Winter Bears Down - Are You Ready?

January 16, 2018

The new year started off with a bang, if you consider a “bomb cyclone” or “bombogenesis” a noise-maker. The winter season’s first blizzard, Grayson, was a record-breaker in terms of daily record cold temperatures set all the way from the northeast to the Gulf Coast. Is your Disaster Recovery Plan ready?

As winter storm warnings continue to pop up across the country, individuals and businesses should brace themselves for the remainder of the winter season – at least seven more weeks. If you haven’t already done so, it might be time to dust off your disaster recovery plans, or at least begin planning for next year.

The biggest risk for companies during winter storms is power outages due to ice, and facility issues due to the cold (water pipes not working). Roads could be treacherous, and air travel is usually impacted. As we learned with Grayson, hurricane force winds are not out of question, either. Human exposure to brutal cold temperatures is also a danger.

While it may be too late to make extensive plans for the current season, there are still things you can do to prepare for the impact of upcoming storms. First, focus on what you can do now to be better prepared if something happens in the near term. Second, in the event there is no chance to improve your preparedness for an event this season, start thinking about what you can do to be better prepared for a future event.

At Sungard Availability Services, we look at the IT recovery challenge as having three layers, all of which must be addressed to recover successfully:

  • Data Protection: If you have your data backed up at an off-site, secure location, then generally -- you are recoverable. How you choose to get your data off-site – via tape, disk backup, storage replication, or server replication – will depend upon the mission-criticality of your applications, and the Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO) for each. Simply having your data protected at a second location does not in and of itself make for a disaster recovery plan, but if you are working with a professional recovery provider like Sungard AS, we can take care of this for you.
  • Testing: How long has it been since you’ve tested your environment? Was it a test of your current environment, or have things changed since your last test? Do you need to reflect what your true production environment is? This is not something you can decide to do today and have in place tomorrow. It takes time, and if you’ve never tested your environment – or it has been a long time – that could be a problem. If you decide you’re not ready to test, you need to do something about it. Customers of Sungard AS can book a test through our Resource Management team. Once you know if you are fully prepared, there’s a better chance that things will run smoothly at the time of an event.
  • People, Processes & Programs:
  1. People: It should be obvious that it will be people who perform the recoveries. You can do a lot through automation, but people are still needed to do critical tasks. Top off your diesel generators; reserve rooms at a hotel within walking distance of your data centers; and take inventory of people with 4x4 vehicles. It’s imperative that your employees have an operational place to work, with the right equipment, space, and communications equipment to enable them to do their jobs. It is also important that they have the right expertise and focus to successfully recover your data and applications.
  2. Processes: These are the procedures and “runbooks” that document the steps of the recovery. Your recovery will only be as successful as your “last-known good” procedure, so if these are not updated or correctly maintained, then you run a significant risk of failing at recovering your applications and data. If you work with a recovery partner like Sungard AS, this is the heart of what we do for customers day in and day out. We can worry about this for you, so you can focus on your people.
  3. Programs: This refers to the ongoing lifecycle and management of the DR program, and governs crucial activities like test planning and execution, post-test analyses, execution of change management, and active integration of best practices and lessons learned on an ongoing basis. Many companies do not have the wherewithal, time, resources, or budget to maintain a robust program conducive to an “always-ready” recovery posture. A partner like Sungard AS can also take care of this for you.

In the long run, working with an experienced recovery partner will free up your people and budgets so that you can focus on your business, while your partner can focus on your recovery. For now, it may be too late to prepare for the first bombogenesis of 2018, but it’s never too soon to start preparing for next winter. As we learned in 2017, things sometimes happen in threes. We’re here to help.

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