Monday, December 9, 2013

ERP Disaster Recovery

Today’s economy is no different than yesterdays.  There are plenty of pressures to keep current, catch up, and compete.  Add to that the lack of budget, compliance mandates and a false sense of security and you have all the ingredients that drive a disaster recovery situation into a financial meltdown. 


Many technology providers are changing their mantra from disaster recovery to business continuity.  The concept is good.  Do we want to recover or do we want to continue operating?  Failing to plan is planning to fail.


Many providers now have real, viable, and proven solutions for Microsoft Windows server technology.  What about solutions or applications that do not run on Windows?  They leave that up to your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution provider.  That may be the first bit of good news.  You ERP solution provider knows your system and has experience in recovery procedures that should include both hardware and software.  If your ERP selection was done right they have taken into account your risk quotient and have addressed your specific needs.  You did have that conversation, right?


A Disaster Recovery (DR) plan starts with the plan and that is little good unless the plan actually exists and it is practiced and takes into account the changes that are occurring almost daily.  Does the DR plan take into account the actual business requirements?  Sure you have backups, do you have a hot site that you can restore to?  Does the plan include a reverse recovery plan?  How do you transition back to your production environment? 


Does the plan take into account that during most testing it is under a controlled circumstances and the testing is planned in advance when in reality a real disaster is rarely a planned event.  Getting key people in place, getting needed resources to the recovery point is not so easy when everyone in your region is doing the same thing at the same time.   The problem with disasters is that they often affect a region at a time and not necessarily a single organization.


How much time will it take to actually restore your entire system?  Or, is it systems?  What interdependencies exist?  The priority is typically the ERP system, but what about user accounts, email, communications?  What about user data, spread sheets and documents?  Do you keep both sites in sync so that in a disaster situation only current data needs to be refreshed?  Do you try to do all of this yourself or do you hire a firm that has experience and resources to manage the process when you need it most. 


You might need help.  Think of a management organization like a paramedic when you have an accident.  As you are lying there, at that point in time you really do not care how much experience the help has or how much it costs, you just do not want to die.  What would be different if your own professionally trained and experienced healthcare team followed you around?


At this point we do know that we need a plan and we have to test it regularly.  Take into account that in a real emergency it will not go as you hope, but your contingency plans will help accommodate the chaos.  The DR plan cannot just scratch the surface.  The plan also needs to address the switch back to the normal production environment. 


On of the hardest things to address is the constant evolution of your processing.  Your team must have up to date run books.  A simple program change or update to increase operational efficiency can have a dramatic impact on documentation.  It is inevitable that documentation can lag behind.  The question is what impact it will have when you are in a recovery situation.  One of the best things to be done is to cross train personnel and periodically let a person from a different department run through the instructions to ensure that in a recovery situation the most critical operations will continue.


Remember, a backup tape is not a disaster recovery solution.  How long does it take to backup?  How long will it take to restore?  Where and what will you restore to?  It is the same hardware?


Are cloud solutions an exception to disaster recovery?  The data resources may be safe, but can you get to it and with what client?  What bandwidth will be available when power and communication lines are down?  In the case of a regional weather impact your people will be concerned about their families and homes.  Who will make your business a priority over their family?


Remember, just because you trained does not mean you are qualified.  Practice, practice and yes of course, practice.  Test, test and yes test.  Test not just one system, but your entire infrastructure.  Test the restoration to production.  Plan, plan, and plan.  In a real disaster recovery situation, there will be situations that you cannot plan for, but you can have contingency plans. 


At Dolvin Consulting, we would like to know what your organization doing in the area of disaster recovery and business continuity.  We would like to know, your colleagues would like to know.  Share your ideas, best practices and checklists.  The one you help will be yourself.  As you share, you validate your efforts and get much needed feedback.  Contact us today to see how we can help with your plans.



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