IT organizations need to grow past talking about backups. We even need to grow past talking about Disaster Recovery. We need to mature to the point of talking about Business Continuity.
This isn’t to say that backups aren’t important. We need to have them. We need to be able to recover from a local data loss. If a SQL server becomes corrupt we need to be able to restore and recover to the latest point possible. Remember, most issues that face a company aren’t disasters, they are localized losses that can be overcome with a great backup solution.
This isn’t to say that Disaster Recovery plans aren’t critical to an organization. Any enterprise needs a solid Disaster Recovery plan. If it doesn’t have one, the Board should be asking questions. Disaster Recovery plans are complex and multi-faceted. Organizations will use many methods generally to replicate the data. They will use storage based replication, VMWare or Hyper-V replication for some virtual machines, transaction log shipping for SQL to keep it as current as possible. Many tools will be used, all in an effort to reduce RTO and RPO.
Backups and Disaster Recovery are important of course. Ultimately, IT needs to mature to a point of moving past them and into a real Business Continuity discussion. No matter what the SLA that is established for an RPO and an RTO, these times will ultimately be extended if DR hasn’t been talked through with the business leaders ahead of time.
The move to DR is a major move with significant costs. Moving back is often a big deal. Any declaration of a DR solution is not done lightly as the move is not trivial. The business leaders in the organization need to be brought into the establishment of the rules around the declaration of a disaster well ahead the actual incident. They need to understand how to operate in a DR situation without the systems put in place. Trucks still need to ship, products need to be produced and service still needs to be rendered during the outage.
The business will need to know how to recover from the implementation of a disaster recovery plan. How will they know what product has been processed? Will they need to do a close on the plant, inventory and start a new day in ERP? How will the reconcile what data is or isn’t in the system? These plans need to be thought out.
The IT team will do everything to remove any single point of failure, but to not plan for a complete disaster is short sited. The business needs to assume a disaster will occur. If the job of planning for a disaster is an IT exclusive function, the plan will fail. The development of this business continuity plan must be a business function. IT can ensure that what is required is achievable in the correct budget, but the business leaders need to be a driving force behind this plan if it to be successful.
A DR plan without the business leader’s full involvement and buy in will fail. IT must grow past DR.