Written by Byron Atcheson
As defined by Webster, preparedness is the state of readiness and the actions that need to be taken in the event of a disaster.
Would you decide to drive across the country for a family vacation without knowing where you wanted to spend it? Would you go without knowing how to get there, how much money to bring, where to stop and eat, or what type clothing you should pack? Probably not. Most people would start with a simple plan – maybe just the destination and when to go. The details on how you would make the trip happen would then be the meat of the plan, where you cover what to pack and what to do once you get there. Or you could be like me and most other guys and leave the planning up to your spouse and be happy with whatever they decide is best for the family.
If you take that framework for planning and apply it to disasters instead of vacations, you will find most people don’t think about what they should do. What happens if you are suddenly removed from your place of residence or you have to hunker down for an extended period of time? What would you do? How would you ensure survival? One phrase: Preparedness Planning.
As we have seen from the latest hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and fires, catastrophic events can and do happen with little warning, and they can alter even the best of plans. But, with proper planning, we can at least give ourselves a fighting chance. This is not about being one of those so-called “Preppers,” and it’s not about “Pride.” Pride evaporates quickly when your safety is in danger. How do you assure your family that everything will be okay? The first step is to get your family on the same page and “Prepare to plan.” Prepare for the unexpected, plan for the worst, and have a clear idea of the steps you would take in a worst-case scenario.
Written by Delores Shoemaker
Being prepared for an unplanned event disrupting your organization means preparing for the unexpected. Natural disasters, hardware failures, and malicious malware attacks are inevitable. It could very well happen to your organization. A sound strategy allows for a quick response time and includes a having a solution in place for your data, systems, and people. Without it, many businesses find themselves unable to recover, closing their doors for good and leaving employees, customers, and vendors out in the cold. With many years in the DR industry, I still find many organizations that are not prepared and without the means to recover.
Lesson 1: You need a plan.
Not having a plan for recovery is like traveling from New York to Florida without having directions, a map, or street signs to follow. You need to know the how, what, why, and where. Too many organizations do not have a plan, and are just relying on their IT staff to know what to do, which typically results in a partial or failed recovery impacting operations and revenue. Don’t fall into this trap.
Best practices include taking the following steps:
- Conduct a Business Impact Analysis and a Risk Assessment (the why) to identify financial impact, potential risks, critical systems, your recovery time objectives (RTOs/how long can your systems be down), and recovery point objectives (RPOs/how much data loss can be tolerated).
- Develop a comprehensive IT Disaster Recovery Plan (the how, what, and where) detailing the step-by-step recovery process and procedures to follow.
- Write it down, share it, test it and store it in an easily accessible location available to the people in your organization identified in the plan to facilitate your organization’s recovery.
Lesson 2: Test your plan.
Not testing your plan is like knowing you have money in the bank but never checking your ATM card to see if it works. You have money, but can you get to it? What about DR? You may think you have the best plan, and you might be certain that you have covered everything, but until you’ve tested, how do you know for sure? Testing is the dress rehearsal before the real show, providing confirmation of your organization’s ability to recover and identify any crucial gaps in your plan.
Lesson 3: Update your plan.
In the fast-paced, ever-changing world of IT, what you are doing today may not be what you are doing tomorrow. Creating a disaster recovery plan isn’t a one-and-done. Update your plan regularly to stay in step with your current IT environment and business requirements. Another great reason to perform a DR test!
Lesson 4: Keep your subscribed services current.
For most organizations, having a fully-replicated data center for recovery doesn’t make sound business or cost justification sense. In this case many organizations choose to work with a third-party DR provider to support their recovery requirements. With today’s leaner IT staffing and typical corporate projects and implementations, it’s easy to place updating your DR provider system requirements at the bottom of the list as you are making changes to your production environment. If you experience a disaster, the result can be catastrophic if you haven’t been regularly communicating those changes. Staying in touch and communicating with your provider is paramount to your success.
Lesson 5: Choose a partner for your DR goals.
The key to managing a solid DR strategy is choosing a DR provider to work with that treats you as a true partner and not just another customer. Find a DR provider who’s focus is to be by your side every step along the way of your DR journey. Your DR provider-partner should help you develop, implement, and consistently remind you to test your recovery strategy.
I know it sounds cheesy, but no one likes to pay for insurance, myself included. A long time ago I was friends with a family that had 3 small children and was witness to their devastation when their house caught on fire due to a faulty outlet in the garage. My best friend was the sister of the gentleman that lost the majority of his important property. She also lived in the same neighborhood as him, so I passed by the house frequently. Human nature is to stop for a minute and think about what someone is going through when something terrible happens to them, but most of us go right back to our lives afterwards. In this situation, I was not able to block it and move on. You literally couldn’t ride through the neighborhood without smelling it, pull in to my friend’s driveway without seeing it, or think about them without remembering the kids’ toys melted together in the yard and driveway. On a positive note, he and his family, although they too loathed their monthly insurance cost, were relieved and secure knowing that this was only a short set back since their insurance would take care of their important property in a committed amount of time.
With Winter Storm Jonas coming out of nowhere, my first concern (after my personal family, of course) was to ensure that my customers were confident that, should they experience any type of outage that would impact their important property, we would be there to make sure that it was only a setback (if a problem at all) by honoring the delivery for their DR “insurance,” a feature that some wish they didn’t have to pay for.
Knowing on Thursday evening that the storm was brewing and headed our way, we made sure to let our customers know that they could count on us and remind them of the process since panic typically sets in during emergency situations. Those that have tested on an annual or even bi-annual schedule were able to respond back right away and thank us for being proactive and caring about their business; no worries on their part when it comes to their professional property. Not only have they paid for their “insurance,” they have tested it once or twice a year to be sure when they go to sleep at night that, if something should happen, they have taken the right steps to ensure that their family can remain their one and only concern.