Best Practices: Foolproof DR is still a moving target


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Keep these eight key steps in mind when designing and testing your disaster recovery strategy.

In a recent conversation I had regarding disaster recovery (DR), a CIO remarked that he'd like to achieve what he called "provable" DR. I heard this as evidence of a positive development I've noticed in recent years: Many companies have finally become serious about DR. There are several reasons for this, including the heightened awareness of data protection issues among the general public.

Technology developments have also played a critical role, with more data protection options available than ever before. The changing nature of business applications means that expectations regarding performance and availability have also been raised.

But achieving DR "provability"--or at least greater predictability--remains a challenge. Fundamentally, DR is a holistic endeavor with a number of moving parts. It's fairly easy to deal with one component of DR and for it to perform reasonably well. The hard part is ensuring the coordination and synchronization of the various elements so they function together. To establish more predictable DR, I've outlined the following eight necessary elements.

  1. Clearly defined organizational responsibilities. Roles and responsibilities is a major area where organizations fall short with

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  1. regard to DR. The DR process is much more than restoring or replicating data; it's about ensuring that applications and the systems they support can be returned to functional business usage. Accomplishing this requires participation from groups outside of IT, including corporate governance and oversight groups, finance and the business units impacted.

    While IT may drive the planning and execution of DR, it's imperative that it's coordinated with a broader business-continuity planning effort. A solid DR strategy needs the strong endorsement of the highest level executives.
  2. Validate the business impact analysis (BIA) process. Technically, the BIA isn't part of the DR process--it's a prerequisite that forms the foundation of DR planning. In a perfect world, the output of a BIA would define the kinds of recovery capabilities IT must design and deliver in support of the business. The real world, unfortunately, isn't so simple. Information is often incomplete, and we need to make assumptions to fill in the gaps.

    However, there needs to be a level of confidence in the validity of BIA requirements. To design an effective DR strategy, IT needs two pieces of data: recovery requirements (e.g., RTO and RPO), and a reliable estimate of the real cost of downtime to the business. Recovery requirements supplied without valid financial impact data can result in a great deal of effort for a project that isn't funded. Passing requirements through the financial prism adds realism to the process.

This was first published in March 2008

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