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What Happens After a Disaster? 5 Steps to Getting Back on Track

by Maggie Getova

Here at Zetta, we talk about disaster recovery planning a lot. Though disasters vary in magnitude, it’s only a matter of time before you experience one – which is why it’s important to have a plan. But what actually happens after a disaster strikes, and most importantly, what steps should you take to get back to business as usual?

1. Don’t Panic

This is the most important. No one has ever gotten anything productive done in a state of panic. And it’s during situations like these that you should be at your most calm and focused. Consult your DR plan and it will point you to the issues that need addressing first.

2. Make Sure Everyone’s Doing What They’re Supposed To

Ideally you would have clearly established these roles and practiced a disaster recovery scenario enough times, so that there are no questions about who does what. But if practicing your DR plan & personnel roles never got off the to-do list, then figuring out who needs to do what is crucial to maintaining your team’s focus and getting you back to business quickly.

For example, who’s the main point of contact for the backup vendor? How about the project manager of the recovery process? Who is communicating with all the other departments of the company? Depending on the size of the business, these tasks could all be fulfilled by the same person – but it is still important to know who does what, otherwise panic is likely to settle in.

3. Make Sure Everyone Else Knows What to Expect

The rest of the company is likely anxious to know what’s going on, and how soon everything will be back to normal. This is understandable, but it’s not productive to have your phone ring every ten seconds (“Yes Bill, I know it’s down right now, we’re working on it, Hi Julia, yes, the server IS down, we’re aware….”).

When an incident hits, communicate clearly with key people in the company what they should expect, and give them a realistic estimate of how long the recovery process will take.  This is another thing that is ideally covered in your DR plan, and informed by two factors: Your RPO (Recovery Point Objective, how much data your organization is okay with losing) and RTO (Recovery Time Objective, how long your organization is okay with being unable to access its data).  These are crucial parts of having a reliable DR plan that will really work when a tsunami or Sharknado hits your building.

4. Start Getting Your Data Back

Now that you’ve addressed the basics and everyone knows exactly what they’re doing, it’s time for the best part – getting your data back. Depending on the disaster recovery method you have in place, this could go about in a number of different ways.

– For appliance DR, you’ll have to call the appliance vendor and have a new appliance sent over to you. Once it arrives, you can begin recovery.

– With tape, you need to call your vendor and get the right tapes retrieved, then get your equipment assembled to recover data from it.

– If you back up to cloud, you need to decide what type of hardware you’ll recover to and can then begin the process shortly after.

Each method will take a decent amount of time, some more than others. And if you have a disaster recovery solution, now is the time to start it up, so that the rest of the company can keep working during the recovery process.

5. Disaster Post-Mortem

Hindsight is 20/20. Ideally your DR plan won’t need too many changes, because you’ve already been doing regular DR testing and making changes as necessary, right? If not, now you have a better picture of what you need to do next time.

Going through a disaster, no matter how big or small, may have caused some headaches or panic attacks. But now that you have actually witnessed the many issues that can arise, you should have a better idea of how you need to prepare when something goes wrong again in the future. Regular testing of your DR plan really is the key to being prepared.

If you'd like to learn more about disaster recovery planning, see our e-book

Maggie Getova
Maggie G

Maggie is a content writer and editor at Zetta. She writes for the blog and manages web content.