Many IT service continuity plans are fundamentally flawed

Many IT service continuity plans are fundamentally flawed. Most business managers expect that all IT services will be restored within 48 hours or so of a disaster. Alarmingly, Sysop research indicates that it may actually take six months before all services are returned to normal!

The mismatch between expectation and practical delivery is brought about by a number of incorrect assumptions, including:

  • that non-critical services can be recovered in similar timescales to the “mission critical” services for which detailed ITSC plans have been developed.
  • that all services can be recovered to readily available “commodity hardware”.
  • that suitably-qualified IT personnel will be available to support the recovery in the numbers required for the time required.

But crucially, the most significant factor is the high levels of support effort required to sustain the newly-recovered services. This support commitment will drastically reduce the resource available to recover the remaining services.

Most IT departments have around 20% of their services defined as “mission critical” in a total population in excess of 50.Some 80% of services will take more than two weeks to recover; 50% will take more than a month; 25% will take more than three months.

IT Services Need to be Available in a Crisis
Experience of major contingencies (i.e. those that affect more than just IT infrastructure) reveals that emergency co-ordination teams need effective IT immediately. As the precise nature and impact of the contingency cannot be predicted, IT specialist resource is needed to provide emergency co-ordination teams with their requirements in an efficient and flexible manner. This activity will always take priority over the recovery of routine IT. As organisations become increasingly IT dependent it becomes even more necessary for routine IT (and the data / information upon which management depend) to be available to manage the crisis.

Building a Disaster Tolerant Infrastructure
By planning strategically it is possible to develop an I.T. infrastructure capable of maintaining IT service continuity throughout even a major contingency. modern server clustering and data storage mirroring can ensure the automatic fail-over of every single system within minutes – requiring no resource, intervention or dependency on scarce IT skills. With correct planning a highly-available infrastructure can be implemented with no overall increase in the Total Cost of Ownership.

One thought on “Many IT service continuity plans are fundamentally flawed

  1. I find it interesting that you use the term ‘Business Continuity’ rather than ‘Disaster Recovery’. In my experience the fundamental difference here is whether we are considering just IT, or the ability of the business to continue to function.

    In this respect it is necessary to consider not only the IT infrastructure, and I believe your comments around the realistic times for recovery are probably accurate; I have never known a business who, having done a complete disaster recovery exercise doesn’t find that a non-critical application, isn’t actually key to the proper operation of a far more important or business critical service. It is also necessary to consider the actual office and the office services; if the issue leading to the disaster is related to a denial of access situation for example or a major fire, then not only is spare office space required, but telephone and fax lines may need to be switched, transport and parking for staff – even accommodation – may need to be addressed.

    All of these points need to taken into consideration, planned for, documented and tested. My point is that DR is not just the IT. For the Business to Continue to function it is necessary to consider every possible condition – from arriving at the office to find only a smoking hole, to a simple IT infrastructure failure of a single server cluster.

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