This article appears as part of a seven-part series on Disaster Recovery planning, regardless of institution size and systems in production. Each article will consist of an activity designed to encourage readers to update their own initial DR plan, or even create a new one.
Now that the less important systems have been fully documented, we focus on qualifying the systems in your list that may require challenging conversations. These are the systems which can stop your business in its tracks if failure occurs.
The systems in the middle order of your list are of no less importance than those at the top. Their lifecycle and the actions related to them will come naturally as you work to address the systems at the opposite ends of the spectrum. Furthermore, the middle systems play a very important role in this process. Because of their functions, their resources are best positioned to be demoted to help the low-end systems or promoted to serve higher level purposes. (We will discuss this in detail in a future article.)
Go through the same exercise that you used with the low-end systems to evaluate the most important systems. The biggest thing to remember is that each of these systems are scary to the executives in your business. Administration rarely understands the complexities of these systems, but they do understand they are complex, and their importance to the every day business functions.
It is never a good strategy to list issues related to these systems without at least providing three plans on how to resolve them. You may even want to begin your conversation about these systems by mentioning that there should be no apprehension leading into planning. The report that you've created should not be a recipe for impending doom, but rather presented as the foresight of a prepared professional in keeping the business sustainable.
Document a Deliverable
Write a paragraph about the purpose of each system. As you target an executive audience, consider engaging others on campus that may be fluent in marketing their ideas, whether an academic or staff member responsible for another department on campus. Ask that they read the document and solicit their input. They will tell you if and what they don’t understand. The end product should be clear and concise. (Technical personnel may not be the best in presenting a business case and overall importance, as their understanding of these systems is very technical in nature and often biased to the technology.)
Included is an example of possible document structure.
Disaster Recovery Plan
Most Important Systems
I – Colleague
Purpose: Central repository of information for all functions of the college. It controls registration, student accounts, accounts payable, accounts receivable, financial aid, scheduling, HR, admissions, and more.
Description: The Colleague system is the single most important system at the College. It is essentially a database of information (people, registrations, classes, employees, bills, etc.) and software (Colleague) designed to enforce security (who can do what), business rules (how can something be done), and accuracy (check this before doing that) for just about every function of the college. It enjoys the highest attention from staff and resources from the College of any of the systems we have.
Goals: We want to create a hot DR site for this system. This means we will have a twin Colleague system with a copy of the software, data, and everything else Colleague needs on a secondary site away from the data center at the College. If something unexpected happens to Colleague in our data center, this hot site will allow us to return business functions to the College in a short period of time while the unexpected failure is addressed.
II – SoftDocs
Purpose: (similar write up, etc.)
III – Card System
Purpose: (similar write up, etc.)
In order to remain consistent, be sure to use this same document and format often and always. Information is usually best absorbed when presented consistently and repeatedly. So, every time you speak about systems and disaster recovery, re-distribute the same document, including any relevant updates.
As professionals, your knowledge and experience will help guide these exercises. We do not believe everything that we're saying in this series is new to you or your team. Our only purpose is to provide you with one or two things that may be useful on how to approach your challenge.