The first thing you must do is analyze the extent of the damage to the data systems. If you neglect this critical step, you may inadvertently move operations to systems or data centers that are just as likely to fail as those that already have.
You must also immediately determine the root cause of the problem to the best of your abilities and decide the best course of action to take. Of course, your options will vary according to the nature of the disaster.
For example, in the case of a fire or flood, you must wait for the fire or the flood waters to subside. Once such an event occurs, you can then begin restoration procedures.
However, some disasters make it nearly, if not completely, impossible to ascertain the extent of possible damage. Earthquakes may be limited to a physical location, but aftershocks can occur for some time, making it dangerous to begin recovery procedures.
Or consider a tornado, which can touch down over a miles-wide area. Just because your initial data center is no longer in the path of the storm doesn't mean you can assume you can begin recovery operations at the data center across town.
Likewise, nonphysical disasters, such as those caused by a virus attack, also pose exceptionally difficult recovery operations in the first hours. Failing over or restoring service too soon could cause immediate reinfection of the new systems. You must first determine the extent of the damage, the rate of infection, and whether any antivirus updates exist to stop the spread.
Once you've determined the details of how you'll begin the recovery process, the next step is to assemble a team of recovery personnel. Send out e-mails (if e-mail is still operational), and begin alerting all necessary personnel where they need to report.
Of course, this process will go a lot more smoothly if you've already identified these people and developed a communication plan. If so, you can start tracking them down immediately and begin the recovery process that much sooner.
If you haven't made such preparations, you must first determine how to reach staff by various communication methods. This can take precious time away from immediate recovery operations, and it could easily result in critical staff being unavailable in time to assist.
Another part of your predisaster preparation should be to determine which data systems are most critical for restoration and how long they can feasibly be down before affecting the bottom line. The next step in your immediate-response duties is to focus on these systems first—and bring them back up as quickly as possible.
Of course, this is only the beginning of the recovery process, and your work will be far from over. However, these first critical hours can mean the difference between recovery from the event and the loss of money, clients, or even the entire organization.
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