Tom Kiblin, VP of strategic solutions at ServerCentral Turing Group, shares his top tips for getting staff prepared for a disaster
We all know that testing a disaster recovery (DR) plan is important. It’s the equivalent of testing your smoke detector twice a year – we know we should, but many of us (like, 23 percent of us) don’t get around to actually doing it. Unlike the smoke detector, though, you won’t run an accidental test of your DR plan next time you cook.
Handling a disaster recovery takes time and coordinated effort from people across your organisation – and there’s a good chance most of them don’t understand what role they’re supposed to play.
The good news: with some training, you can prepare your coworkers for a disaster event and make sure your organisation is capable of weathering this storm. Not sure where to start? Try these eight tips.
Include staff from across the organisation
While it may be the IT team’s job to strategize and build backup environments, DR is not a job for IT alone. In a real disaster, your entire organisation will be affected, so in training, you’ll need to work with representatives from every department and understand their use of business-critical apps.
Start by talking with leaders of each department to figure out which business-critical apps their department uses, identify dependencies on non-critical apps, and determine who should participate in the test.
Once you’ve identified participants, take time to train them in how to communicate their findings, especially when they notice things that aren’t working properly. Be sure to emphasize that the goal of a test is not to verify that everything is just fine but to discover areas that aren’t working as expected so that the IT team can adjust the DR plan accordingly.
Emphasize the importance of internal buy-in
The most common reason organisations give for not testing a DR plan is that they don’t have the time. But DR is a team effort and it can’t succeed without practice. If you want people from around your organisation to be willing to dedicate the necessary time and resources to preparing for a disaster, you have to get buy-in from C-suite leaders. Otherwise, your colleagues will brush off your requests to participate in training.
What’s important to note here is that, even if you’ve already convinced the CFO that everyone needs to be disaster ready, they won’t be your CFO forever (average tenure for a CFO is just over five years).
Besides that, budgets change. Priorities change. Critical applications change. Help every member of your organisation understand the importance of ongoing disaster preparedness so that DR testing becomes part of the culture regardless of who’s holding the reins of power (and the strings of the pocketbook).
Facilitate regular updates to your DR plan
Too often, DR plans get created to check a box or satisfy an audit – and then they’re never touched again.
Make it easy to keep your DR plan relevant: send an automated weekly email to members of every team and ask about changes in the last week – new software, new policies, new practices. Then make it part of your weekly routine to determine whether these should lead to a change in your DR plan.
It’s also essential to make sure your DR leader is present at important strategy meetings for the business as a whole (not just for the IT team). As company-wide goals and policies change, your DR plan needs to adapt. It won’t do anyone any good to have a fully functioning DR plan that restores apps your sales team no longer uses but doesn’t include their brand-new CRM.
Schedule regular DR plan tests
I mentioned your DR leader in the section above. If you don’t already have someone who is primarily in charge of DR testing, assign that person now. Make it clear that part of what this person’s job performance is measured on is the execution of DR plans – including tests. This is the single most effective way to ensure that regular testing happens and that a company’s DR plan is as fully aligned with the business as possible.