to looking at disaster recovery risk assessment and business impact assessment in detail. Aerohive has unveiled an API platform that delivers wireless network data to business application developers. IBM's planned purchase of The Weather Co.'s data operations may be a bellwether event from which data professionals can learn. It is in these plans that you will set out the detailed steps needed to recover your IT systems to a state in which they can support the business after a disaster. Then, you’ll need to establish recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery point objectives (RPOs).
Here we’ll explain how to write a disaster recovery plan as well as how to develop disaster recovery strategies. Procedures should ensure an easy-to-use and repeatable process for recovering damaged IT assets and returning them to normal operation as quickly as possible.
This process can be seen as a timeline, such as in Figure 2, in which incident response actions precede disaster recovery actions. The next section should define roles and responsibilities of DR recovery team members, their contact details, spending limits (for example, if equipment has to be purchased) and the limits of their authority in a disaster situation.
Based on the findings from incident response activities, the next step is to determine if disaster recovery plans should be launched, and which ones in particular should be invoked. A section on plan document dates and revisions is essential, and should include dates of revisions, what was revised and who approved the revisions.
Once the plan has been launched, DR teams take the materials assigned to them and proceed with response and recovery activities as specified in the plans. Located at the end of the plan, these can include systems inventories, application inventories, network asset inventories, contracts and service-level agreements, supplier contact data, and any additional documentation that will facilitate recovery. These are essential in that they ensure employees are fully aware of DR plans and their responsibilities in a disaster, and DR team members have been trained in their roles and responsibilities as defined in the plans.
Chances are, you won't ever experience a Level Four disaster, such as a terrorist bombing or natural disaster like a hurricane or flood.

But, before we look at them in detail, we need to locate disaster recovery risk assessment and business impact assessment in the overall planning process. Such plans provide a step-by-step process for responding to a disruptive event with steps designed to provide an easy-to-use and repeatable process for recovering damaged IT assets to normal operation as quickly as possible. If a proper disaster recovery plan is in place, it will allow companies to retain their clients and at the same time boost their confidence level as they struggle to get back to their normal functioning. Key areas where alternate suppliers will be important include hardware (such as servers, racks, etc), power (such as batteries, universal power supplies, power protection, etc), networks (voice and data network services), repair and replacement of components, and multiple delivery firms (FedEx, UPS, etc). Then define step-by-step procedures to, for example, initiate data backup to secure alternate locations, relocate operations to an alternate space, recover systems and data at the alternate sites, and resume operations at either the original site or at a new location. Here we can see the critical system and associated threat, the response strategy and (new) response action steps, as well as the recovery strategy and (new) recovery action steps.
This section should specify who has approved the plan, who is authorised to activate it and a list of linkages to other relevant plans and documents. If DR plans are to be invoked, incident response activities can be scaled back or terminated, depending on the incident, allowing for launch of the DR plans. The more detailed the plan is, the more likely the affected IT asset will be recovered and returned to normal operation. And since DR planning generates a significant amount of documentation, records management (and change management) activities should also be initiated.
But even the smaller-scale Level One, Two, or Three disasters that you'll more likely encounter, such as power outages and server malfunctions, can paralyze business operations unless you've developed a plan for rapidly restoring IT services. This section defines the criteria for launching the plan, what data is needed and who makes the determination.
Technology DR plans can be enhanced with relevant recovery information and procedures obtained from system vendors. If your organisation already has records management and change management programmes, use them in your DR planning.
Those events with the highest risk factor are the ones your disaster recovery plan should primarily aim to address.
Included within this part of the plan should be assembly areas for staff (primary and alternates), procedures for notifying and activating DR team members, and procedures for standing down the plan if management determines the DR plan response is not needed.
Check with your vendors while developing your DR plans to see what they have in terms of emergency recovery documentation. You probably already have a disaster recovery plan, but it's wise to review it periodically and update it to accommodate changes in your business. Disasters caused by way of internal data loss are increasing with every passing day in the form of viruses, spyware, hackers, etc.
Drawing on my experience in developing disaster recovery plans for clients, I've compiled a list of the 10 steps an organization of any size should follow when creating a new disaster recovery plan or revising an existing plan. Hence, it is essential for companies to realize the importance of a disaster recovery plan. Many companies hire disaster recovery agents but a better thing to do would be to plan well for a computer disaster.Formulating a computer disaster recovery planA disaster plan is a well written document which chalks out the steps to be executed in the event of a disaster. The steps can be performed in three stages like before, after or during the disaster.A disaster plan brings in a sense of security, lessens chances of a chaotic situation and prepares the company so that it is able to regain its normalcy in a short span. Webhosts like Rackspace always provide you with the data recovery plans by default through their DR infrastructure.
One-step restore backup solutions are useful, but make sure you know how to manually recover the server should you have to restore your data on a different server platform.
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Consider leveraging built-in features of Windows Server 2003 and Windows 2000 Server—such as Microsoft Remote Installation Services (RIS), offline folders, Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS), and Windows Server Update Services (WSUS)—to aid in the recovery process and help get your network up and running again. Make Lots of Lists Your disaster recovery plan can't have too much documentation. To recover gracefully from a disaster, you need to adequately document equipment, network layouts, applications, and technical and business procedures that you'll need to reconstruct your business.
Include the model, manufacturer, description, serial number, and cost for each network component.

Should a disaster affect your company, this list will be useful for determining what IT will need to order to replace damaged equipment. Consider establishing lines of credit with these vendors in case bank funds aren't readily available after a disaster occurs. Designate someone in your company to notify these customers of your business status after a disaster has occurred and provide estimates of when your firm will become fully operational.
Diagram Your Network Use a software package such as Microsoft Office Visio 2003 to draw detailed diagrams for all networks in your organization, including both LANs and WANs. Construct a detailed diagram of the network layout for each business location, such as the sample diagram that Figure 1 shows. Make sure the diagram corresponds to the physical layout of the office (as opposed to a logical diagram of the network) to make it easier for someone who's unfamiliar with the office layout to find items.
This diagram should show all network components and briefly describe each component and the OS version.
Go Wireless If a disaster makes it impossible for your business to operate in its regular location, consider using wireless equipment to restore the network quickly. Assign a Disaster Recovery Administrator I suggest you assign a primary and secondary disaster recovery administrator for each business location. Ideally the disaster recovery administrators should live close to the office location so they can easily reach the office in the event of a major disaster. The administrators are responsible for declaring the disaster, defining the disaster level, assessing and documenting damage, and coordinating the recovery effort.
Assemble Teams When a major disaster strikes, expect confusion, panic, miscommunication, disruption in services, and other uncontrollable forces that will counter your efforts to get your company up and running.
You can minimize many of these challenges through sound disaster planning and communicating the plan to employees before disaster strikes.
Verify that everyone involved with disaster recovery is aware of your business's disaster plan and knows their role in disaster recovery. The disaster recovery administrator should divide up business-recovery tasks that will need to be performed and assign employees to teams that will carry out those tasks. Here are some suggested teams; you should develop your own list of disaster recovery teams that cover areas of responsibility specific to your business. Team members should be authorized to purchase replacements for equipment and supplies damaged during the disaster. Create a Disaster Recovery Web Site Consider developing a Web site where employees, vendors, and customers can obtain up-to-date information about the company after a disaster. On the Web site, the disaster recovery team will post damage assessments for business locations, each location's operational status, and when and where employees should report for work. The Web site should also include an interface where the disaster recovery administrator can post timestamped messages about the recovery effort. Test Your Recovery Plan Most IT pros face Level One and Two disasters regularly and can quickly respond to such events. Level Three and Four disasters include "acts of God" and other factors that are out of your control.
To respond to these more serious disasters, your disaster recovery plan should carefully organize and assign whatever resources you do have control over in such situations. Once you've devised a disaster recovery plan, you should test it regularly and revise it as necessary. When you test the plan, create different scenarios that simulate Level One through Level Four Disasters.
You might find it helpful to discuss your plan with other IT pros to learn what worked and didn't work in their disaster recovery plans. For a real-world example of an IT pro who put her company's disaster recovery plan in action during Hurricane Charley last year, see "Riding Out the Storm," March 2005, Instant Doc ID 45263.
Develop a Hacking Recovery Plan Hack attacks fall within the scope of a disaster recovery plan.

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