Disaster Planning for Computer Networks

Disaster planning is an integral part of managing a computer network, no matter how large or small. Planning for the worst situations ensures that network information remains secure and that business processes suffer minimal interruption.

Disaster can strike at any time, and it can come in many forms:

  • Environmental disasters include fires, earthquakes, severe storms, flooding, and lightning strikes.

  • Deliberate disasters include vandalism, theft, or even terrorism.

  • Service disruptions include power outages, communications outages, or water shortages.

  • Equipment failure includes failure not just of your computer systems but also the air conditioners that protect them from heat damage or the elevators and automatic doors that grant you access to them.

  • Other disasters include labor disputes, loss of staff due to resignation, injury, illness, or even death, workplace violence, and so on.

The best way to be prepared for a disaster is to create a plan for how you will respond to various disaster scenarios. Such a plan should provide for continuity in your business should your computing facilities become unavailable for any of the above reasons.

In particular, your disaster recovery plan should provide for:

  • Facilities: If your company already has multiple office locations, you may be able to temporarily squeeze into one of the other locations for the duration of the disaster. If not, you should secure arrangements in advance with a real estate broker so that you can quickly arrange an alternate location. By having an arrangement made in advance, you can move into an emergency location on a moment's notice.

  • Computer equipment: It doesn't hurt to have a set of spare computers in storage somewhere so that you can dig them out to use in an emergency. Preferably, these computers would already have your critical software installed. The next best thing would be to have detailed plans available so that your IT staff can quickly install key software on new equipment to get your business up and running.

    Always keep a current set of backup tapes at an alternate location.

  • Phones: Discuss emergency phone services in advance with your phone company. If you're forced to move to another location on 24-hour notice, how quickly can you get your phones up and running? And can you arrange to have your incoming toll-free calls forwarded to the new location?

  • Staff: Unless you work for a government agency, you probably don't have redundant employees. However, you can make arrangements in advance with a temp agency to provide clerical and administrative help on short notice.

  • Stationery: This sounds like a small detail, but you should store a supply of all your key stationery products (letterhead, envelopes, invoices, statements, and so on) in a safe location. That way, if your main location is suddenly unavailable, you don't have to wait a week to get new letterhead or invoices printed.

  • Hard copy files: Keep a backup copy of important printed material (customer billing files, sales records, and so on) at an alternate location.

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