If the events of the last year have taught businesses anything, it is the importance of a workable business continuity strategy. The ability to maintain operations in the face of continued uncertainty is now vital to survival.
As you map out your business continuity plan, here are five factors you must address.
1. Backup, Disaster Recovery or Both?
Before the current era of data-driven business, maintaining a complete/incremental daily backup of data was deemed sufficient because the volumes of information could be restored in a matter of hours. But now that recovering huge volumes of data can take days, a backup cannot be your only method protection.
Disaster Recovery (DR) uses near-live copies of virtual servers and databases that can fail-over in the event of an outage. DR can shorten the recovery of operations to mere minutes.
In all likelihood, your business will need a combination of both. Backup for regulatory requirements and secondary systems, DR for mission-critical operations.
2. Inventory your systems
It’s vital to understand your IT systems and how they are used. This will help you categorise them – mission-critical, secondary, archive – and thereby prioritise recovery.
It is important to assess how often data is updated too. This will help you understand how quickly the system must be recovered before permanent data loss occurs, or before operations are badly affected.
Don’t forget to check interdependence either – your mission-critical systems may be reliant on some less-important, secondary applications.
3. Choosing your solutions
When you understand what you have and what you need, you must then choose and implement suitable solutions. As data volumes increase, local storage of backup data becomes a headache – particularly when those archives need to be rotated off-site.
Cloud-based backup and DR services help to address some of these problems. Capacity can scale almost infinitely, and information is stored off-site by design.
You will need to consider issues like bandwidth requirements, time to recovery, support provided during a disaster and how your network and systems need to be reconfigured to support the new backup and replication regime.
With those decisions made, you can configure your new DR provisions to begin copying, replicating and backing up data as required.
4. Building out the DR plan
With a robust, secure backup platform in place, you then need to specify how it is to be used. Define what a disaster looks like, when the DR plan is to be executed, and by whom.
Consider all DR scenarios, from a single server failure to complete blackout and document the steps required to restore operations as quickly and efficiently as possible. Identify which individuals need to take control of a DR event and provide them with a simple guide or checklist to follow for when the time comes.
The DR plan will need to be updated and reviewed as your infrastructure evolves, so ensure documentation is regularly updated. And don’t forget to keep hard/off-line copies of these documents as they may not be available if your file servers are affected by the outage.
5. Testing the DR plan
The worst time to discover a flaw in your DR plan is during an actual disaster. But if you never actually test your resources and processes, that’s exactly what will happen.
Regular failover testing allows you to verify that systems designed to take over in the event of a server issue are working correctly. Importantly, failover tests can be conducted in real-time without disrupting operations because they simply confirm that the replicated systems are operating correctly.
In-depth testing of your DR plan is carried out via a live failover. This test simulates a full outage of your production system and verifies that the transfer of workloads to the failover systems completes correctly. These tests help to prove that your DR plans and technologies are properly configured and ready to take over in a real emergency.
Don’t go it alone
Your choice of DR provider can help to streamline your business continuity provisions. More than simply providing the failover/backup technology plans, the right partner will also be able to assist with building and testing a DR plan that properly protects your organisation during a disaster.
WTL offer a range of Cloud-based Disaster Recovery solutions that allow you extend your DR to the cloud in just a few clicks for simple, straightforward, peace of mind.
To learn more about disaster recovery provisioning and business continuity services, please get in touch.