5 Ways to Hurricane-Proof Your Disaster Recovery Plan

Trees in hurricane winds

Atlantic hurricane season is upon us. If hurricanes are a risk factor for your organization, it’s time to review your company’s disaster recovery plan, or DR plan. Strong winds and floods from hurricanes pose threats to business continuity, which is why Hurricane Preparedness Week (May 15-21) is the ideal time to ensure that your disaster recovery plan is up to date. Hurricane season lasts from June 1 until November 30, and twelve named storms are expected to occur during the 2016 season. See our hurricane infographic for more details.

Winds and rain from a category one storm are enough to cause tree branches to fall, flooding and damage to power lines resulting in power outages that could last days. Just in case you’ve forgotten how much downtime can affect your bottom line, every minute can mean a loss of $5,000 or more to competitors who are up and running. Global enterprises can lose as much as $20,000 per minute if a critical system is down. For many businesses, it also means a hit to brand reputation and consumer trust. Remember that disaster recovery is not only an IT problem, but a business problem as well. Hopefully, you know the RTO (Recovery Time Objective) and RPO (Recovery Point Objective) for your company’s critical systems, and you’ve written a comprehensive disaster recovery plan to ensure their timely recovery. Here are a few things to review in your DR plan before hurricane season is underway:

1. Test Your DR Plan

If you haven’t tested your DR plan in the past 12 months, it is highly advisable to do so before hurricane season begins. A lot can change in a year for a company of any size. Most likely, systems have changed, infrastructure has changed and staff has changed since you last tested your plan. Schedule a drill in the next couple of weeks to ensure that everyone knows their roles and all critical systems are covered under your plan. Testing your DR plan on a regular basis is one of the most important things you can do to prepare. As stated under ISO 27031, “In most instances, the whole set of ICT readiness for business continuity elements and processes, including ICT recovery, cannot be proven in one test and exercise.” Try to perform desktop walkthrough exercises, simulated recovery exercises and operational tests as recommended by ISO and make improvements to your plan as needed.

2. Prepare Your Staff

Your staff should be drilled on evacuation procedures and their responsibilities before hurricane season. Coordinate with HR to send emails and post messages on company forums to ensure everyone gets the message to prepare for hurricane season. Make sure staff with specific responsibilities get the documentation needed to successfully manage their roles in such an event. Your DR team should be trained on how to coordinate and mobilize to the DR site before bad weather hits. Set meetings with your DR team in preparation for the season, and schedule training for any new team members. Lastly, touch base with any providers or contractors you are supposed to work with in the event of an emergency.

3. Ensure Your Backup Site is Secure

Your DR plan should include a backup site to continue operations in addition to a secondary location for data storage. Sometimes they are one in the same. Many data centers, such as our Texas 1 and Houston 2 data centers, provide dedicated office space for instances when employees are unable to access their primary location. Dedicated space is important, especially in the event of a hurricane when backup sites will be occupied with employees from all companies that use the facility. Also consider the redundancy of utilities at your DR site, especially if the site is located within 100 miles of your primary location. Does the site have more than one power feed? Are there multiple fiber carriers available?

Ideally your backup site should be located 100 miles away from your primary location, but if it is not, ensure that your DR site is built to sustain winds of at least 155 mph, is elevated above the 500 year flood plain, has redundant feeds for power and utilities.

4. Check Amenities at Your Disaster Recovery Site

If your DR site is in a hurricane zone, your staff will have to remain on site until they are able to drive. Likewise, if your DR site is in the nearest city outside of the hurricane zone, hotels will be booked with people scrambling to find a place to stay. Because your staff will most likely have to remain at the DR site around the clock, consider the amenities available at your secondary location. Is there a food/water/coffee supply to get them through the next hectic 48 hours or more? Is there a place for employees to sleep and shower? These amenities will help your staff pull through long hours while they restore operations. Read more about disaster recovery deployments and amenities offered at Data Foundry’s data centers.

5. Update your DR Plan’s Appendix

If your DR plan has an appendix that includes contact information, systems inventories and SLAs, review this information to be sure that it is up to date. Don’t go to all the trouble of having a thorough DR plan in place, only to frantically call a supplier when a server goes down and reach a wrong number. Ensure that you have reliable vendors and shippers you can count on to send backup hardware and power supplies at the drop of a hat. Go through all critical contact information in your DR plan before hurricane season begins. If your DR plan doesn’t contain this essential information, add it.

According to Data Center Knowledge, Forrester research shows that 60 percent of businesses have invoked their disaster recovery plans in the past five years, and the thoroughness of your plan is essential to your business’s recovery. If your backup site is not as secure as it should be, contact us to learn more about our colocation services and dedicated office space.