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Preparing for the worst: Effective DR in five steps

In today's business climate, downtime can be costly to the organization and unacceptable to customers. Organizations that prepare for their recovery are better able to maintain operations, retain customers and preventing long-term damage. As a result, frequency of disaster recovery execution has increased significantly. According to a recent independent study of more than 1200 IT professionals worldwide conducted for Veritas by Dynamic Markets Ltd., 51% of respondents indicated they had to execute on their disaster recovery plans, compared with 33% in the previous year.

The following steps can help your organization prepare for recovering from a disaster:

1. Contact your people. Satellite phones are a good method of communication for organizations trying to rally its people around a recovery, because these phones are independent from unavailable phone lines or cellular services. For employees who aren't directly involved in the data recovery process, provide a hotline where they can get updates so you can focus on the task at hand.

2. Quickly locate your disaster recovery plan. Keep multiple copies of the plan off site, and keep one copy with your off-site storage provider. Keeping disaster recovery plans in just one location poses a problem if the main data center is unavailable.

3. Contact your vendors and enlist their help. Since many companies have never had to actually implement their disaster recovery plan, contacting your

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vendors for their expert help before a disaster will help you be more equipped and prepared for an unexpected disaster.

4. Bring up your secondary site. Many companies subscribe to a secondary disaster recovery "hot site" for use with other subscribers in the event of a business interruption. The hot site will fill up fast in the event of a major event. To ensure availability of an alternate site, many organizations equip their own secondary data center for disaster recovery purposes, and using high availability and disaster recovery software, can switch operations from the affected site to the secondary site without disruption to the business -- helping to minimize impact on employees, customers and partners.

5. Identify an emergency secondary site. If the secondary site you intended to use isn't available or functional, get creative. Hotel ballrooms or conference centers equipped with high-bandwidth connections and air conditioning offer adequate resources to begin a recovery when all else fails.

About the author: Sheri Atwood is a senior manager at Veritas Software Corp, where she is responsible for both high availability and disaster recovery solutions. Prior to joining Veritas in 2001, she served as a product manager at Sun Microsystems. Mrs. Atwood holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from the University of California in San Diego and an MBA from San Jose State University. She has been published in VAR Business magazine, Dell Power Solutions Magazine, Nth Generation, Computerworld, Continuity Insights and Disaster Recovery Journal.

This was first published in February 2005

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