TOP TEN TIPS FOR IT DISASTER RECOVERY PLANNING

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1 TOP TEN TIPS FOR IT DISASTER RECOVERY PLANNING Introduction Today, businesses of all sizes rely on information technology for critical day-to-day operations. Even small to mid-sized businesses are vulnerable to an IT disaster whether caused by a simple gas leak, an extended power outage, a hacker or virus attacking the server, or serious natural disasters such as devastating tornadoes, floods, ice storms and fires. An IT disaster can cripple your business and most companies simply aren t prepared. A study of 1,700 small to mid-sized businesses conducted in 2009 by storage and data protection software provider Symantec found that 57 percent of North American businesses lack an IT disaster recovery plan. (1) The consequences of this are staggering. Research, by the University of Texas, shows that only 6 percent of companies suffering a catastrophic data loss survive. In fact, a whopping, 43 percent never reopen and 51 percent close within two years. (2) Sir Winston Churchill was right when he said, He who fails to plan, plans to fail. In creating a disaster recovery plan, small and mid-sized business owners can minimize potential losses and improve your chances of survival. Read on to discover Data Cave s top 10 IT disaster recovery planning tips to help you rethink your disaster recovery plans. 1. Perform a business impact analysis or risk assessment Your first step in data disaster recovery planning is doing a business impact analysis and/or risk assessment. A business impact analysis identifies and prioritizes critical components of your IT infrastructure that your business needs to survive and what would happen if that infrastructure fails. This includes business-critical data, network connectivity, servers and key programs you need up and running after a disaster strikes. Your analysis should include: estimates for how long a business function can be interrupted before it starts affecting your revenue stream and how much client or business transaction data can be lost or recreated without seriously affecting your business. A risk assessment complements the business impact analysis. List all the risks that most likely could threaten your daily operations including: technical failures, natural disasters and human threats. Analyze each risk by assessing the consequences and probability of each disaster scenario. The business impact analysis and risk assessment components will help you identify the critical IT components that you need accounted for in your data disaster recovery plans.

2 2. Create a Disaster Recovery Plan Creating a plan allows a business to minimize data losses and speed recovery from a disaster in the shortest time possible by identifying critical systems, processes and how you will restore these systems. For IT, this means identifying key applications, networks, servers and backups that are absolute musts to recover. Contingencies, such as what-if scenarios, should be considered part of the planning process. Must-haves in the plan include: a. Disaster recovery outsourcing Outsourcing disaster recovery is a popular practice. Using outsourced disaster recovery is often more reliable and more cost effective than creating an in-house disaster recovery service, particularly for small to mid-sized businesses. This could be as simple as moving your IT infrastructure, such as your main server, to a top-tier Midwest data center, such as Data Cave. Teaming with a data center can be an important IT disaster recovery strategy - it can eliminate capital expenses while ensuring top-level protection from service interruptions due to in-house IT infrastructure failures. b. Managed services outsourcing Many small to mid-sized businesses lack the technical expertise to implement a strong disaster plan. Others believe it costs too much to build and maintain an IT disaster recovery plan. Data centers serving as managed services providers (MSPs) can do this for you. MSPs have the servers, storage and network infrastructure in place to manage a true disaster recovery plan. MSPs operate data suites that host multiple companies on the same hardware and network equipment. This feature keeps costs affordable. Data Cave works with many MSPs who house their own as well as customer equipment within those suites. Many companies experience downtime when equipment is stored in-house simply due to human error. Allowing an MSP to manage your company s IT equipment can greatly reduce this risk. c. Be redundant Establishing redundant servers for all critical data and providing an alternate way to access that data are essential components of IT disaster recovery planning. Having these redundant services at a secure, offsite location such as Data Cave can ensure high uptime for your critical data. Most top-tier data centers will guarantee or percent uptime in your Service Level Agreement (SLA). A best practice includes locating your production server in a top-tier data recovery center that guarantees multiple power and network connections. Backup data could be in another secure location at the same data center as your server or at another data center at least 50 miles away in case of a severe natural disaster. This would ensure you are protected from any downtime and you place your business in great position to survive the most brutal of IT disasters. Consider data center redundancy when choosing a data center. Make sure the data center has at least two of everything, including power feeds, generators, UPS systems, network systems and cooling units. This ensures that a data center can weather the failure of a piece

3 of equipment without causing you downtime and allows maintenance to be done without affecting customers. In fact, this strategy has allowed Data Cave to maintain 100 percent uptime. 3. Monitor your plan Once a disaster recovery plan has been established, it is critical to monitor the plan to ensure its components are implemented effectively. A disaster recovery plan is a living, breathing document that can and should be updated frequently. Proactive, ongoing monitoring and remediation of processes, such as backup data storage and real time data replication, can result in less data downtime should a crisis occur. Be sure to also notify others within your company when a change occurs in your disaster recovery plan. 4. Test your plan The Disaster Recovery plan needs to be tested regularly to ensure the business can recover successfully and in a timely fashion. Disaster Recovery testing is a major challenge for most IT departments, but if recovery has not been tested all the way to the application level, it is very likely that problems will occur. Your test needs to include true end-to-end system testing. An under-tested plan can often be more of a hindrance than having no plan at all. Set up a regular testing schedule, such as once a quarter, to make sure your recovery plan works. 5. Keep the plan current If your disaster recovery plan is out of date, then it's useless. For most companies, a plan older than two or three years won t reflect their current backup environment and data backup technologies and needs. Make adjustments as necessary and Include new hard hardware, software upgrades, server needs and any other any change that would modify the current disaster recovery environment. 6. Draw upon trusted partners Nearly half of all small businesses find it difficult to invest in a dedicated IT department. To ensure your IT disaster recovery needs are met, look to a provider to help you. Data recovery centers bring expertise and best-of-breed solutions that allow you to focus on your business. Data Cave can be that trusted partner for colocating a server, storing your backup data or even managing your data disaster recovery plan. 7. Develop a communication plan Organizations often make the mistake of not communicating to employees and their customers in times of crisis. Use multiple forms of communications to update your employees regularly when a disaster occurs and notify them of what they can expect about data recovery. Your customers need communication too. Make sure your communication plan lists current customer contact information, the communication vehicles you will use (i.e. , fax, personal phone calls) and key messages you will use to reassure your customers that your business can still service their needs.

4 8. Have good backups Great disaster recovery planning includes a backup provision. Every company should backup its data at least once daily, typically overnight, but should strongly consider more frequent backups or continuous data protection if warranted. Creating a series of incremental online data backups lets you easily restore your files to an error-free state. Many online data backup services exist, some costing as little as 16 cents a day. The backup of data is mission critical, and your plan should include accessing the security and accessibility of backup storage following a crisis. Best-practice backup storage includes housing your backup data in an offsite data storage center that provides top-tier security, foolproof protection and speed of access so that backup data can be restored quickly. Best practice also means that you store your backup data in a facility different from where you store your IT equipment. For optimal protection, consider off-site backup for the most critical data, such as at a Midwest data center or an Indiana data center such as Data Cave. In the Midwest, land, power and other costs of running a data center are lower than places like California, Texas and New York where dozens of data centers operate. Data centers can then pass along those cost savings to customers. Data Cave s location in Columbus, Indiana provides more buffer acreage than you can find in a metropolitan area which makes rural areas desirable. This means less people, less access traffic, a private drive and a gated entrance. This equates to more security for your data equipment and personnel. 9. Automate where you can Without automated disaster recovery, recovery times can stretch much longer than they need to be. Automating recovery processes through software can be a big plus. It can save time, money and a lot of hassle. Consider utilizing systems automation tools that help in refreshing system images. Tools like Chef and Puppet have become gold standards in repeatedly building server images and retaining the knowledge of all of the steps involved. 10. Implement cost-effective data recovery Data protection and recovery requirements may seem too expensive for a small to mid-sized businesses. Taking the risk of losing key IT systems and data without any policy in place will inevitably cost you more than you bargained for - losing your entire livelihood. Newer technologies are making IT disaster recovery more affordable than ever for small to mid-sized businesses. Data Cave can help you implement a cost-effective solution to meet your business-critical data recovery needs.

5 Conclusion Every business is vulnerable to IT data loss both big and small, and today s ever-demanding consumers expect speedy data recovery. Too many businesses fail because they don't prepare for an IT disaster. An extended period of downtime can cost you big -- in lost revenues, lost credibility and ultimately, lost clients. If your business hasn t thought about developing an IT disaster recovery plan yet, now is a good time to make it a top priority. We've given you 10 tips on starting or improving your disaster recovery plan. Contact us today to learn more about how offsite disaster recovery can work for you. About Data Cave Data Cave is a full service, fully redundant, data center located in the Midwest - centrally located between Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Louisville. Data Cave s facility was purpose built specifically to house critical IT infrastructure. The tornado proof, 86,000 sq. ft. facility has 10 MW of available electrical power, and ample cooling capabilities, to meet the demands of any IT power load. If you have any questions about reliable data center operations, please do not hesitate to contact Data Cave. Footnotes 1. Preimesberger, Chris. Survey indicates half of SMBs have no disaster recovery plan. e.week.com; Recovery-Plan /. 2. University of Texas Center for Research on Information Systems, as cited in Datamation, June 14, 1994.

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