While you may not be able to prevent or even expect disaster, it’s wise to be prepared before it strikes in order to minimize the impact and downtime. The cost of downtime is likely higher than you would expect.Unfortunately, disaster planning is a skill that can’t be taught— it’s learned over time through repetition and experience. Testing is the only sure-fire way to reveal the gaps in your plan and address them proactively.
We’ve compiled several tips on how to test your IT systems in the face of a hypothetical disaster.
What are the Most Important Areas to Analyze When Preparing for an IT Disaster?
- IT Assets: Be sure that you understand the most important IT assets that you need to recover and in what order, as well as your plan for doing so. Ideally, you should keep data backups on a server that can be tested without the risk of interrupting production systems. Seek out a solution that allows for the ability to temporarily run virtual machine snapshots on a backup server while the primary hardware is down. Make sure you have a plan for testing and validation when you put a solution together, before you’ll actually need it.
- Business Continuity Evaluation: Consider this question: How do I get my business back to normal following a disaster, and how long will it take? When you’re cut off from essential data and applications, employees and customers will suffer, which directly impacts your productivity and revenue. In order to test your business continuity plans, attempt to simulate a disaster and make sure that you can still maintain your essential functions as business. Having backups and redundant IT systems is critical for both disaster recovery and business continuity!
- Employee Information & Communication Planning: Your employees are the first to react during and immediately after a disaster. It’s crucial that you have a working employee safety and communication plan. Keep an updated list of employee contact information and store it where it can be easily accessed. Next, consider how your employees will be able to access your IT systems after a disaster. Test and update the communications plan regularly, as this will identify gaps such as out-of-date contact information and previous employees who should be removed.
- Planning for Customer Impact: Your customer-facing employees should understand how to deliver a clear and consistent message during and after a disaster. It’s critical to understand how information flows between your business and your customers. Consider how you will respond if your lines of communication are disrupted and how you will keep customers informed about what’s going on. Testing and rehearsing your customer communications plan is an essential piece of your disaster recovery strategy.
Four Common Mistakes to Avoid When Preparing for an IT Disaster
- Only Planning for Certain Types of Events: Consider everything that could likely and unlikely happen to your business and plan accordingly. Start by performing a full assessment of all technology dependencies.
- Not Adhering to a Regular Testing Schedule: Has your DR plan been tested recently? If not, there’s a chance your IT team will be caught off guard when a disaster strikes.
- Proceeding Without a Documented Recovery Plan: Frequently, companies do not have a written plan and instead rely on IT personnel to be the savior and know what to do when disaster strikes. Key personnel may not always be available to execute the plan!
- Neglecting to Update Recovery Plan Documentation: Disaster recovery plans shouldn’t be static, consider how your organization will evolve and grow over time: new employees are hired, infrastructure changes, business processes change, or new compliance regulations may come into the picture.
Testing your IT systems and disaster recovery plan can be a complex and time consuming process, but doing this right will yield monumental rewards when disaster strikes. If you feel that your IT team is bogged down with other projects and doesn’t have the time to focus on this, it may be worthwhile to enlist a third-party provider to serve as an extension of your IT efforts.
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