Management Strategies: Managing disaster recovery

Pre-Sept. 11, the most disaster recovery experience many of us had was swearing at ourselves after losing a file we should have saved 30 minutes prior. However, last year's tragedies have prompted many of us to wonder how we would cope if the everyday mistake of not saving a file was multiplied across an entire organization. If your company couldn't use its facilities due to a disaster, could you continue to operate?

This week's Management Strategies story examines disaster recovery planning, offering advice from IT executives who have gone through the process. Here are some points to ponder:

* Risk assessment. Enterprises should have each department determine which systems are top priority for day-to-day operations. With departmental priorities at hand, you can determine where single points of failure and other vulnerabilities, and plan accordingly.

* Cost assessment. Develop several options for disaster recovery, from the most bulletproof (read: expensive) to the acceptable-but-not-perfect. Departments can weigh the options vs. their priorities and their budget to figure out which is best for them.

* Test your plan. A recovery plan isn't worth the paper it's printed on if it doesn't work. Ensure that staffers know their roles in the event of a disaster so recovery can proceed like clockwork. A dry run of the plan will uncover inadequacies or problems.

* Never type "The End." As long as your company evolves, so will your disaster recovery plan - it's never finished. New processes, equipment and lines of business mean new contingencies and possible changes to the plan. Consider reviewing your plan quarterly with department contacts to determine if any additions or changes are needed.

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