Ask the IT Consultant

Apr 13 2010   10:00PM GMT

Real Life Business Continuity Planning


Question:  What are some operational considerations to expect while running a disaster recovery (DR) site during an actual disaster?

You are in a panic.  Suddenly, your primary data center is down and you are planning to failover your business critical application production to your carefully planned DR site.  Assuming a successful recovery, your first realization is that the DR site is now your production site, albeit temporarily.  All of a sudden you realize that you need to run your backup site in full production mode, i.e. it needs to be run as your ran your recently disabled production site.  Just because you are using the backup site, does not mean that all the normal business rules no longer apply.

When you were putting together your DR/BC plan, you figured that you only needed your backup site to be just a ‘bare bones’ operation that would only support critical functions, but the reality is that life at the DR site will include most, if not all, of the normal production operations headaches.  When putting together your BC/DR plan including the following considerations will make an actual disaster situation that much less painful:

  • Full operations management of the DR environment is necessary to keep recovered production running. DR servers have all of the same issues that any server does. Is a full set of your administration and monitoring tools ready to use at the DR site?
  • Backups will be required. Production data requires the same level of protection, especially if customer service level agreements are involved. Have you provided for these?
  • Support of the ‘hands on’ variety may be needed even though you can manage your infrastructure remotely. If your DR site is far away from your primary site, getting staff there may be a challenge. Have you arranged for appropriate on-site assistance?
  • Security controls have to be as stringent as ever because the risks are the same (and perhaps even worse) and all legal requirements still hold. Can you control and monitor access to your DR site?
  • Applications still require support. Patches and emergency releases will inevitably be needed to keep the business running. Are all your code libraries and the tools needed for development and testing installed at the DR site?

The planning implications are clear – since your DR site is a substitute for your primary production site, think of it as such and outfit it to perform at the same level. Even though it will not be as large as the primary site, it should offer all of the same capabilities as the primary site.  In some situations, it just might be your home for a long period of time.

About the Author

John McWilliams, JH McWilliams & Associates, Business Continuity Consultants

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