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Backup & Storage|Cloud Computing

The SMB’s Essential Disaster Recovery Checklist

While almost every business would agree that it’s essential to have a disaster recovery (DR) plan, the sad fact is that not all businesses do. Most of those businesses that don’t have a DR plan tend to be the smaller and medium sized businesses (SMBs) that actually need a DR plan the most. Many of these SMBs could potentially go out of business if they were hit by a disaster and they were not able to effectively recover.

Today’s businesses need more availability and uptime than at any point in the past. Plus, they need to be able to deal with potential threats like ransomware as well as disasters and site outages. Creating an essential DR checklist is an important starting point for enacting your DR strategy. Let’s take a closer look at the main points that should be on your essential DR checklist.

  • Identify your critical business processes – Not all processes are created equal. You first need to identify your most important business applications. These typically are the essential applications that your business needs to operate on a daily basis. Ideally, IT should meet with the business management and/or applications owners to identify and prioritize these applications.
  • Backup and optionally replicate your critical servers – Backup is the foundation for all DR strategies. Backup enables you to restore your servers to a known-good point in time enabling you to recover your essential IT operations. In addition, while it’s no fun, your backups need to be periodically tested. Various backup products make this easier by providing the ability to automatically test backup and restore validity. While backup provides basic protection there is the problem of data loss between the time of the backup and the disaster event. Replication is another important technology that can be a key part of your DR plan. Replication enables you to vastly improve your recovery times and reduce data loss by providing one or more replicas of your protected servers. Replication reduces data loss by providing much more frequent replication intervals than backups. Some products provide near real-time replication capabilities. In addition, restore time is typically far faster as a replica can be quickly brought online without a lengthy restore process.
  • Make sure you have an offsite backup – Having at least one copy of your backups offsite is necessary in order to recover from a site disaster. Site disasters like fires, floods or hurricanes can render an entire location along with all of its computing resources to be unusable. Keeping backup copies offsite protects them from local events ensuring that you have at least one good backup copy to use during your recovery.
  • Have a restore target (most likely in the cloud) – It’s great to have a backup but it’s even better to have somewhere to restore it to. While many larger businesses have their own private DR sites this type of technology and its accompanying expenses is far beyond the reach of most SMBs. However, using the cloud as a DR site is possible for most businesses. The cloud can house replica VMs that can be quickly started up in the event of a disaster or you can use it to restore your backups to cloud-based VMs.
  • Make assigned DR roles – Having backups and DR targets that you can restore them to lays the foundation for a successful DR plan but no plan runs itself. It’s people that put your plans into action. You need to assign well-defined roles and responsibilities to the different IT and other business personnel that are needed to help recover from a disaster.

An effective DR plan is essential and can be the difference for your business to either survive a disaster or to possibly be put out of business entirely. If you don’t have a DR plan in place following this DR checklist can be a good way to get started.

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Michael Otey is president of TECA, a technical content production, consulting and software development company in Portland,
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