Disaster Recovery

Disaster recovery (DR) is a subject that the IT manager should begin to address on their first week on the job. If you are currently an IT manager and have not addressed it, do so now, even if that means adding it to a list of business risks. The thing about DR is you inherit all past sins. Whatever DR measures were or were not taken in the past, you own it now. If it dies, it’s on you.

Ownership

The IT manager will have to own this and drive it. It is one of those important but not urgent things, so unless your immediate supervisor also understands the critical nature, you will not get alot of reminders. In fact, management may not even want to think about it because they know they are lacking. Or they may think they have DR because ten years ago they contracted with a DR vendor … and of course, unless it is tested and updated periodically, it is likely obsolete.

Larger companies may have a full-time DR position. However, unless they are your peer, you will remain ultimately responsible for your area – or perceived area. Even if they are your peer, they have likely assigned responsibility to you for your area (or perceived area).

Semantics

DR is sometimes referred to as DRP, or disaster recovery planning. Some also use it synonymously with BCP (Business Continuity Planning); however, in my experience, DR/DRP is a subset of BCP, and BCP also considers all the non-IT responses to a disaster. ITIL refers to the IT-specific discipline as IT Service Continuity Management, or ITSCM.

The DR effort usually focuses on a large scale disaster, such as a data center outage. Localized disasters, backups and recovery, are no less important, but are typically seen as operational, and a subset of overall DR.

RTO (recovery time objective) is the maximum amount of time an application/system/network can be inoperable and non-functional. It is a reflection of the particular element’s important to business operations. RPO (recovery point objective) is the backward point in time that system state must be returned to in a recovery. In my experience, these terms are more often used to precisely describe localized recovery, but in the aggregate can provide general characterizations of an IT environment and choice of DR solution.

Disaster Recovery Planning

DR planning is a complex, overlapping and continual process as described here. Assessment criteria for determining the maturity level of an organization’s DR function is also provided on this site.