After reading Mr. Jon Toigo's article "Beware of DR Planning Recipes" from February, I felt compelled to respond. There is no doubt Mr. Toigo is a preeminent figure in the field of Disaster Recovery Planning, and I have personally used his work. But, in this case I find his assertions a bit misleading.
Mr. Toigo indicates there is no such thing as "DR Lite," and that computer-based "fill-in-blank" DR plan programs are not something that he would endorse. However, in the 2nd edition of his book "Disaster Recovery Planning", he states: "Although the PC-based planning tool does not provide comprehensive answers for the novice planner, it can offer valuable models that the planner can imitate when customizing the plan to meet his or her requirements."
This statement actually brings me to my point. Most of the companies that I have worked with have little or no education when it comes to disaster recovery planning and, for that matter, true project management. On top of that, they usually cannot afford an expert to guide them. They need a "valuable model" to direct them through the process.
With this in mind, I believe that a simplified DR process – DR Lite(er), for lack of a better term – is possible for the small business.
I like to use a "workbook" approach, one that differs slightly from the traditional DR process. As the name would convey, a "workbook" approach employs a workbook to collect information and to educate regarding DR issues. The workbook also serves to guide or roadmap. While it is not a completely automated, "fill-in-blanks" approach, portions can be automated. I will describe the few first steps of the approach here.
The first section of the workbook concerns assets. In the final paragraph of Mr. Toigo's article, he states that people and data are the most important assets. I would (mostly) agree. The workbook breaks assets into the following types: Employees (especially the owners of the business); processes (like the payroll process); roles (like office manager); locations (where business is conducted and records stored); systems (with one or more computers involved); networks (data and voice); data stores (physical and electronic) and knowledge (all the know-how not covered thus far). These types are used to start an individual thinking about all of the business' assets, instead of just a few.
Rather than focusing on minimizing the impact of a disaster event, the workbook focuses on access to the assets. Here's where the difference comes into play. Before the work "risk" is even mentioned, the question is posed: What would happen to your business if you lost access to these assets for a period of time? Hours? Days? Forever? This line of questioning does several things. It helps minimize the idea that disaster events are rare and necessarily dramatic events. Secondly, it broadens DR planning to outages (that may become extended outages) and makes the DR planning process more concrete. Finally, it points out that the responsibility for access (like building access or network access) is often outsourced and, hopefully, compels the business person to actually read the Service Level Agreements to learn what an "outage" (or interruption in access) is for that service provider.
While these are only the first steps of a DR Lite(er) approach, the philosophy of the reaming steps is the same. Rather than swamp a small business person down with a heavy project-based approach, the "workbook" approach, whether automated or not, can make the DR process relevant and understandable to the small business owner.
About the author
Mike Mitchell, President of Atlas Assurity, Inc. has more than 13 years of experience in Information Technology, including in networking, software development and production operations. During the last five years Mike has served as Chief Technology Officer of CPA2Biz, a commercial spin-off of the AICPA, and of BrightLane.com, a business services company now owned by TeamStaff. Mike's created and maintained disaster recovery, security and business contingency plans in the telecommunications, business services and professional services industries.