With Hurricane Earl barreling toward the east coast and Tropical Storm Fiona on its heels, many IT managers are scrambling to review disaster preparedness plans to ensure they can keep systems up and running.

While most data centers have well constructed disaster preparedness plans, now is a good time to review the plans to ensure staff and business partners are ready to respond to prevent costly downtime or business disruptions. The National Hurricane Center is warning this could be the most active hurricane season since Katrina wreaked its havoc on the Gulf Coast.

CDW-G, a subsidiary of information technology provider CDW, which targets the government and education sector, offers the following checklist to ensure disaster plans are tuned up and ready for action:

  1. Assess your current plan and prioritize essential services. Even organizations with large IT budgets will find it difficult to cost-justify a plan that includes every process. Organizations should evaluate and prioritize processes in terms of their impact on the business. For example, processes that need to resume as soon as possible, could receive an “A” rating, while others could receive “B” or “C” ratings, if less critical.
  2. Take steps to protect data and enable access. Organizations may consider upgrading backup cycles and the speed of their backup equipment. Multiple copies of data should be stored off site, at a remote location, far from the primary data center.
  3. Review power and cooling systems. Organizations should review their uninterrupted power supply (UPS) systems, with an eye to ensuring the most essential applications are protected. Cooling systems should also be protected by backup generators as data centers can heat up quickly if equipment operates on backup power without adequate cooling.
  4. Identify and appoint a cross-functional preparedness team. Organizations should create a team from various departments (for example, applications development, servers and systems administration, network operations) to assist with the identification and prioritization of critical processes. A recovery team, which will lead recovery activities in the event of a disaster, should be in place.
  5. Document, test, and update. The disaster plan should include logistical details, including directions to backup sites, and such additional information as a list of people with spending authority for emergency needs. The plan should be thoroughly tested, and followed as closely as possible during scenarios to identify problems.
  6. Consider communications alternatives. Alternative systems, such as wireless phones and satellite phones, should be considered. Organizations should investigate their telephone service provider’s emergency capabilities.
  7. Form tight relationships with vendors. The strength of your relationship with your hardware, software and network equipment providers could be critical in getting systems replaced in an emergency. Work with vendors to prioritize and prearrange for the replacement of damaged hardware.



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