The other guy's job -- disaster recovery

DR can't always be 'the other guy's job'

Mother Nature has wrought havoc in the Gulf and many of us were once again faced personally with worries over friends and family in harm's way and professionally with concerns about organizations facing uncertainty over their ability to continue or even recover their businesses. In a timely coincidence, I happened to be attending a disaster recovery (DR) conference on the west coast, and, appropriately, Hurricane Ike occupied center stage for much of the discussion. A number of would-be participants never made it to the conference as they were attending to more pressing matters back home.

The conference was like most others -- some sessions served to refocus attention on worthy issues that had become buried in the clutter of day-to-day concerns, others simply rehashed familiar territory, and along the way, there were a few nuggets of useful new information.

Being principally focused the technical side of DR, specifically on issues related to data availability and recovery, it is useful to be reminded periodically that there are many other facets to the challenge of ensuring that business and people continue to be able to function and operate. In the face of calamity, it's important to be aware of the broad range of goods and services available to help pick up the pieces and start again. Whether it's emergency food and supplies, communications assistance - in an emergency it is useful to have an analog phone - or services that help with cleaning up and recovering damaged equipment and unrecoverable data, there are companies with services that address virtually every facet of business continuity (BC) and recovery.

For those of us in IT, these are all areas that usually fall into the category of "someone else's responsibility" within an organization -- it's likely the job of "those BC people". Unfortunately, an all too common shortcoming is the lack of coordination between DR and BC. While we're busily focused on recovering data and bringing up applications, are we confident that the people needed to do this and other related work will be able to live and function during a disaster situation? At a minimum, it would be a good idea to validate this before the next DR test and to factor this into our longer term planning.

Jim Damoulakis is chief technology officer of GlassHouse Technologies, a leading provider of independent storage services. He can be reached at

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