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‘Tis the season for network disaster preparedness

To create a network disaster preparedness plan, IT shops may need to bring in an expert and then detail responses that can be practiced repeatedly before execution.

This can be the worst time of year when it comes to network disaster preparedness. Holidays increase network and systems activity while decreasing the available staff to work on issues as they arise. Meanwhile, Mother Nature’s disasters are more threatening than ever in the winter.

We all know that the best way to prepare for a disaster is to build plans and run through scenarios in practice, but there are a lot of little things that go into disaster planning that most people forget about, and it’s those little things that usually bite you when you’re not paying attention.

What to consider in creating a network disaster preparedness plan

Hire an in-house expert: If no one on your team has experience in network disaster preparedness, it’s probably a good idea to bring in an expert, at least for the initial planning.

Outline steps to restore service: A critical part of the planning is to prepare the detailed steps required to restore services during the outage and the practice schedule for when these steps will be executed and updated. One of the companies that I work with regularly practices and updates these plans twice per year. That sort of a commitment isn’t easy to make but will pay for itself many times over if you ever have to act on these plans in a non-practice environment.

Check IT management systems: One of the key steps is ensuring that you’ve got the IT management systems in place to detect the outages as quickly as possible and tell you how much of an additional load to expect will be placed on the existing systems.

Build disaster recovery into existing and future systems: Recovering quickly depends entirely on how well you planned for the disaster and how much you’ve been willing to invest in your failover solutions.  Virtualization, cloud computing and even today’s routing protocols make failover much easier from a technical standpoint, but none of this convenience comes for free.  It’s important that you not only build disaster recovery options into your existing solutions, but that you make them a requirement for any future solutions that are deployed. Many companies establish a disaster planning team that reviews the plans, practice schedules and results, and systems design.

Make a post-disaster plan to move systems back: After the disaster is over, the systems may need to be moved back to their primary locations. This can present its own set of challenges as it is something many companies overlook during their planning process. In this respect, minor disasters where the systems fail over and fail back within a short amount of time can actually be harder to plan for than major emergencies where systems fail over for a long period or permanently.

If your team doesn’t have a detailed set of disaster recovery plans and instructions that everyone on the team understands, now is a good time to start creating one. You never know, you may have a chance to execute those plans sooner than you think.

About the author: Josh Stephens is head geek and VP of technology at SolarWinds. He also pens the Geek Speak Blog.

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