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A SWOT analysis is a helpful visualization tool for IT disaster recovery planning.
SWOT refers to four core areas that every DR professional should be familiar with: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Companies often use SWOT analyses to assess business decisions, such as initiatives, projects or products. Disaster recovery teams can use a SWOT analysis to better understand where their IT recovery plan is strong and where it has room for improvements. The analysis highlights where risks are coming from and identifies actionable opportunities for improvement.
To conduct a technology SWOT analysis, DR teams should create lists for each of the four categories. This will provide a full picture of where the company is and where it can go.
Strengths cover what the company currently does well and can include personnel as well as strategies and resources. For example, having highly skilled backup administrators who understand the complexity and requirements to be able to efficiently restore databases from backup media is a strength to document in the analysis. Other strengths could include having well-defined, documented and tested processes for recovery.
Weaknesses could include items such as outdated infrastructure. Perhaps the company has a solid strategy in place for disaster recovery, but the hardware it runs on is considered obsolete. In the same vein, lack of good documentation could slow down a potential restore.
Using a SWOT analysis for IT disaster recovery planning requires evaluating more than the technology. It also requires evaluating factors such as the geographic location of an office or data center. Just like insurance companies will ask about hazards such as location relative to tidal waters or wildfire-prone areas, so should a DR SWOT analysis. Is the organization's location prone to fire or flooding? That is a weakness to document. Conversely, being in a location that has a low risk for disasters would be a strength.
Opportunities might include switching away from legacy platforms, updating the infrastructure, and exploring better hardware or software options. Another opportunity is to change processes or workflows to strengthen the disaster recovery plan.
For example, the DevOps team might have an opportunity to implement a deployment pipeline, automating system updates and reducing the chance of human error. Adopting a cloud computing strategy that protects the organization from having a single point of failure is another opportunity. An organization might also decide to downsize or remove an expensive DR site that it has never used in a real disaster.
In disaster recovery, major threats include cyber attacks and natural disasters. With a SWOT analysis, threats can go beyond potential risks to technology. Key suppliers being unable to fulfill their duties or going out of business is one area a DR team might not normally consider a "threat." However, it places the company at risk for business disruption and is not something that the company can manage quickly or internally.
Other examples include losing key people due to staff attrition, which could mean the loss of critical in-house knowledge and experience.
Key DR SWOT analysis takeaways
These technology SWOT analysis inputs can help shape and refine business recovery processes. Ensure all appropriate stakeholders are included and consulted in the development of the SWOT document, including IT decision-makers.
No two SWOT analyses will be the same. Organizations will have different sets of positive and negative inputs based on infrastructure, location, resources and processes. Be diligent and include as many important factors as possible to give a fuller and better picture.
Finally, DR teams shouldn't forget to use this analysis to implement a plan to fix major problems. While some issues might take more time and resources to change, there might be straightforward items that the company can remediate sooner rather than later.