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Top 5 Reasons DR Plans Fail

Most businesses and IT professionals recognize the need to implement a disaster recovery (DR) plan. However, according to the 2014 Annual Report by the Disaster Recovery Preparedness Council, 3 out of 4 companies are failing to properly prepare for a disaster. I don’t need to tell you that these odds aren’t good. With all of the priorities facing IT professionals today, it’s difficult for many IT leaders to justify the cost and time needed to implement a comprehensive DR plan. But, knowing that over 43% of businesses that experience a disaster never reopen can certainly make business leaders take a second look at their DR plans.

Here are the Top 5 reasons why DR plans fail:

Communication Breakdowns. Depending on the size of your organization, Disaster Recovery Plans (DRPs) can involve many people – from IT to communications to the executive team. To ensure your DRP is properly executed, it is important that the plan is clearly communicated and available to all parties involved in executing the plan in the event of a disaster. Since your DR team likely won’t have every piece of the plan memorized, make sure your team will have access to copies of your plan during a disaster.

Inadequate Planning. A comprehensive DRP will cover the following areas: people, physical facilities, technology, data and suppliers. Within each of these areas, your organization needs to clearly define the policies and procedures needed before, during and after an event. In terms of technology, you’ll need to determine which applications are mission-critical and set a priority for restores. Be sure to survey multiple parties within your organization to determine the importance of each application. From a data standpoint, you need clearly defined RTO (Recovery Time Objective) and RPO (Recovery Point Objective) requirements and easily accessible storage back-ups. When considering people, determine if you have space for employees to work in the event that your building is unavailable. Without clearly defined processes, your recovery may not move along as quickly as needed.

Lack of Testing. You may think you have created the perfect DRP with all of your bases covered. But unless you test the plan, you won’t truly know if it will be successful. Seeing your plan in action can raise several questions that were not previously addressed such as: do you have enough space for your employees to go in the event that your building is no longer safe, are there bottlenecks in the plan that work in theory but hold-up recovery in practice and how will you communicate if employees are unable to access their cell phones? The goal of performing a test is to reduce or eliminate errors when an actual disaster strikes. Trust me, it’s better to learn these lessons before a disaster strikes, not after.

Outdated Plans. A DRP should be a living document, meaning that it is regularly updated to include new employees, equipment, vendors, systems, applications, etc. We all know that IT is constantly evolving, which means the DRP you create today will likely be out of date six months or a year from now. Once a plan is developed, I recommend reviewing it on at least a quarterly basis. Back to my earlier point on communication, it is critical that all updates to the plan are shared with the DR team.

Failure to Cross-train Staff. In the event of a disaster, especially a large scale natural disaster such as a hurricane or tornado, you may not have access to all of the employees that would typically execute your DR plan. For this reason, it is important to identify and train back-up staff on your plan in the event that your go-to personnel isn’t available.


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