Disaster recovery isn’t a subject that many of us would like to think about. The likelihood of a catastrophic event—be it a tornado, hurricane, earthquake or even deliberate sabotage—is so low that many institutions simply forgo the effort to plan for one. It’s a mindset I can understand and appreciate. But as a leader of Blackboard Managed Hosting, it’s my job to plan for these kinds of things—and ensure that my clients have the business continuity they need should disaster strike.
Whether your institution is self-hosted or managed by a vendor, there are five worthwhile exercises that I think every institution should do to have peace of mind:
- Anticipate. First, determine some of the most possible and realistic scenarios that could affect your institution. Consider natural events, political events, the physical locations of buildings, personnel and community. This exercise may bring attention to vulnerabilities that were previously overlooked. For example, if you’re located near a body of water, it may influence your decision to relocate a critical IT operations center to a more remote location.
- Prioritize. Identify and rank-order your top five mission-critical applications. Assess the business impacts for each application if rendered inoperable, and establish parameters around recovery efforts—including the level of operation (e.g., maintenance mode), time-to-recovery, tolerance thresholds for data lost, etc.
- Project. Quantify the budgetary impact of disaster recovery efforts, from ongoing preparedness to an actual response effort. Include the costs of technology requirements, as well as those of the personnel involved.
- Communicate. Develop and distribute business process documentation that lists systems, personnel and the sequence of events required to respond to the situation. And consider sharing a high-level plan with instructors, staff and students as well, so that everyone knows what to expect in the unlikely event of a disaster.
- Train. Have training, cross-training and re-training programs in place for key personnel so that everyone is prepared to respond quickly. Consider staging simulations or trial runs to uncover potential gaps in the plan.
When you have people who rely on you—students for continuity of education, and staff and faculty for their professional livelihood—a disaster recovery plan becomes less of a “nice to have” and more of a necessity. It’s not about being “fearful” of an unlikely catastrophe, and but rather about being pragmatic that they can—and do—happen. And having a plan in place offers the greatest peace of mind—and possibly a deterrent—you can have.
To continue this discussion of disaster recovery preparation, please join us for a live webinar with Alex Kissal, Senior Director with Blackboard Managed Hosting:
How to Ensure Business Continuity During a Disruptive Event, Tuesday, December 4, 2012 @ 2pm Eastern
Poll: Does your institution currently have a disaster recovery plan in place? Has your institution ever been impacted by a disaster? If so, can you share with us any best practices or learnings from the experience?