Disaster recovery guidelines

When an outage threatened this Hollywood studio's broadcasts, it quickly hired someone to draft a disaster recovery plan. His downloadable guidelines can help you draw up a plan as well.

Hollywood has used disaster as the premise for many movie blockbusters. Countless heroes have fought raging fires, wayward meteors, and destructive manmade forces to keep the world intact.

In an ironic twist, one movie studio faced its own disaster of sorts when its IT system experienced a disaster--a distribution transformer that powered its computer room from outside the building short-circuited and exploded.

The studio's processors contained applications needed to schedule broadcast times for the company's premier cable TV station and to manage the production, distribution, and accounting of domestic entertainment videos, laser discs, and interactive games. Okay, so the fate of the world wasn't at stake, but in terms of the potential loss of time and money for the studio, it was a disaster of epic proportions.

Unfortunately, the studio didn't have a solid disaster recovery plan in place. But it didn't take too long for it to learn the value of one. Developing the recovery plan was entrusted to Rick Schiesser, author of "Develop an effective disaster recovery plan," which is available here as a download.

Schiesser's document begins by describing the lessons learned from the studio's IT catastrophe, including what constitutes a "disaster," the distinction between the concepts of disaster recovery and business resumption, and how recovery time should be spent. It also outlines 10 steps for developing an effective disaster recovery process. These steps include:

  • Acquiring executive support: This is important because all funding approval comes from senior management. By involving upper management early in the process, you secure their emotional and financial buy-in should a calamity occur.
  • Selecting a process owner: Potential candidates include an operations supervisor, the data center manager, and even the infrastructure manager.
  • Conducting a business impact analysis: No disaster recovery plan will be able to justify the expense of including every business process and application in a recovery, so you should inventory and prioritize critical business processes.
  • Assessing possible business continuity strategies: This would likely include alternative remote sites within the company and geographic hot spots supplied by an outside provider.
  • Planning and executing regularly scheduled tests of the plan: Some progressive companies test three or four times annually.
The author has a lot of experience in managing and consulting on IT infrastructures. In the download, he also shares some nightmarish experiences that illustrate how critical planning, preparation, and performance are to a good disaster recovery plan.

If you've been charged with creating a disaster recovery plan for your organization, you should read these tips from someone experienced with the process.

Does your company have a disaster recovery plan in place? TalkBack below or e-mail us with your thoughts.