By Amee Kent



Are you more prone to fight or flight? Whichever end of the spectrum you fall on, humans aren’t known for reacting gracefully under pressure, which is why it’s important to have a clear plan of attack should something go wrong.

If you’re a company in the 21st century, being prepared means maintaining an updated and highly detailed business continuity (BC) / disaster recovery (DR) plan and training your IT team to use it. Every team’s plan will have its own key elements, but if you’re starting your strategy from scratch, here are a few items to consider.

1. Disaster Scenarios and Levels

Not all disasters warrant the same response, so it’s important to set specific courses of action depending on the severity.

Level 1: Minor

Minor events may include things like small contained fires, minor flooding, short-term power outages, or application/system failures. They affect only part of the physical environment, such as the loss of a system or supporting infrastructure failure that can be restored quickly. You won’t even need to engage the disaster recovery team to resolve these issues and to continue business as usual.

Level 2: Major

Major events affect the primary physical environment in such a way that the team can no longer operate. These may include things like larger fires, chemical spills, and issues that make the building inaccessible. Major scenarios will require an immediate response from management and the DR team, moving quickly to restore and recover business-critical systems.

Level 3: Catastrophic

Catastrophic events are highly rare scenarios, typically including regional disasters, such as  floods, hurricanes, and area-wide power failures. They cause massive disruption in IT services and require upper management to direct the incident response and business recovery process.

Your BC/DR plan should include a clear reference table to help IT team members determine the disaster level so they can engage the appropriate level of management and begin mitigation and recovery efforts.

2. Roles and Responsibilities

It’s important to have a designated DR Coordinator to serve as the point of contact and logistical coordinator for executing the plan and documenting the actions taken. Your plan should go a step further than just naming this person – it should outline their roles and responsibilities during normal operations, disaster time, and after an event.

Normal Operations

On an ongoing basis, your DR Coordinator should be responsible for developing and maintaining your BC/DR plan, testing the plan, and training team members for disaster scenarios, among other things.

Disaster Time

When an incident occurs, the DR Coordinator will determine the disaster level, contact the appropriate parties, delegate responsibilities, and log the actions being taken.

After Disaster

After a disaster, your DR Coordinator may also be the person who restores IT functions to the primary site and performs the post-disaster review.

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3. Contact Information

You may not realize how many people need to be involved in a BC/DR effort until you find yourself in the middle of one without anybody’s contact info. Include primary and backup contacts for as many stakeholders as you can identify:

  • Support people for all applications and hardware in use

  • Your team’s call tree

  • Key customers

  • Key vendors

4. Recovery Procedures and Checklists

To facilitate the execution of the BC/DR process, your recovery procedures should be documented step by step in bullet format based on each disaster level. Consider including the following, at a minimum:

  • Connectivity diagram that depicts the overall construct of the network

  • Configuration table that describes the applications on each server

  • Actual procedures for restoring each system

  • The data synchronization process (i.e. replication, failover)

  • Templates for communication

  • Recovery location (and plan for communication if location changes)

  • Minimum operational requirements and procedures (readily available servers, transportation, accommodation, etc.)

  • Idle personnel who can assist with salvage and other time-sensitive activities

  • Process for returning to normal operations at the primary site

5. Response and Recovery Log

Upon first alert notification of a disaster, your DR Coordinator should begin logging the sequence of events that transpire and sharing them with designated management personnel throughout the event’s resolution. This not only helps management monitor the recovery operation, it gives the company key documentation that may become important in communicating with customers affected by the event.

The log should include at least the following fields:

  • Disaster Application / System

  • Log Prepared By

  • Date

  • Response & Recovery Activity

  • Performed By

  • Completed Date & Time

This is by no means a comprehensive list of information to include in your BC/DR plan, but it’s a great place to start. You probably also want to include damage assessment checklists, alternate recovery site information, a list of app dependencies or interfaces, and other key information that will help you rebuild your system after an event.

Even if you’re working with a vendor who helps you keep the lights on, your team needs a BC/DR plan. In the heat of an event, your plan will help you keep communication flowing and recovery efforts on track.

Looking for more resources to help build your BC/DR plan? Contact us for an expert recommendation.
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