One of the critical elements of your Disaster Recovery Plan will need to address is what your business will do in the event your main physical facilities are rendered inaccessible by a disaster. This could be anything as little as complete loss of power (and backup utilities) for more than 24 hours, or as serious as your primary facilities being entirely destroyed.
How do you plan for this? By identifying the facilities that you and your people will use in both short- and long-term scenarios, and making sure they are capable of running your operations, as part of your disaster planning. Ideally before you ever need them.
There are two different types of facilities that this post will address: Disaster Recovery Sites and Disaster Re-Location Facilities. A lot of recovery experts do not distinguish between these two sites, but given that they have fundamentally different purposes, I have decided to discuss them separately.
So how are they different?
Disaster Recovery Sites, which can be further described as “hot,” “warm,” or “cold” sites, are facilities that where all your vital data, applications, and physical assets can be moved in the event of a disaster. Your Disaster Recovery Sites are intended to provide immediate access to your essential business operations as quickly as possible.
Disaster Re-Location Facilities, on the other hand, are facilities that you have identified as a location at which your business can effectively re-locate to for an unspecified amount of time in the event your primary location is inaccessible for an extended time. These facilities should provide sufficient space for all of the equipment and personnel necessary for your business to fully restore normal operations.
Of course, it is possible that one location will sufficiently serve both purposes for your business.
Identify Your Disaster Recovery Facilities
Now that you understand the type of facilities we’re looking for, you need to locate and identify them.
Your Disaster Recovery Sites
For your Disaster Recovery Site(s), you need to choose a location where all your vital data, applications, and business-critical physical assets can be moved and operated in the event of a disaster. The site needs to be able to support active communications, meaning it needs both critical hardware and software in place (or available to be delivered and installed) before disaster strikes.
There are three types of Disaster Recovery Sites:
- “Hot sites” – meaning it can effectively act as a functional data center, and is ready and available with hardware, software, personnel, and customer data immediately;
- “Warm sites” – meaning that it is capable of allowing access to all critical applications but does not have current access to customer data; or
- “Cold sites” – meaning it can store IT systems and data but has no active technology resources until the Disaster Recovery Plan is activated.
Given the availability of Disaster Recovery solutions that automatically backup and replicate critical workloads across multiple locations, your only limitation on the extent of the recovery sites available will be your threshold for cost and the specific technology requirements of your business.
Your Disaster Re-Location Facilities
Note: Any plans for use and operation of a Disaster Re-Location Facility should be cross-referenced with your Emergency Evacuation Plan. Any disaster that renders your primary physical facilities unusable for an extended period of time is likely to include an evacuation of your facilities due to dangerous conditions.
Additionally, any disaster that may require the physical evacuation of your facilities will require you to have in place both a Disaster Re-Location Facility, where all recoverable equipment and business necessities can be taken. This facility will need to have an appropriate location and sufficient space for your business to resume full operations for an extended period of time.
The Location of Your Disaster Recovery Facilities
Regardless which type of facility you’re dealing with, the types of disaster that you identified in your Risk Analysis will likely provide some basis for where the facility should be located. It would be a waste of time and effort to identify and set up these facilities only to have the same disaster impact your recovery facilities.
Incorporate Disaster Recovery Facilities into Data Backup and Recovery Policy
While it’s probably not technically part of your Disaster Recovery Plan, make sure that you have identified alternate locations for re-locating your essential data backups, physical documents, and storage media. As part of your Data Backup and Recovery Plan, there should be written procedures for making sure that all sensitive and/or business critical data backups, whether in the form of physical documents, or analog or digital backup storage media, are protected and moved, if necessary, to a safe place.
When Disaster Strikes…
You need to have an activation plan for your Disaster Recovery Facilities that is incorporated into your overall Disaster Recovery Plan. Your Disaster Recovery Team chart needs to include the name(s)/position(s) of the person(s) responsible for activating your Recovery Facilities and provide personnel responsible for the management of its setup and operation.
Among the critical Action Items in your plan must include provisions for backing up everything that is done at your Recovery Facilities, so that once your primary facilities are operational following the recovery, everything done at the Recovery Facility can be easily relocated back to your primary location.
Other important tasks related to your Disaster Recovery Facilities includes:
- Arrangements for transportation of all necessary personnel to the Recovery Facility.
- Confirmation that sufficient backup storage media is available.
- Review the checklist for all necessary materials before departing to the facility.
- Make sure that the personnel at the facility has the necessary information to begin operations.
- Establish communications procedures.
- Review all materials at the Facility to ensure completeness/confirm last backup.
- Begin normal operations as soon as possible:
- Daily jobs
- Daily saves
- Weekly saves
- Ensure compliance with Disaster Recovery backup schedule
- Arrange for all necessary communications equipment and service.
- Arrange for all necessary utilities equipment and service.
- Be ready for anything.
- Be flexible.
Remember that your Disaster Recovery Plan relies on thorough planning, testing of your plan to adjust for any gaps in your assumptions, and practicing so that everyone knows their roles. However, even the best plans are likely to miss key details when it comes to disasters, because disasters are rarely predictable.
Stay flexible with your Plan and your people.