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How can my backup and recovery plan be part of DR planning?

Backup and recovery planning is not the same as disaster recovery planning. It's important that they work together, though, for better data protection.

Aside from people, the need to protect one's information assets has always been among the highest priorities for organizations. Loss of critical data or access to mission-critical systems and other technology resources could seriously disrupt business operations.

Traditionally, data and system backup has fallen under the province of the IT department. It's also true, however, that backup activities are often handled by staff not otherwise engaged in disaster recovery (DR) activities. The two entities may occasionally communicate and may even attend the same meetings on occasion, but they really ought to be more closely aligned.

Organizations are far more likely to have a data backup and recovery plan that supports a DR plan. Perhaps this is because IT departments that are confident in their ability to back up and recover systems and data think they have also achieved DR. That's not always the case.

Backup plans generally focus on ensuring that systems and data have been replicated to a secure location, whereas DR plans ensure that systems and data that are needed for the business to operate can be recovered and restarted. The ultimate aim of DR is getting the business back in operation.

Regardless of traditions, semantics and other ways to rationalize the two activities, it is clear that both are on the same side. If we agree an organization is likely to have backup strategies, plans and technology resources in place, then if DR enters the picture, it should be part of the same team that handles data backup and recovery.

From a planning perspective, technology DR plans ought to include -- at the very least -- a reference or link to a data backup and recovery plan. Ideally, backup and recovery procedures should be part of every DR plan. One approach is to have them as an appendix to the main DR plan. They can still exist as a stand-alone document but should be part of any DR plan as well. Conversely, a stand-alone backup and recovery plan should reference its companion DR plan.

Aside from ensuring that both plans are documented and regularly maintained, be sure to organize and coordinate data backup testing with DR plan testing. That way, any lessons learned from a backup and recovery test can be used to update the full DR plan, as well as the backup and recovery plan. You should also perform backup and recovery testing more frequently than full DR plan testing. This will ensure that all your data and systems can be recovered and brought back online as soon as possible after a disruptive event.

Every technology DR plan should include data backup and recovery as a key component. The two disciplines should also work side by side to maximize their effectiveness and value to an organization.

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