Data Centers

Tech Tip: Define and align disaster response priorities

Learn how to define and align disaster response priorities.

By Mike Talon

In previous columns, I've often addressed various methods for defining disaster scenarios. For example, one popular method originates from military classifications of threats; Level 1 indicates a potential threat, and Level 5 signifies a total disaster.

However, while this type of system works well for internal IT departments, it doesn't necessarily address how to involve other departments in a disaster recovery plan. An important step is to assess how these departments' priorities will affect IT and to determine how to align these priorities.

A vital part of making sure your DR plan is successful is synchronizing the definitions of necessary responses with all of the departments in your organization. A good starting point is to either find out what levels of disaster plans these groups have already established or to help them create appropriate response levels they can use.

Keep in mind that these plans will likely be wildly different from IT's plans. However, it offers a starting position from which to create a cooperative plan.

After you've determined departments' specific priorities, it's time to find some common ground. Establish which disasters—in terms of technology—will require which level of response from other groups, and determine which of these disasters are already on the list of potential emergencies.

For example, the loss of a physical site due to flood or another environmental issue will mean an emergency for just about every department in the organization. But the loss of a single data system, which may need a response from HR in some cases, may not require the same response—even if the IT department has to scramble to fix the problem.

The final step in this process is to meet with department representatives and determine how best to merge the various DR priorities. In some cases, you might need to train your staff to perform simple operations normally handled by other departments. Sending out alerts to affected employees is a good example.

In other cases, however, you may need to heighten your response to seemingly minor issues because these same issues cause other departments to scramble. A great example of this is the termination of an employee under less-than-perfect circumstances. IT must be ready to block the employee's access and reclaim company property. While it's not an IT disaster, your tech staff will still need to move fast.

Keep in mind that departments will need to compromise when it comes to everyone's specific priorities. This process can take a large amount of time, but it's not something you should rush through.

By aligning and merging IT's DR plan with other departments' DR plans, you can define responses to emergencies across the company. And in the process, you can determine required responses for each department in the event of an emergency.

Mike Talon is an IT consultant and freelance journalist who has worked for both traditional businesses and dot-com startups.

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