By Ward Quarles, Director of Strategic Alliances, Velocity Technology Solutions
As companies start their budget planning for 2013, the impact of Hurricane Sandy can provide renewed focus on the importance of a tested disaster recovery plan and ensure there is enough investment in it.  Companies would be wise to look at the lessons learned from Sandy and use the upcoming year to ensure that their DR plan is up to date.
Here are a few things all CIO’s and IT directors can take away from last month’s hurricane:
Accessibility and location are key: While equipment may be accessible, it may be ineffective if your staff cannot access the recovery site or if the equipment is impacted by wind, water or lack of electricity. The New York Times recently wrote an article on how servers were failing due to the rising floodwaters.  Ask yourself: Could you get diesel fuel up to a backup generator if it was on the 19th floor?  Team members should plan out specific back-up details for all possibilities in potential recovery efforts.
Distance, distance, distance: Sandy’s reach was broad, covering multiple states.  Where is your alternate recovery site located?  If your DR plan includes an in-house alternate site recovery, the alternate location may be another office, warehouse or manufacturing facility in the same region.  If your alternate site was geographically located too close to your production site, Sandy could have impacted both sites.  Consider all of the options, as this scenario is not unusual.  Hurricane Irene presented the same challenge last year.
Prepare for alternate transportation: By the time you notify and send out your staff, your alternate location may be at risk.  How will your organization manage the recovery if normal transportation options don’t allow your staff to travel to the recovery site?  Having a recovery location in an alternate geographic region with local support staff is the only sustainable solution for large regional disasters.
Think ahead, put your teams “On Alert:” Did you put your recovery team “On Alert” that a disaster was possible (or probable)?  If so, did someone prepare your remote systems in case an outage occurs?  Managed service providers may allow “On Alert” status from clients who anticipate issues with their production systems.  By leveraging MSPs, technical teams can be immediately put into action—recalling tapes from offsite storage, validating replicated data at the data center, verifying system availability for all production critical servers, and checking network connectivity to these systems.  If you are able to plan ahead and start preparing prior to the storm, your data will be much more likely to be recovered and your operations will be able to resume normally in a timely manner.
If your organization does not yet have a disaster recovery plan, now is the time to do it.  Some of the most important questions you should answer when getting started include:
  • Where is our organization’s documented disaster recovery plan?
  • What recovery site has equipment for our future recovery needs?
  • Does the standby equipment match our current production configuration?
  • Has our organization successfully tested this equipment in the past year?
  • Will our staff be available to perform the full recovery in the event of a disaster?
  • Do we have the proper documentation and staff to allow alternative providers to step in?
  • Is our recovery data center in a geographic diverse location?

The more prepared you are, the better off you and your IT team will be when an unfortunate disaster occurs.