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Disaster Recovery

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Disasters, unpredictable by nature, can strike anywhere at anytime with little or no warning. Recovering from one can be stressful, expensive and time consuming, particularly for those who have not taken the time to think ahead and prepare for such possibilities. However, when disaster strikes, those who have prepared and made recovery plans survive with comparatively minimal loss and/or disruption of productivity.

Disasters can take several different forms. Some primarily impact individuals -- e.g., hard drive meltdowns -- while others have a larger, collective impact. Disasters can occur such as power outages, floods, fires, storms, equipment failure, sabotage, terrorism, or even epidemic illness. Each of these can at the very least cause short-term disruptions in normal business operation. But recovering from the impact of many of the aforementioned disasters can take much longer, especially if organizations have not made preparations in advance.

Most of us recognize that these potential problems as possibilities. Unfortunately the randomness of some of these disasters lulls some organizations into a sense of false security-"that's not likely to happen here." However, if proper preparations have been made, the disaster recovery process does not have to be exceedingly stressful. Instead the process can be streamlined, but this facilitation of recovery will only happen where preparations have been made. Organizations that take the time to implement disaster recovery plans ahead of time often ride out catastrophes with minimal or no loss of data, hardware, or business revenue. This in turn allows them to maintain the faith and confidence of their customers and investors.

Disaster Recovery Planning is the factor that makes the critical difference between the organizations that can successfully manage crises with minimal cost and effort and maximum speed, and those that are left picking up the pieces for untold lengths of time and at whatever cost providers decide to charge; organizations forced to make decision out of desperation.

Detailed disaster recovery plans can prevent many of the heartaches and headaches experienced by an organization in times of disaster. By having practiced plans, not only for equipment and network recovery, but also plans that precisely outline what steps each person involved in recovery efforts should undertake, an organization can improve their recovery time and minimize the time that their normal business functions are disrupted. Thus it is vitally important that disaster recovery plans be carefully laid out and regularly updated. Organizations need to put systems in place to regularly train their network engineers and mangers. Special attention should also be paid to training any new employees who will have a critical role in the disaster recovery process.

There are several options available for organizations to use once they decide to begin creating their disaster recovery plan. The first and often most accessible source a business can drawn on would be to have any experienced managers within the organization draw on the knowledge and experience they have to help craft a plan that will fit the recovery needs specific to their unique organization. For organizations that do not have this type of expertise in house, there are a number of outside options that can be called on, such as trained consultants and specially designed software.

One of the most common practices used by responsible organizations is a disaster recovery plan template. While templates might not cover every need specific to every organization, they are a great place from which to start one's preparation. Templates help make the preparation process simpler and more straightforward. They provide guidance and can even reveal aspects of disaster recovery that might otherwise be forgotten.

The primary goal of any disaster recovery plan is to help the organization maintain its business continuity, minimize damage, and prevent loss. Thus the most important question to ask when evaluating your disaster recovery plan is, "Will my plan work?" The best way to ensure reliability of one's plan is to practice it regularly. Have the appropriate people actually practice what they would do to help recover business function should a disaster occur. Also regular reviews and updates of recovery plans should be scheduled. Some organizations find it helpful to do this on a monthly basis so that the plan stays current and reflects the needs an organization has today, and not just the data, software, etc., it had six months ago.