Disaster recovery 101: What you need to know

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Some good starting points for those new to the discipline

With various parts of the country still reeling in the wake of tornadoes, earthquakes, too-early snowstorms, hurricanes and wildfires, the past few months have taught us that no geographical area is safe. There's never been a more compelling time to develop or fine-tune a disaster recovery and business continuity plan for your business.

Disaster recovery is, quite simply, being able to continue your mission-critical business operations after an interruption of some kind. Companies must be able to resurrect their applications and processes -- their entire business operations -- at the point where they were before the outage occurred, says Robert Amatruda, research director for data protection and recovery at IDC. And this is true whether the outage resulted from a natural disaster, a server or storage system malfunctioning or "someone pulling a plug they shouldn't have," he says.

While business continuity is about being able to keep functions going, disaster recovery means being able to get everything back to whole again, explains Carl Pritchard, senior risk management consultant at advisory firm Cutter Consortium. "The difference is business continuity is keeping the patient alive. Disaster recovery is getting them back to being healed and walking again," says Pritchard, who is also the author of Risk Management: Concepts and Guidance, 4th Edition.

Where to start

Instead of focusing on technology, put a solid framework of disaster recovery processes in place, and then prepare for the most likely causes of downtime, Forrester advises.

IDC's Amatruda concurs. A discussion about disaster recovery and business continuity needs to begin with having processes in place, says Amatruda. "Technology doesn't solve your problems," he says.

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