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Disaster Recovery (DR) Planning & Health Checks

What is it?

An important element of a comprehensive Business Continuity Management (BCM) document set is the Disaster Recovery (DR) plan. Its intention is to minimise downtime and data loss in the event of a catastrophic disaster.

Natural disaster like a fire or flood or manmade threats like terrorist activity have the potential to destroy a building and with it wipe out the associated software, hardware, communications and/or people. The main objective is therefore to protect the organisation when all or part of its operational space has been compromised and its operations and computer services are, to a greater or lesser extent, unusable.

DR focuses on crisis management relating to information technology. It is the formulation of a master plan that will be needed by technical and non-technical staff to cope with a major failing of any or all of a company’s critical systems resulting in a partial or complete loss of those systems.  The overall intention of a DR plan is to recover affected activities in a timely manner and minimising further disruption to the business.

Why have a DR plan?

BCM planning within a company identifies potential threats to the organisation and the impacts to business operations that those threats may cause. It provides a framework for building the organisational resilience that provides the ability to enact an effective response to any incident. As part of this process, a DR plan would include considered options for relocating displaced staff into other available buildings (or a recovery site where available) thereby safeguarding the interests of key stakeholders, reputation and brand. It would include those nominated in specific roles, ‘call trees’ to assist with communications with staff to inform them of the situation and any actions they need to take. The plan will be tested on at least an annual basis and would be reviewed at least once a year or after any significant business changes, to ensure a robust Disaster Recovery process is maintained.

The key to a resilient BCM and DR is in the planning. While it is possible to imagine some scenarios which would bring a business to a standstill, without expert advice at the scoping stage, it is not always possible to anticipate the full extent of the implications.

What to do next

In consultation with experienced professionals, there should be a determined recovery priority list of both staff, departments and functions as well as a strategy for the recovery of buildings, third party sites or services.

In addition there are a number of initial factors that need to be considered. For example there is the anticipation of potential threats together with the determination of the scale of each individual disaster scenario. The priority must be for business survival and the resumption of normal working practices at the earliest possible date.

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