Tech Tip: Perform a regular review of your DR plan to keep it effective

Making it a practice to regularly review your disaster recovery plan can allow your organization to implement the best possible DR solutions.

By Mike Talon

After spending months developing your organization's disaster recovery plan, you may think that your job is over--at least until a disaster strikes. But once your organization's DR plan has been in effect for a while, you'll soon find that you still need to discuss how your DR plan needs to adapt and grow.

Making it a practice to regularly review your DR plan can allow your organization to implement the best possible DR solutions. A regular review can also help your company adjust its DR plan to changing times and technologies.

Some of the most common issues you'll face are technology advancements and changes to end-users' needs. These two broad topics actually cover a very large range of subjects, but they can help you determine how often you must review your plan and make necessary changes.

Staying ahead of the technology curve

Technology advances occur continuously. In today's world of gigantic technology leaps, Moore's Law, the idea that new technology roughly doubles the speed and capacity of today's technology every 18 months, often seems outdated.

In many cases, even server systems that are less than a year old can already be outdated in comparison to the latest and greatest developments. Software becomes outdated almost daily, with a need to continually implement security patches, updates, and other fixes.

All of these areas can cause various parts of your organization's DR plan to fail, even though the plan itself was--and still is--valid.

Storage technology also continues to grow in leaps and bounds. What was a huge amount of data space only a year ago is now relatively cheap to buy--and often insufficient to hold your organization's important data.

Along with dealing with the ever-increasing amounts of data and data storage, you must ensure that your company's DR plan components can keep up. Tape space may no longer be sufficient to back up everything, and replication tools will require more and more bandwidth.

On the bright side, bandwidth's costs continue to slowly lower. And that means that once cost-prohibitive solutions, such as replication tools, can become well within your organization's reach.

Keeping end users productive

On the other side of the spectrum, end users have a set of requirements that they expect from your DR solutions. But over time, as new software and new regulations emerge, end-user expectations can also change for each data system.

What was once a mission-critical database may now be a "nice-to-have" system--no longer requiring the expense and expertise needed to protect it in real time. Other systems can often move in the opposite direction.

For example, consider e-mail. Until recently, most companies considered it a secondary application to telephone systems.

However, nearly every business today is either beginning to (or already does) regard e-mail as a mission-critical application, requiring extensive availability systems to keep it up and running.

Reviewing your organization's DR plan on a regular basis can help ensure that the organization continues to meet the needs of its end users and adapt to technology developments. I recommend making this a quarterly practice to keep ahead of the curve.

But if a quarterly review isn't feasible, an annual review will help make sure you're not leaving anything out of the mix. Make sure you perform at least a cursory review of new technology and ask managers about the various needs of their departments.

Then, you can determine if you should make any changes to the DR plan, and you can begin to find ways to institute these changes. Remember: Failure to plan is planning to fail--and that doesn't end when the DR solutions go into place.

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