A key question for disaster recovery planning is: What is a disaster recovery team and who needs to be at the table? Here are some answers.

What is a disaster recovery team?

A disaster recovery team is a group of individuals who are tasked with developing, documenting, and executing processes and procedures for an organizations data recovery, business continuity, and IT infrastructure in the event of a disaster or failure.

If you're starting to put together your disaster recovery plan, or you're looking to improve an existing plan, assembling the right DR team is a vital first step. Without the proper personnel working together, collaborative DR planning can be disjointed and incomplete. As Disaster Recovery Journal explained, it all starts with an expert team whose specializations cover all areas of IT.

We've combined advice from Disaster Recovery Journal with Flexential's own lengthy experience in DR planning processes to compile a list of roles that can help you create a successful, group-oriented disaster recovery planning team. If this list contains positions that aren't necessarily specified within your organization, that's OK—start by assigning roles within the DR planning team before you begin working on your strategy.

Your DR planning team: Who should be included?

Executive management

Executive team members won't need to be heavily involved with DR planning, but it's important to have them for oversight. You'll need approval for objectives involving:

  • Strategy
  • Policy
  • Budget
  • Dealing with obstacles

…and executives hold the key to these things. If you make them aware of the DR team and keep them abreast of your planning initiatives, you'll get buy-in when changes need to be made.

Crisis management coordinator

The crisis management coordinator should be a business leader who will oversee data recovery management when catastrophe strikes. This person will:

  • Initiate recovery plans with the team
  • Coordinate efforts, from the beginning of a disaster through successful recovery
  • Handle problem resolution as issues arise
  • Eliminate factors that are delaying the process

Business continuity expert

Business continuity is a broader initiative, but it's integral to disaster recovery. Business continuity sets out the groundwork and strategy needed to allow business to continue operations, or fully recover operations, if a disaster event does come to pass. It considers the whole of the organization, but focuses on specific technologies and business functions.

The business continuity expert should have two responsibilities in your IT disaster recovery:

  1. Make sure that the DR strategy and plan is in alignment with business needs, which have been determined by a thorough Business Impact Analysis (BIA). The BIA should be complete before DR planning starts. If you haven't done a proper one, you can prepare an informal BIA just to keep the process moving, but know that a complete, strategic BIA is critical to DR. The proper analysis identifies specific goals and allows DR efforts to support actual recovery needs.
  2. To keep everyone on the same page, the business continuity expert should facilitate open communication between business and IT, making sure they are together in purpose and alignment.

  3. Confirm that the critical pieces of the business continuity plan are also present in the DR plan. The IT team has the technology know-how, but they might not be aware of some business fundamentals that play a role in an emergency: correct reporting procedure in the midst of an event, contact information for critical personnel and vendors, etc. These are major factors for a smooth, successful recovery.

Impact assessment and recovery team

The impact assessment and recovery team will have the most responsibility in an actual recovery event; they have most of the expertise. You'll need four infrastructure representatives to cover networks, servers, storage and databases. Each should be accountable for identifying, implementing and testing the correct solutions and strategies that will ultimately recover operations. These strategies should be focused on meeting the demands of the critical business units identified within the BIA. Here's what each representative should take into account:

  • Networks and telecom
  • The networks and telecom group understands your organization's network infrastructure and should be thoroughly familiar with the recovery tactics necessary if connectivity gets taken down. Since a disruption will make it hard for personnel to communicate both internally and with external customers and partners, they should also know the voice communication infrastructure.

  • Servers:
  • The server rep needs to know the server and OS infrastructure like the back of their hand, as well as the replication and backup technologies required to execute recovery. Virtual machines are the norm now, so the server rep should also be aware of the differences between virtual and physical environments, and the implications of that for DR.

  • Storage:
  • Here's where replication and data protection come in. Both are at the center of your recovery capability and strategy. Remember, storage within the processing environment won't always be local, whether the servers are physical or running in the virtual environment.

  • Database administration:
  • Databases that hold application data are architectures in and of themselves. They can operate on shared or individual servers, or might be shared among applications. Data protection will also have an impact on application data and database recovery, so the database administration representative needs to be aware of the effects all down the line.

IT applications monitor

The IT applications monitor can have a varying level of influence and responsibility depending on your plans for recovery, as well as the severity of the disruption. At a minimum, the IT applications monitor should know exactly which application tasks need to be executed based on the restoration plan, including:

  • Data consistency
  • Application integrations
  • App settings and configuration

The IT applications monitor should collaborate with the impact assessment and recovery team to identify recovery steps and put together a plan that addresses critical business unit requirements.

A nice-to-have, not a need-to-have: Critical business unit advisors

Your DR planning dream team can work without these individuals, but your efforts will be greatly enhanced if you can involve representatives from each business unit within the BIA to provide feedback on DR planning efforts. It's a proactive move to gain input from unit advisors while the plan is in the initiation stage. This helps identify which business processes will be affected by proposed recovery steps, and provides the opportunity to discuss feasibility. Otherwise, you risk having recovery efforts that will negatively affect the needs of a business unit.

Final thoughts

Critical business units should be your primary focus, but don't overlook the less critical applications; they still play a role. If a disaster does occur, many systems and processes will lose functionality and will require restoration. While ancillary applications may not be do-or-die, it's worth talking about how you'll get them up and running when the time comes.

Once you put your DR planning team together, you'll be well equipped to create comprehensive, effective business recovery plans that address your needs across all units. Having individuals from each area of technology work together puts you in a better position of defense, and allows personnel to share ideas and expertise before strategy development is executed.

If you think coordination among teams might be a bumpy process, integrate a DR template into the mix. This will consider the responsibilities of all the relevant parties and help you create a formal DR solution from scratch, tailoring a plan specific to your company's needs while uncovering potential gaps.

Need to develop a DR plan or review your current one? Contact Flexential today to speak with one of our experts..

Craig Cook

V.P., Solutions Architecture & Engineering
Craig Cook Headshot
As V.P. of Solutions Architecture & Engineering at Flexential, Craig understands the challenges that Flexential customers face and designs solutions to solve their ever-evolving business problems. With over 20 years of experience in the Consulting & Service Provider space, Craig leverages his diverse technology background with his solution-engineering focus to drive transformational business outcomes for customers.