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GCN : September 2013
As agencies upgrade their data centers, they also must up- grade their disaster recovery plans. hen a data center is shiny and new, it can be easy to forget that things can go wrong. Servers can crash, people make mistakes and utility power is lost. Most companies -- 95 percent --- experienced an un- planned data center outage during the previous two years, according to a 2010 Ponemon Institute study titled "National Survey on Data Center Outages." To avoid these issues, every new and existing data center must have a formalized, tested disaster recov- ery plan, said Rachel Dines, senior analyst at Forrester Research. But even organizations that plan for the worst aren't necessarily prepared, she added. "While the vast majority of organi- zations have some sort of continuity plan, what varies is how robust it is, how often they test and how closely it matches business or mission requirements," she said. "That's where the story gets not so good." Here are four essential steps in developing a disaster recovery plan: 1. Start with business requirements. IT organizations need to assess which missions are essential func- tions and correlate those needs with the IT systems that support them. Called a business impact assessment, this process requires meeting with end users and is usu- ally handled by an outside vendor since it can be time-consuming and dif cult. 2. Define the parameters of the disaster recovery plan. Once you've uncovered what ap- plications and data are mission critical, it's time to look at that pool from a recovery perspective. Ulti- mately, Dines said, you'll need to de ne recovery time and recovery point objectives -- how long you can go without those applications and data and how much data you can lose without impacting your agency's mission. In this step, end users should have limited input; few will admit there is data they can live without, Dines said. 3. Identify supporting technology and services. In architecting and implementing the technology and services to support the organization's backup, archival, and recovery plans, experts suggest paying close at- tention to "grooming" your data, or making sure you keep just enough copies of the data you need for protection. "There is simply way too much data being generated to do things the old way any longer, taking an incremental backup during the week and full copies every week- end," said Steve Duplessie, senior analyst at research rm Enterprise Strategy Group. "It's crazy. Who needs 187 copies of the same, non-changing data?" 4. Test, test, and test again. Going forward, every agency will have to conduct regular testing, Dines said. Currently only 47 percent of enterprises test their disaster and recovery plans at least once a year and nearly one in ve (18 percent) never test at all, a recent Forrester Research study found. Sponsored Report NEXT GENERATION DATA CENTER Preparing for the Worst FULL REPORT ONLINE Go to GCN.com/2013NextGenDC Other Next Generation Data Center