11 Items for Your Data Center Disaster Recovery Plan Checklist

Park Place Technologies


Phil Godfrey headshot - Park Place Technologies Solutions Architect
Phil Godfrey December 19, 2022

Developing a data center disaster recovery plan for your organization? Make sure you include these important items in your planning, or you might be in for an unwanted surprise.

Disaster Recovery Plans, or DRPs, exist in files the world over. Sadly, many of them are developed as part of a rote exercise, simply because “IT should have a DRP.” Many organizations haven’t reconsidered their plan for disaster recovery in data center locations since its inception, let alone tested the processes it puts in place.

Disasters are more common—and more diverse in nature—than many IT pros expect. We could each rate our vulnerability to tropical storm, tornado, or tsunami-induced nuclear meltdown, and (depending on location) consider the possibility of such disasters low, and thus conclude DR planning unimportant. But what will happen in the case of a blackout, severe internet failure, theft of core equipment, or a simple spike in data center temperatures caused by a failing A/C unit? Is your IT resilience up to standard?

Creating an effective, accurate data center recovery plan is key to achieving that goal. However, a lot goes into creating an effective plan. We’ve created an IT disaster recovery plan checklist to ensure that you’re able to minimize risk and downtime while maximizing uptime.

illustration-of-data-center

What Is a Data Center Recovery Plan?

A data center recovery plan (DRP) is a strategic outline of what you intend to do to keep your business ahead of major problems that could result in a loss of data, power, or connectivity.

Importance (Why Do You Need a Disaster Recovery Plan?)

So why does having a data center disaster recovery plan matter? Simply put, without such a blueprint, it becomes difficult to prevent unwanted downtime or the loss of data.

Benefits

The benefits of having a data center disaster recovery plan should be clear – you’re able to avoid or minimize downtime related to natural disasters, hardware failure, and other threats. You’re able to restore connectivity quickly when it’s lost and prevent data loss.

Having a DRP can be the difference between having a bad month and going out of business.

Disaster Recovery Plan Goals

A disaster recovery plan is all about taking a proactive stance on the very real threats that your organization faces today, including minimizing risk, maximizing uptime, and maintaining industry compliance. Your DRP should consider all these possibilities and offer a solution that can be implemented to recover in the face of any disabling event.

Minimize Risk

One of the primary goals of any disaster recovery plan is to minimize risk. However, to do that, you’ll first need to understand your risk level, and which threats your data center faces. A risk assessment is a critical first step here.

Maximize Uptime

Uptime is a measurement of your data center’s availability. Power outages, hardware failures, and network failures that affect connectivity all degrade that measurement. Your disaster recovery plan should focus on maximizing uptime in several ways, from switching to alternative sites unaffected by the disaster to repairing damaged hardware quickly.

Maintain Industry Compliance

Which regulations must you comply with in the face of a disaster, hardware failure, or loss of connectivity? And what will you need to do to ensure compliance?

IT Disaster Recovery Plan Checklist

The first steps of the DRP process may not be found in the pages of the DRP itself. Rather, they encompass some elements of a Business Continuity Plan (BCP), which incorporates a DRP, to provide a better understanding of where your DRP lies within your organization’s planning schema. Disaster Recovery Plans kick in when there is an issue of some sort, and mainly deal with restoring service, whereas a BCP will incorporate risk and business impact assessments, along with prevention measures.

These goal-setting exercises and business reviews help ensure that all stakeholders agree on the definition of a successful recovery and that the enterprise is investing adequately in preparation and recovery to make it happen. They also ensure that data center disaster recovery best practices are being incorporated from the start.

The DRP and surrounding processes entail the following key actions.

1. Assess Downtime Tolerance

Before you can plan for recovery, you need to know what the expectations are. For a company reliant on real-time, mission critical software, a few seconds of downtime is costly, so recovery expectations and investment in preparation will be high. For smaller or less tech-focused enterprises, longer outages may be acceptable and a less robust and expensive DR solution may suffice.

Of course, network downtime tolerance often changes over time; e.g., as the business grows, products or services evolve, or customers with higher expectations come on board. Update the DR team’s understanding of expectations so the plan can be modified accordingly.

2. Take Inventory

Before doing anything else, it’s critical to take inventory. What systems are in place? What is the likely scenario if a system goes down? Does your organization implement data center redundancy to help protect against power outages or hardware failures?

illustration-of-data-center-inventory-count

3. Pinpoint Deficiencies

You’ll also need to know your data center’s weaknesses. What are your strategic weak points? Some of the top data center challenges include data center design oversights, power supply failures, and environmental issues that strain energy resources.

4. Define Recovery Objectives

Next, you need to determine your RTO and RPO. Let’s break those down for you:

Recovery Time Objective (RTO)

Your recovery time objective (RTO) is all about the amount of time you need to recover applications.

Recovery Point Objective (RPO)

RPO indicates the age of the files that you need to recover for normal operations to resume.

These recovery metrics are extremely similar in nature to network failure metrics like MTBF, MTTR, and MTTF.

5. Conduct Risk Assessment

Conduct a full risk assessment for your data center. What are the most likely threats you’ll face and how likely are they to occur? Go beyond planning for natural disasters – how likely are you to face radiation exposure or explosives?

6. Assign Roles, Responsibilities

A key part of your data center recovery strategy is ensuring that everyone understands their role in the process. Who is responsible for what? Who leads, and who reports to whom? Have clearly defined roles and responsibilities and make sure that your people are clear on them.

illustration-teamwork-in-data-center

7. Outline Prevention Mitigation

What steps will you take in terms of prevention and mitigation? The use of uninterrupted power supplies is critical, but what else are you doing to mitigate the risks you face?

8. Define Disaster Recovery Sites

Disaster recovery sites are off-site locations where data and spare equipment are stored to restore connectivity and communications in the face of disaster. Where are those sites and what roles do they play?

9. Outline Response Procedures

What procedures are in place for your team to follow should a disaster strike? What should your people do first? What steps should they take next? Your response procedures should provide your team with a step-by-step framework to follow when it comes to communication, data backup procedures, and post-disaster activities like customer communications and dealing with vendors.

10. Devise a Crisis Communication Plan

Communication is essential during a disaster. Make sure your people know who is charged with communications, what information needs to be communicated, and when those communications should take place. Dovetail your crisis communication plan with your response procedures and roles/responsibilities for clarity and understanding.

11. Perform Practice Tests

Finally, make sure that you run drills and perform practice tests. Just as your class took part in fire drills during school, your team needs to practice what to do in the face of a potential disaster.

Model different types of disasters and throw unexpected events into the mix; missing people from the communication plan, outages at disaster recovery sites, and the like will help your team learn to think on their feet and ensure that when a real disaster hits, they’re able to roll with the punches.

Partner with a Trusted Leader in Global IT Support

When calamity strikes, make sure you’ve got the right partner in your corner! Park Place Technologies has been a trusted provider of IT support services for over 30 years.

Our infrastructure managed services offer a fantastic way to put the health of your critical IT systems on autopilot. Alternatively, begin your relationship with our team by starting with data center hardware maintenance warranties or professional services like our remote hands and IT staff augmentation.

Contact our team today to learn how our portfolio of IT solutions can make your life easier.

Phil Godfrey headshot - Park Place Technologies Solutions Architect

About the Author

Phil Godfrey,
Phil Godfrey is a highly esteemed Solutions Architect at Park Place Technologies. With over 25 years of relevant experience, Phil is helping craft modern technology solutions for the IT industry.