You arrive at the office one morning to find a glaring crater in the ground in its place. Godzilla came by and stomped on the office. The ultimate disaster. What’s your plan of action? Do you even have one?
While a scenario involving Godzilla is highly unlikely, the fact remains that every single day business leaders around the world face the overwhelming challenge of disaster recovery when the unexpected strikes and ‘business as usual’ is severely compromised by an unforeseen event.
Often when considering disaster recovery, we’re tempted to think purely of our data and what we’ve done to mitigate impact if it becomes compromised. The truth is that there’s far more to a disaster recovery plan than data. It’s merely part of the equation.
Stick with me as I play out our Godzilla attack, and look at the various elements to address in the face of recovering from disaster and keep your business running.
4 Key Considerations for an Effective Disaster Recovery Plan
Emergency Phone Tree
First things first – phone calls. You need to have a pre-determined list of key members to call. It’s wise to have two or three people added to speed dial as your ‘in case disaster strikes’ contacts, as you don’t want to be stuck trying to reach a single person stuck underground on the tube.
Your key members should have a full list of contact information for all staff and know – in advance – who calls who next. The objective here is to ensure that every staff member is notified of the disaster as quickly as possible and advised on any action they need to take.
Location and Communication
Right, so now everyone knows that Godzilla came a calling. Next thing is to address the fact that you have no building, servers or data.
Ideally you should be able to walk to a temporary office, or at least a central point to enable face to face discussions about next steps. Naturally, the size of your business will determine whether this is possible. It’s not going to help trying to squeeze a 100+ strong workforce into the local coffee shop. Having the contract information for a few desks-to-rent companies is advised as a minimum, or better yet, having the structures in place to enable staff to work from home.
In this day and age, there’s little preventing a company, of any size, to implement a set up that allows for effective working remotely.
Cloud storage and services, as well as remote conferencing or communication tools negate the need for an office-bound workforce unable to complete their responsibilities when the bricks and mortar aren’t available.
Low barrier to entry tools like Evernote, Google Drive or Dropbox are ideal for document storage and sharing, and are available as apps for Androids and iPhones too. Google Hangouts, Skype or similar communication and conferencing systems should ideally be in place in any event, but will help to reach the drag net out as far as possible in the wake of a disaster.
Super. So we’ve sorted out a shared resource for critical contact information, found a place to work and we’re now at the stage where we can think about hardware.
In the case of complete destruction, desktops, laptops and other business devices will need to be replaced. While renting is an option in the short term, costs can escalate quickly. Identify and prioritise key members for new equipment and establish who can use home computers or personal devices as a stop gap.
Servers and storage devices could also need replacing. Rebuilding a server from scratch can take time but if best practices have been followed, services that run on physical servers will already be virtualised. Each VM, or virtual container, runs on its own OS platform, independent to the physical server hardware. If the server hardware fails, each VM is protected (provided it's been backed up) and can be 'spun-up' from another physical box within minutes. In other words, it's not just the data that's protected but the entire OS platform too. VMWare ESXi, Microsoft HyperV and Docker all provide solutions that make this a painless, quick task to have you up and running again in no time.
Files and Data
Now it’s time to reinstate all your files and folders. Did you have backup processes in place? Did they cater for the ultimate disaster of full equipment destruction? An optimal backup process ensures that files and folders are stored offsite, with the cloud, tape and hard disks all being viable options. The critical point is that your backup data is not stored in the same place as your live data.
A ‘perfect’ approach is to house your live data offsite in the first case, and the cloud is ideal. If this isn’t viable for you due to costs or other circumstances, it’s wise to identify your most critical data for business continuity and at least start with that.
When it comes to using cloud storage, you have two options:
- Total cloud storage reliance
- Local and cloud storage in sync with each other
Speed is often a concern when it comes to cloud storage, as it’s considerably slower than local storage. Your choices are to manage speed expectation, increase your bandwidth or have local and cloud storage working together. The balance of speed and cost at the moment favours a split of local and cloud.
A viable solution is to use a NAS for local storage, which syncs data to the cloud. Offerings such as Synology and QNAP both have built in tools for this process, and have the ability to sync to all the major cloud players.
The old adage tells us that ‘failing to plan, is planning to fail’ and this is exceptionally true when it comes to ensuring your business can recover and continue to run in the wake of a disaster – Godzilla or otherwise.
The above considerations shouldn’t be seen as tiresome tasks to complete, rather view them as elements to protect and empower your business, while providing flexibility. The ability to move between offices, or continents, and still provide the same access, all fall within reach with a sprinkling of readily available technology.
Our last tip to wrap up your disaster recovery plan? Have drills, test your plan and make the adjustments as necessary. Check out more on this topic here.
Need further information or clarification on an effective disaster recovery plan? Get in touch and we’ll gladly chat you through it.