Disaster Recovery Extra: 10 hidden perils of DR planning


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7. The backups don't work.

Sometimes the root of a DR problem is much simpler. There are some companies that have DR plans with realistic RTOs and RPOs, but if their backup system didn't work just prior to the disaster, the DR plan won't work. Many backup systems are either partially or completely broken. Even a good backup success rate of 95% means that 5% of the data center isn't backed up on any given night. And very few companies know what data constitutes that 5%. It could be a random number of systems on a particular night, which might not be so bad. But it could be the same systems failing every night. It's amazing how many companies don't track consecutive failures in their backup system. Even more inexcusable is the number of backup software packages that don't track this vital information.

A core problem that causes many backup system failures is how the backups are managed. The person responsible for this job is rated on the success of the backup system. While this might sound like a good idea, it usually puts undue pressure on a junior staffer. The result is that many backup people try to hide the number of backup failures from management. They think if they tell anyone how bad the backups are, they'll be fired or lose their bonus. They're sure that the backups will be better tomorrow, next week or next month, and that they'll be able to fix the backups before anybody notices how bad the situation really is.


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solution to both of these problems is commercial data-protection management software. These products provide information about backups that's not easily accessible, starting with a report that lists consecutive failures. Some of the products also help you to better understand the reasons behind the failures, so you can fix the core problem instead of continually repairing the symptom. Finally, these products remove the backup system administrator's ability to hide failures. There are no more secrets about the backup process when even the business owners can open a Web browser and see how the company's backups are performing.

8. The DR plan isn't tested.

Many companies have a DR plan, and it may have realistic requirements that are technically possible. However, because testing a DR plan is extremely time-consuming and costly, they aren't usually tested often enough (which is at least twice a year).

Think about how much a data center changes in a year. It's only when you test your DR plan that you find the chinks in its armor. A brand-new application, for example, may not have been included in the plan; your documentation may match the version of the software that you stopped using three months ago; or you upgraded your servers, but the hot site didn't upgrade as well. The only way to find out these things is to test the DR plan.

This was first published in May 2006

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