Do You Have a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP)?

Find out why a good DRP may save both your job and your marriage.

Shocked businessman looking at computer monitor
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Whether you're a home PC user or a network administrator, you always need a plan for when the unexpected happens to your computers and/or network. A Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) is essential in helping to ensure that you don't get fired after a server gets fried in a fire, or in the case of the home user, that you don't get kicked out of the house when mamma discovers you've just lost years worth of irreplaceable digital baby photos.

A DRP doesn't have to be overly complicated. You just need to cover the basic things that it will take to get back up and running again if something bad happens. Here are some items that should be in every good disaster recovery plan:

1. Backups, Backups, Backups!

Most of us think about backups right after we've lost everything in a fire, flood, or burglary. We think to ourselves, "I sure hope I have a backup of my files somewhere". Unfortunately, wishing and hoping won't bring back dead files or keep your wife from flogging you about the head and neck after you've lost gigabytes of family photos. You need to have a plan for regularly backing up your critical files so that when a disaster occurs you can recover what was lost.

There are dozens of online backup services available that will backup your files to an off-site location via a secure connection. If you don't trust "The Cloud" you can elect to keep things in-house by purchasing an external backup storage device such as a Drobo.

Whichever method you choose, make sure you set a schedule to backup all your files at least once weekly, with incremental backups each night if possible. Additionally, you should periodically make a copy of your backup and store it off-site in a fire safe, safe deposit box, or somewhere other than where your computers reside.

Off-site backups are important because your backup is useless if it's burned up in the same fire that just torched your computer.

2. Document Critical Information

If you encounter a major disaster, you're going to loose a lot of information that may not be inside of a file. This information will be critical to getting back to normal and includes items such as:

  • Make, model, and warranty information for all your computers and other peripherals
  • Account names and passwords (for e-mail, ISP, wireless routers, wireless networks, admin accounts, System BIOS)
  • Network settings (IP addresses of all PCs, firewall rules, domain info, server names)
  • Software license information (list of installed software, license keys for re-installation, version info)
  • Support phone numbers (for ISP, PC manufacturer, network administrators, tech support)

3. Plan for Extended Downtime

If you're a network administrator you'll need to have a plan that covers what you will do if the downtime from the disaster is expected to last more than a few days. You'll need to identify possible alternate sites to house your servers if your facilities are going to be unusable for an extended period of time. Check with your management prior to looking into alternatives to get their buy-in.

Ask them questions such as:

  • How much downtime is tolerable to them based on their business needs?
  • What is the restoration priority (which systems do they want back online first)?
  • What is their budget for disaster recovery operations and preparation?

4. Plan for Getting Back to Normal

You'll need transition plan for moving your files off of the loaner you borrowed and onto the new PC you bought with your insurance check, or for moving from your alternate site back to your original server room after its been restored to normal.

Test and update your DRP regularly. Make sure you keep your DRP up-to-date with all the latest information (updated points of contact, software version information, etc).

Check your backup media to make sure it is actually backing something up and not just sitting idle. Check the logs to make sure the backups are running on the schedule you setup.

Again, your disaster recovery plan shouldn't be overly complicated. You want to make it useful and something that is always within arms reach. Keep a copy of it off-site as well. Now if I were you, I would go start backing up those baby pics ASAP!