Does this sound familiar? You are responsible for IT in your organization, your systems appear to be humming along well and occassionally you get that nagging worry – what happens if we have a disaster? Yes, you are backing up your critical systems and you are storing your backups offsite. But sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat because you realize that if your data center suddenly disappears, you are not sure how you will get from those backups to a fully functional IT infrastructure.
Do you want to get a good night’s sleep for a change? Here are two pieces of advice for getting started:
1. Start with the Crown Jewels; and
2. Look for a Quick Win!
Crown Jewels are the most critical, valuable, business-defining systems and data that reside in your data center. You may already have a pretty good idea of what your Crown Jewels are. However, just to be sure, check with your CEO and/or Chief Technologist, and ask them for two or three IT items that the business simply cannot afford to lose. Basically, ask them to fill in the blank in the following sentence: “If we lose _______, our business cannot survive.”
Once you have this answer, think about what it would take to get the Crown Jewels back – and then think about how you can prove that you can get them back. Just like that, you are now doing Disaster Recovery planning!
Pick one of your Crown Jewels, retrieve your most recent backup, and try to get it running on a completely isolated system with no network connectivity. Note – resist the temptation to “just plug it into the network for a quick second,” to download a patch or a little piece of software. A name conflict could disrupt your production system, which could leave you with some explaining to do. Virtualization, and some software that can burn files to ISO images, can help a lot here.
The Quick Win has big benefits. First, in the process of trying to get your Crown Jewel running on an isolated server, you will “smoke out” the Crown Jewel’s dependencies. You find yourself saying, “Hey, I didn’t realize this thing had a web server component too!” or “What do you mean, you can’t contact a domain controller???” Although you may be taken aback by the dependencies that show up, wouldn’t you prefer to find out about them now… before the disaster occurs?
The true benefit comes if you manage to get the Crown Jewel running on its fully isolated server. Be sure to document and share your successful findings with your boss! Specifically, show him/her how you recovered a business critical system in an isolated environment, and how you can use the same process to recover the system in case of a disaster. Walk through a few screens demonstrating how the system really works. Now you can all sleep soundly for many nights to come!