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What Katrina Taught Me about Disaster Recovery

An organization I worked with owned a site in New Orleans. Our disaster recovery plan was simple; It required that the General Manager transport the most recent backup tapes to a designated accessible sister site where IT would redeploy the site’s data and applications. When Katrina hit, our disaster recovery plan worked flawlessly and we recovered within the prescribed RTO and RPO. However, the 37 employees that used that data to generate revenue for the organization were scattered around the country unable to conduct business leaving our customers with an inferior product. What good is a disaster recovery plan without an associated solid business continuity plan?

Disaster Recovery Planning has never been more critical with the surge in ransomware and cyber-attacks. The public cloud has made disaster recovery quick and painless. Disaster Recovery (DR) is just one part of a solid Business Continuity Plan. Below are four tips to help you get started with your DR Planning to insure against disasters that may affect your organization.

Tip One: Keep the Business Involved

The common situation is that the C-Suite calls on IT to deliver a DR Plan to satisfy risk and they leave it at that. It is IT’s job to push back on that directive to help determine where DR fits in the organization’s Business Continuity Plan. If the C-Suite fails to understand the importance of a solid Business Continuity Plan, IT has a fiduciary responsibility to provide an enlightening discussion as to why DR doesn’t totally solve for risk. Your organization need not repeat my Katrina experience; Learn from it.

Tip Two: Start TODAY

Resist the urge to procrastinate. The lack of unplanned outage is not evidentiary support to neglect planning for disasters, it is an indicator of dwindling odds. Every day you put off implementing a plan is a day closer to a disaster. Leveraging cloud services allows your organization to start small and continue to build on the plan. (Step one: backup data and OS to the cloud. Step two: extend your network to the cloud. Etc.) You don’t need to have step 68 planned to start step 1. Start with a proof of concept or maybe pilot a non-critical application. Just START.

Tip Three: Leverage Tool Sets

Technology is ever changing. We didn’t think to use cloud services during Katrina because they didn’t exist. Well, they do now! Cloud services like Microsoft Azure can be leveraged to provide a failover datacenter (active-recovery) without capital expenditure and likely reducing the organization’s overall technology spend. Leveraging cloud service technologies is so painless that it has become a no-brainer for IT teams. Remember however that not all tools are created equal. Do your homework.

Tip Four: Don’t Go It Alone

There are “gotchas” along any path in IT and DR is no exception. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is not unchartered territory. Find a partner experienced with building and implementing a plan to achieve your objective. Find a partner that is willing to invest in your success by offering free or low-cost assessments; proof of concepts; high-level planning.



Jerry Nelson is CTO at Beyond Impact. He is instrumental in understanding client pains, finding sustainable solutions, and navigating an ever changing technology landscape. He is a strong partner for business and technology. Usually he’s found riding a motorcycle.

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