Management's role in disaster recovery planning

Mike Talon tells you what assistance you should expect from management when you are putting together your disaster recovery plan.

On a day-to-day basis, management won't have a dramatic role in Disaster Recovery (DR). This will fall to the rear-echelon of the technology staff, which will be responsible for the everyday concerns of the backup routines, replication systems, and standby hardware. However, senior management within the organization, even if you are a very small shop, will be required for some key portions of your DR plan to effectively work.

Managers and C-level officers' responsibilities start with budgetary and other approvals, and then evolve into advisory roles that will allow you to get the rest of the company on board with the plan. Once you start the planning process, you're going to need to analyze each business unit to determine what systems will need to be protected and at what priority level. This boils down to determinations of which systems are critical, and what Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs) and Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) will be assigned to each. Since the non-technical staff may not understand how the higher levels of DR solutions can relate to budget, management will often have to step in to find the real protection statistics required for each type of critical system so that you don't break the bank.

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In addition to assistance with determining what needs to be protected, and how, there will almost always be some level of management that will be required to be brought on board for final budget approval. Even in smaller organizations, there is someone ultimately who has to sign the check. In some cases—especially in larger organizations—you may need to leverage management at one level to overrule other managers who refuse to authorize vital DR projects for political or other reasons. Whatever you run into, you will find that you have to navigate various levels of upper management before you finally get started on the implementation of your plan.

Going forward, after the implementation phase of your plan is complete, the role of managers doesn't end. As the business changes, DR needs will also change. Often, this doesn't require the wholesale re-implementation of the plan, but you may need to rework parts of it, and get approval for those changes. For example, you may start with only a single location and a tape-backup system, then move to multiple locations and replication. This requires that the DR plan evolve, but doesn't mean you ditch the original pieces to the plan. You're going to need management on your side to allow for continued funding and for support in keeping the rest of the staff up to date and in compliance with the policies you create for the DR plan.

While upper management may or may not be technology professionals, they are a vital part of the chain of command of any organization and must be present throughout the entire DR planning and implementation process.