Three key ingredients for the ideal Disaster Recovery strategy

Three key ingredients for the ideal Disaster Recovery strategy

Don Boxley, CEO and Co-Founder, DH2i, considers three components that the best DR strategies should incorporate. 

Don Boxley, CEO and Co-Founder of DH2i

As we look toward 2023, are you 100% confident in your company’s Disaster Recovery (DR) plan? Are you feeling flush with tons of extra money in your DR budget that you have no idea what to do with? Are you at complete peace because you enjoy total awareness of each and every conceivable threat that could stick your organization with unplanned downtime?

If you answered yes to the three questions above, then I wouldn’t be surprised if you next told me you typically make your commute to the office by unicorn. The reality is that the perfect DR architecture can appear so out of reach that it seems almost mythical – and it may feel totally unattainable to many companies. 

If your organization hasn’t been forced to respond to an emergency downtime event, adequate DR investment can be a hard sell. It can feel way too cumbersome to try to explain to everyone who has decision-making authority on your team the extent of the resources – both monetary and staff – that must be funneled towards DR planning and implementation.

Limited finances aren’t the only challenge when it comes to DR, though. Traditional DR solutions and their associated management complexity can drive even the best IT team crazy. It’s almost as rare as unicorn-riding to have a completely homogenous IT environment. Without one, companies that want to protect their critical data assets are stuck leveraging a panoply of DR solutions, each with a unique set of management nuances and restrictions.

Regardless of your industry, whether your company is just ramping up with baseline DR strategies or more prepared, consider these three components that the best DR strategies should incorporate:

1. Agreement among stakeholders

DR needs for one organization won’t necessarily match another’s. It’s a sad but true fact that not every company can pay what it costs to onboard the best tech on the market to safeguard their IT installation. That said, there’s no reason to have your budget allocation be a random guess. Instead, the decision should be guided by how damaging you expect downtime events would be to your teams. 

If you think through these two questions, it can help you gain an understanding of what’s needed from a cost perspective:

  • When a downtime event happens, what are the costs to your company? This reckoning should include the financial impact that your company suffers from lost revenue, as well as the usability impact on your end-users
  • If a catastrophic downtime event occurs, what’s the worst possible impact you’ll accept? This is an upsetting question to ponder, but if your company doesn’t have an infinite budget, then it’s important to consider this. Knowing what you’ll accept will help your organization determine the technology it will need to ensure the correct level of disaster-preparedness that all of your stakeholders agree is essential

Once your teams have thoroughly researched and vetted these questions, the next step is to align expectations throughout all levels of your organization. As Gartner states, you must “[e]nsure that DR planning is done in alignment with Business Continuity management (not in an IT-only vacuum).” If you can ensure that all stakeholders have agreed on exactly what your company’s unique disaster readiness needs are, then it can make a challenging process more streamlined when it comes to budget allotment and solution identification. 

2. Strong documentation that includes role assignment

When you initially respond to an outage, you don’t want to be synthesizing your recovery plan on the fly. Instead, you need to be ready for the moment that you find yourself in a Disaster Recovery situation. The best way to prepare is to create, in advance, a meticulously detailed recovery plan that includes clear role designation. You want this plan to include a blow-by-blow playbook of recovery procedures – specifically, step-by-step instructions and commands that are in writing for anyone in your IT department to execute when needed to resuscitate your environment.

A key clarification needed here is your approach to framing your disaster response protocols. You’ll want to design plans based on what assets you might lose or that could be compromised at your company. For example, your loss categories might include sites, applications or third-party services. Constructing your plan at this level is prudent because even if IT has a solid understanding of the assets and systems you could lose, an outage can come about in countless ways that no one has likely thought of before. So don’t base your DR plan on the actual downtime-causing events. By basing your DR response plan around loss categories, you’ll never have to stress about whether future events happen to fall into a limited framework of downtime-triggering events.

3. Smart automation for ease of management

You’re not done yet as the last step is the most important. While a thorough, easy-to-execute process sets you on the right path for DR, your DR strategy won’t be complete without smart automation. With automation-ready technology, your systems will be to be prepared to react at once to a threat or a detected outage, and they’ll automatically begin to facilitate your DR processes.

Strive to ensure that your DR management strategy simplifies user experience by minimizing concurrent recovery solutions and unifying your environment. Don’t make your IT team deal with separate SQL Server Availability Groups on Linux and Windows.

In conclusion, as you take these steps to create an optimum DR strategy for your company, remember that there’s no definite endpoint for DR planning. Avoid complacency and always approach DR as an evolution that’s perpetually on-going. If your DR plan is supported by thorough research into the impacts of downtime on your company, and you have stakeholders who share eye-to-eye expectations on DR requirements, then you’ll be in excellent shape on the path to creating an ideal DR plan. Add detailed documentation with clear recovery steps for all vulnerable assets, automated technology that’s easy-to-manage and you’ll enjoy nearest-to-zero total downtime.

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