My first post in this Disaster Recovery blog series discussed one frequently overlooked area: post-disaster employee working conditions. This second installment examines some additional areas frequently overlooked areas of business continuity & disaster recovery planning.
1. How will you failback? (What is your failback plan?)
A disaster has hit and your processes worked. Your data, applications, and servers have failedover successfully! Awesome. Let’s break out the champagne, hit the air horns, blast off the confetti, do all the celebratory things (personally, I’m throwing down the cardboard and busting a windmill to back-spin-combo for the ages). It’s great that your DR plan worked, but what are the next steps? Are you permanently staying at your DR site? If not, how are you going to failback your data?
Having a failback plan is just as critical as having a DR plan. What are those processes? For example, if you are using storage replication, do you need to redo the entire setup/seeding process? Can your process pick up where the original storage devices stopped? Or do you need to fully instantiate the storage at the original location? Some solutions automatically flip the data replication direction as part of the failover. But what if the original site is offline for an extended time? How long can you store data changes before the original location is too far behind? Or, what if you’re using a DR company to host your DR? Are there higher, or additional, charges to run your now-production systems out of their facilities for an extended period? Maybe you’re in one of those fancy public cloud environments, and it doesn’t matter that you are in a different region/availability zone. Embrace the change and viva la US-West-2!
Failback plans can be messy and expensive, even when thought-out and practiced. Practical tests may not be possible, but you can definitely ensure your company thinks about it, talks about it, performs tabletop exercises, and works-up theoretical run books. Being prepared can mean the difference between success and failure.
2. Do you have backup infrastructure in your DR site?
This next question is similar to failback, but a little different. Your DR process worked like a charm. Now you are running out of your DR site. Great. Do you need to worry about backups & restores? Steve on the CRM team just accidentally deleted all of the client data. How are you addressing that? Do you have replica DR infrastructure in your DR site? Great. Make like a choose-your-own-adventure and skip ahead to the next section. Still here? What is the plan for your backups? Backups & restores still need to happen. Those issues don’t go on hold because of disasters. And if your failback options are particularly involved, you might be working out of your DR site for an extended time. The “Steves” of the world are their own walking disaster.
What are some options? If you are in one of the cloud infrastructures, your backup systems can easily be included in your DR plans, or easily recreated in your new AZ or Region. If it’s an on-premises solution, putting a replication pair in place can be a very nice solution. Or having a process in place to utilize the existing backup infrastructure in place at that location if it’s a working site for your company. Some companies have plans with their IT vendors to quickly procure required infrastructure and implement it asap post-disaster. Why buy it until you absolutely need it? Save your money until required. While an acceptable solution, I am not a fan. It leaves too many variables for my taste. Will there be stock at that time, are will other people be trying to purchase the exact same item(s)? Will there be shipping delays? Are you absolutely positive the datacenter/colo can support it physically or electrically? This is a lot to leave for the last minute.
3. DRaaS? How many companies in your geographic region are in the same DR location as well?
Outsourcing DR to a 3rd party company can be a great solution. But are they prepared for a larger regional disaster? How many other companies like yours are they doing business with? How many companies in your region also have DR plans that include using their facility in Phoenix, AZ, Atlanta, GA, or Las Vegas, NV? If something like a hurricane were to pass through the Northeast, would your DR company be able to handle many companies failing over to the same facility? How many other clients does your “dedicated” DR manager have? Will you get the necessary attention and service in your time of need? Or will they be severely distracted by 10-15 other clients in the exact same situation?
Yes, I’m laying out a rather extreme situation. But natural disasters are more prevalent than ever. Hurricanes hit the coasts more frequently and the entire West Coast is on fire. Should you avoid using a 3rd Party provider? Not necessarily. Just be informed, ask questions, and set realistic expectations. If you don’t get answers you like, explore alternative directions, like using a different vendor or one of the cloud providers.
I hope this post has given you more food for thought. Disaster Recovery is a massive IT area that comes in many flavors, many of which seem minor until you brush-up against them. Knowing what you’re getting into—and having a solid plan in place—can make the difference between success and failure. Anexinet has deep experience with Disaster Recovery and its many flavors. We would love to help you get started with, or update, your DR plan, so please don’t hesitate to reach out us with any questions.