This content is part of the Essential Guide: Disaster recovery strategy guidelines: Preparation and response

4 key qualities in a disaster recovery team consultant

An experienced and reliable disaster recovery consultant can offer significant benefits to a DR team. When choosing a DR consultant, it helps to be picky.

There's no shortage of disaster recovery consultants. No matter where you are located, no matter what your budget, your organization shouldn't have a problem finding an outside DR adviser. Whether or not that adviser has the level of expertise you're looking for is another story.

Depending on your industry and specialty, finding a qualified adviser for your disaster recovery team may take significant time. It's not impossible, but it's important to know what you're looking for in an expert and what skills that person needs to offer value to your organization.

Here, IT experts explain four key qualities of a disaster recovery team consultant and how to ensure that consultant is suited to meet your organization's specific needs.

Check for experience

Look for an expert who has ample experience working with organizations in your field. Such an individual will understand the compliance needs, procedures and risks that are specific to your type and size of enterprise. "For example, if you are a law firm, it would behoove you to find a DR consultant who has experience outlining plans, recommending technologies and testing for firms like yours," said David Stills, director of IT at Saalex Solutions, a managed IT services provider for SMBs.

An experienced, dependable consultant possesses a holistic view of DR and how it factors into a business continuity plan.

An experienced, dependable consultant possesses a holistic view of DR and how it factors into a business continuity plan. "The consultant should be able to help you determine the recovery point objective and recovery time objective of your applications, examine dependencies and linkages, and be able to assess your current state to reveal gaps and areas for improvement," said Ned Bellavance, director of cloud solutions at IT service management company Anexinet.

Insight is essential

A consultant should be able to understand a client's key business needs and be able to provide the disaster recovery team with a testable, robust and comprehensive plan that enables continuity for a business, while minimizing disruption, said Adrian Moir, lead technology evangelist at Quest Software. "In our always-on world, downtime can be directly measurable to a business as a cost, but reputational damage can be just as costly," he added. It's important to have a consultant who can pinpoint how damage to revenue and reputation can be minimized and dealt with during a disaster.

Look for a strong IT ally

A consultant should be able to serve as an IT advocate when it's time to discuss disaster recovery team strategy and budgets with enterprise leaders, advised Brian Gill, CEO of Gillware Data Recovery. "All too often, IT staff are aware of deficiencies but don't have the proper financial support or political power to do things the way they want," he said. "Most disaster recovery disasters happen not because consultants didn't lay out good plans, but because the organization wasn't dedicated to the mission over time, and when the plan was needed, mistakes ... made the plan obsolete or incomplete."

Is the consultant up to date or outdated?

A consultant should have current knowledge on the latest technologies and approaches and not try to shoehorn a customer into a legacy product because the commission check is fatter, said Greg Arnette, director of data protection platform strategy at Barracuda Networks. "DRaaS [DR as a service] is, in some ways, making consultants obsolete, since there's now little or no need for one-off designs and heavy DR project implementation planning needs," he said. "But even with DRaaS emerging, consultants can still carve out their value-add in the form of training."

Taking these four qualities into account should help your disaster recovery team narrow down its list of potential consultants. By looking at an IT expert's experience and understanding of not only the technology, but your company, you should be able to find a well-rounded consultant that suits your organization's needs.

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