The most common disaster planning mistake, says UT Austin’s Michael Cunningham, “is to assume, ‘Oh, this will never happen to me.’ ”

Oct 11 2012
Data Center

5 Steps to Keep Disaster Recovery Plans Fresh

An old plan is the same as no plan at all.

1. Test your plan.

Most campuses have plans, but they don't test them, says Forrester Analyst Rachel Dines. Regular testing can reveal flaws that colleges then can address as they have time rather than at the height of a crisis. "Essentially, an untested plan doesn't work," she says.

2. Keep plans current.

DR plans need to be living documents that campus teams regularly review and make part of broader change-management processes. That way, anytime there's a change in the environment (a new process, point person, technology), the disaster recovery plan can be updated to reflect the change.

3. Involve everyone, but don't count on any one person.

Build a strong response team with representation across campus. But don't forget that during a crisis, people might have to focus on personal issues.

During the summer wildfires in Colorado, 35,000 residents, including several thousand employees of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, had to evacuate their homes. "There were a lot of people in limbo," UCCS Chief Technology Officer Jerry Wilson says. "Even if they came to work, they were trying to figure out, 'Do I still have a home?' They were very distracted."

4. Keep contact details up to date.

It's amazing how quickly this information can become outdated. The IT Services Organization at the University of Texas at Austin updates all contact information at least quarterly.

5. Get help.

There are DR templates and software that organizations can use to create plans. Plus, it's wise to gather lessons learned from other colleges and IT organizations, points out Bo Miller, telecommunications manager at Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania. "Everyone's going to have a story that you've never really thought about."

<p>Julia Robinson</p>

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