Disaster Recovery (DR) planning can often take odd twists
and turns. One of the most interesting is what you will do if your mobile users
suddenly need to deal with services going offline. Mobile end users
often rely solely on data systems to let them know what is going on back at the
corporate offices
. This means that if a disaster hits the organization, the
very systems these users would rely on to tell them what happened and what to
do next may be the systems that have taken an unfortunate leave of absence.

The good news is that mobile users tend
to have the most flexibility
in dealing with a DR situation than any other
user in the firm. First off, they’re already using tools like Virtual Private Network
(VPN) technologies and Web-based application solutions. Therefore, while they
are tracking back to a specific set of servers, they are often doing so through
dynamic location technologies, like DNS addresses and Web sites; instead of
using systems hard-coded to report to a specific server name or IP address.

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Essentially, this means that if you have the ability to fail
over your data systems, you can do so safely while re-routing these mobile
users to the new systems effectively. The end-user will probably need to
restart individual applications, and in some cases restart their computers, but
the good news is that most end users have become accustomed to taking such
steps in the event of errors and other anomalies. Those who aren’t will usually
be in the minority, and can be called if they have issues connecting again.

If you cannot fail over, you will need to have alternate
methods for getting the word out about how long the systems will be offline. If
a messaging or
e-mail system is struck
, you will quickly find that the end users have
little or no way to actually find out what went wrong without your interaction.
Unlike office workers, word of mouth will be somewhat ineffective for quick
distribution of information. Phone trees and specialized alert Web pages should
be configured well in advance of the emergency, and proper training should be
put into play so that end-users know how to use them. This way, if services are
interrupted, the users don’t get lost in the shuffle. They simply go to the
appropriate page and log in to be informed about what systems are down, or await
a phone call that the problem is being taken care of. Pre-configured hotlines
and voicemail messages can also be an effective means of getting the message
out to the end-users, and allows your staff to get off the phones and get to
work on the issues.

Setting up for mobile users is tricky enough when you’re
implementing the original systems—you definitely don’t want to create
additional difficulties by failing to plan effectively for your mobile users in
DR situations.