Disaster Recovery: Designing a Plan to Enable Remote Workers
By: Carl E. Miller
Date: March 18, 2020
According to OWLLabs’s “State of Remote Work 2019” survey 30% of all full time employee are working from home up from 18% in 2018. What is unknown is how many companies have the capacity for larger amounts of people working remotely in the event of a disaster.
Disasters come in many shapes and size and as IT leaders, we have been tasked with developing disaster recovery (DR) plans that will minimize the risk for our companies. Through the years, this has meant getting good backups, making systems more resilient and reducing recovery time objectives. The focus on hardware and data has created systems that are very reliable but what many of these DR plans fail to consider is “how will my employees work if they are no longer able to go to the office?”.
A strong disaster recovery plan must include provisions for how you will support all areas of the business. Let’s look at 3 often missed areas in DR planning, expertise, technology and infrastructure.
Expertise – People are your most critical asset
No matter how resilient your technology and infrastructure are, your DR plan will fail if you don’t have the expertise available to execute it. It is imperative that DR planning takes into consideration succession planning that will address the short-term or long-term loss of all key team members. A good practice is to clearly define roles and responsibilities and then cross train your teams so that they can cover for each other should the need arise. Another best practice is to have thorough documentation of policies and procedures and store them in a location that will always be accessible.
Beyond your tech savvy team members, you need to consider how your least technical people will adapt. Many associates don’t ever work from home and may struggle with seemingly basic tasks like connecting remotely. Clear, concise “how to” documentation as well as training programs should be in place to make sure users can be quickly brought up to speed and enabled for working remotely. This should include everything from configuration of a remote workstation to using VPN software and how to use security tools like tokens.
Only when you have your people ready to execute can you be successful with the technology aspect of the plan.
Technology – Make it flexible and scalable
It’s one thing to be able to support “business as usual” but something very different to be able to adapt when things start going sideways. Your plan should include having enough hardware available to scale as needed and should consider what the load looks like when critical people are working remotely. Look at all aspects of your network and hardware and identify areas that could create a bottleneck when usage spikes.
And just like with the expertise, think beyond what is in the data center; consider how many of your people are equipped to work remotely and how you would quickly enable those that aren’t (i.e. how many have laptops vs desktops). Other considerations include peripherals such as card readers, printers, scanners, phone systems and headphones; the tools that allow them to perform their jobs.
So, your people and technology are ready, now you need to get them remote access to the resources they need. Time to think about infrastructure.
Infrastructure – Don’t scrimp on access
Your entire disaster recovery plan will come to its knees if your experts can’t use the technology you have put in place. When considering a scenario in which associates are no longer in the office, businesses need to plan for remote access to resources. This means having enough Internet bandwidth and VPN hardware to cover the “business as usual” usage but also planning for the increased demands that come from people working remotely. The lead times for service upgrades from carriers can be lengthy and your business could suffer while you wait.
Disaster recovery planning can be a challenge for any size company. It is always a good idea to have an outside organization to review your disaster recovery plans to make sure there are no gaps in your disaster recovery strategy. Whether your company is just thinking about a disaster recovery plan, wants to execute an existing plan or is finding that the current plan isn’t meeting the needs of the business; the experts at Racksquared Data Centers can help. We offer a range of services including offsite backup, disaster recovery, colocation and cloud hosting.
Want to learn more? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can make your business more resilient.