When it comes to business continuity
planning, planning to protect your organization’s data systems
during a disaster is vital. However, preparing for what you and
your staff will need to do when the actual emergency hits is just
as important.

While you have a variety of options for your
staff’s actions during a disaster, the different methods generally
revolve around the same basic principles. In the case of any
disaster, there is a critical point in time when you must act
quickly to initiate your disaster response. This may sound like a
simple, and obvious, part of the job, but keep in mind that many
emergencies can cut you off from normal means of communication–and
probably cut you off from the production data center as well.

The basic idea is to prepare for both
emergencies that you can deal with locally and ones you’ll need to
handle remotely. Relatively speaking, local emergencies are
typically the easiest to deal with. In these situations, you can
command and control the failover operations from your primary
location, especially if only one or a few critical systems

If you have local failover systems in place,
you can initiate these procedures at the servers themselves. If you
don’t have local failover systems, you can enact tape-restore
procedures quickly and effectively from the same location from
which the failure occurred, provided the server systems themselves
are still operational.

For emergencies that involve the loss of the
primary data center, or if you just can’t get to the data center
quickly, the first response becomes more complicated–but no less

You can, of course, set up automated failover
systems that require no user interaction. However, this approach
can be risky across WAN connections; a dropped data-link could
accidentally fail over your organization.

Instead, it’s a better idea to set up
remote-access systems, such as the services provided by Microsoft
in its Windows Server products or one of the many products designed
for any number of operating systems. This permits you to digitally
access the failover data center, even if you can’t physically
access the actual location.

In either case, it’s vital that your staff is
ready to go well before a disaster strikes. For critical data
systems, you may have only a few minutes to get the systems back up
and online.

However, you often don’t have sufficient time
to properly restore data from offline storage. So if tape is your
only recovery system, this particular portion of failover
operations wouldn’t apply to your organization.

But if you’ve put replication and failover
tools into place, you must ensure that you’ve cross-trained staff
on how to fail over multiple critical systems. It’s not an uncommon
occurrence in a disaster situation for the person who has primary
control over any given system to be unavailable.

After you’ve trained your staff, it’s important
to put a communication system into place that will quickly and
efficiently alert all necessary staff to the fact that you’re
declaring an emergency. Keep in mind that e-mail may not be
available, so relying solely on an e-mail alert won’t cut it.
Telephone lists, pager systems, “walkie-talkie”-enabled mobile
devices, and other immediate communication systems offer options
for alerting staff quickly when another method of communication

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