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6 Components Every Data Center Disaster Plan Should Have

By: Kayla Matthews on February 25, 2019

Although you hope never to have to use it, every data center needs a disaster plan. From human error to criminal activity to natural disasters, there are lots of events that can send a data center into disaster mode. These events can cause an interruption in service to clients as well as the destruction of equipment, facilities and data.

To deal with these unfortunate incidents, your data center needs to have a disaster recovery plan in place that provides direction to your staff about what to do in such an event.

This plan will enable you to protect your assets or maintain important functions during a disaster and recover following an incident. Here are six critical components every data center needs to include in its plan.

1. Equipment Protection Procedures

Every data center disaster plan should include procedures for how to protect equipment. These procedures should cover how to protect equipment from a coming storm.

These measures might include moving equipment into an area without windows and covering it in protective material to prevent water from reaching it. Your plan should also include steps to stop damage from spreading after one piece of equipment is affected by isolating faults.

Data centers might employ protective measures such as fire suppression systems and pumping systems for flooding. The equipment protection procedures should include instructions for when to engage these systems and how to operate them.

Your equipment protection plans should emphasize safety and be readily available to all relevant employees.

2. Service Restoration Procedures

In addition to protecting your equipment and data, you'll also need plans for how you will restore service following a disaster. Your data center disaster plan should include procedures for how employees should restore services following an incident. These procedures should emphasize safety and resuming operations as quickly as possible.

You should also prioritize functions according to how critical they are to safety and your operations. Restoring functions according to these priorities will help to minimize damage and ensure that the most vital aspects of your operations are available first.

The speed with which you can recover from an incident is crucial, as data center outages can cost as much as $9,000 per minute, according to research from the Ponemon Institute and Emerson Network Power.

3. A Communication Plan and Well-Defined Roles

Communication and role assignment will be crucial in a disaster situation. Every employee should know what their role is expected to be and how to communicate with others to facilitate recovery. If employees don't have a clear understanding of these aspects beforehand, the execution of the plan can become disorganized and, as a result, be less effective.

Ensure that all of your documents have up-to-date employee contact information. You should also define escalation procedures that detail who to contact about certain incidents and how to go about contacting them.

Your communication plan should also include procedures for communicating with clients. You need to provide them with information about how a disaster may impact their operations and data and keep them updated as the situation progresses.

4. Data Backup Procedures

Your data backup practices will have a significant impact on how successfully you can recover from disasters. With a proper data backup system in place, you significantly reduce the chance that information will be lost entirely due to an unforeseen incident.

In addition to backups at your data center, you should also have data backed up either to the cloud or a server at a facility at a separate location. This ensures that even if your equipment at your primary facility is destroyed, you still have access to your data. It's also important to have a plan for backup power and redundancies for all your infrastructure and software.

5. Emergency Drills

It's essential that employees know how to carry out disaster plans before disaster strikes. To accomplish this, you should conduct regular emergency drills. These exercises will ensure staff knows what to do in case of an emergency and gives them a chance to practice their response.

Emergency drills also enable you to test the effectiveness of your emergency response plans. Running drills may expose weak spots in your plans, which you can update. It is much better to uncover these problems during a practice exercise than during an actual incident.

6. Detailed Asset Inventory

Every data center should have insurance to protect itself from natural disasters and other events. Keeping a comprehensive inventory of all of your assets can help you to quickly and accurately file insurance claims after an incident.

Create a detailed list of all of the technology that your staff uses. Take a picture of each item to include with your list. In situations in which you can prepare for an incident, such as when a major storm is on the way, take pictures of your facility and equipment to show that you prepared sufficiently for the event by protecting your equipment and taking other preparatory measures.

Natural disasters, human error and other incidents can cause severe damage to a data center and the company that runs it, especially if that company doesn't have a detailed disaster plan in place. Unfortunately, around 68 percent of small businesses don't have a documented disaster recovery plan, according to research from Nationwide.

Although no one wants to have to use their disaster procedures, it's vital that all businesses take the time to create a thorough plan, run drills and regularly update their procedures. Focusing on your disaster plan now will help reduce the impacts of unexpected incidents and speed recovery.

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