The Disaster Recovery Plan

Sumanth Lagadapati

sumanth.236@gmail.com

Introduction

Many companies don’t have a disaster recovery plan often there is a desire for a DRP.

The level of effort and\or cost required to create DRP can cause this project to have a low priority relative to other more immediate projects.

A DRP is viewed as “nice to have” or “just insurance that will not be used “, and not as a critical business component.

That is, until there is a failure that causes a significant outage or loss of data (often at a significant cost to the business).

It is my opinion that every company could benefit from both a disaster recovery plan and a business continuity plan (BCP)

Investing in a DRP and BCP is just as an important for most business in my opinion.

Where do you start?

The first step is to create a DR team and this includes an:

Executive sponsor.

DR coordinator.

Team leaders (there will be several groups and possibly subgroups).

Team members.

This people should be designated as either primary or backup for position, with every position having more than one person assigned this to minimize people as a single point of failure.

The goal is to have the expertise to help develop the various recovery procedures, and is committed to success of the overall effort.

Where do you start? cont…

The next step is to define business goals.

The goal should address items such as:

What functional areas need to be recovered?

What length of time is acceptable for recovery?

What amount of data loss is acceptable?

This often involves prioritization and a cost-benefit analysis to determine the worth of recovery (i.e. something that may be premature at this phase of the project).

Understand the business goals and objectives

To find out what that really entails you must know:

What are the critical systems?

What are the key processes and applications?

What are the dependencies on other systems?

This includes:

Data transfers.

Manual processes

Remote processing

Then documents these processes.

Because there is interaction with dependencies on other systems and user interface, and the sensitivity of the data.

Once the systems have been identified, attempt to quantify their impact relative to the overall business goals.

Identify specific requirements

Everyone involve with this effort (including upper management within a company) needs to have a single vision of what success look like, without this you risk wasting time and money on a plan that may be viewed as a failure.

Identify key personnel

These people may not be part of the DR team, but they are important. (For example who has the authority to declare a disaster?)

This list should be maintained both by name and by role; it should be validated and updated frequently.

Identify single point of failure

The overall goal of this step is to mitigate unnecessary risk.

The scope of this effort includes people, software, equipment, and infrastructure.

It is important to look at the “big picture”, which includes:

Impact of the failure.

Probability of failure.

Estimated incidents (failures).

Annualized loss expectancy.

Cost of mitigation.

Example:

For example the banks, like HSBC bank they use secure e-rooms and external vendors for some of their projects, and they recommend that the plans be archived on portable media with copies kept people and various “safe” locations.

1. Recovery

Once the infrastructure is in place it will be necessary to recover production data.

Minimize holes in data very important especially in a distributed processing environment where one step could be dependent on one or more predecessor steps actions.

Then to identify the action to be taken when data inconsistencies are detected.

2. Restoring / sustaining business operation:

All processing requirements and service level agreements need to be defined and documented.

1

Dependencies between processes also need to be defined.

2

It is important to document the existing process and then build the plan accordingly.

3

Note: remember that routine maintenance including backups should still be performed at the hot site.

4

3. Transferring Data back to Production Machines:

Production will need to shift from a hot site back to a permanent location.

A process needs to be defined to manage this migration.

Synchronize the machines to a specific point in time.

It should also be noted that this is one of the more difficult tasks to test.

The DRP should address 3 main technical areas

Hardware Issues.

1

Networking issues.

2

Software issues.

3

1. Hardware Issues:

This includes:

Machine type.

Configuration

Operating system version

Patch level.

And the recommendation here is to plan to the worst case.

The key to success is to ensure that the DRP machines have at least as much capacity as the production machines that they are replacing.

2. Networking issues:

Is any special type of LAN or VPN software required?

How do the machines communicate with one another?

Do applications connect to machines using hostname or hard-coded IP Addresses?

Are there requirements for connection to an external network?

All networking requirements and issues need to be identified, documented, and then addressed in the DRP.

3. Software issues:

Software includes:

Operating system.

User written applications

Third party software (report writers, GUI products, backup/recovery products, scheduling software).

A comprehensive inventory of currently used software.

Working hardware and an accessible network is worthless if your critical applications are not working!

Creating the procedures that support the plan

When the DRP is created it should not assume anything!

Nothing should be assumed or left to chance.

Design the procedures with the goal of a semi-experienced person who may not be familiar with your operations executing the procedure.

Detailed test plans should be developed prior to execution and should address all critical functional areas of the DRP.

Data should be gathered during testing and saved for future review.

Testing and refining the plan

A common problem that we see is the plans are developed, but they are never tested, or are tested once and forgotten.

A plan that is not continuously refined and validated is almost worthless.

In order to maximize the chance for success in the event of a real disaster it is essential that the DRP be executed on a regular basis.

Specific recovery procedure can generally be tested in-house on a more frequent basis.

Summary

The DRP is a living document that is refined over several iterations and update over time.

No matter how good it is it probably will fail during the first execution.

The key is to continue to improve the plan so that will work if and when it is ever needed.

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