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Post-disaster recovery, don't overlook user connectivity

After you've successfully recovered your environment, the job isn't quite over. Ensuring user connectivity following a recovery is the final vital step of a complete DR plan.

After a disaster, the No. 1 priority is getting the environment back up and operational. However, getting users connected to the environment post-disaster recovery is rarely part of the discussion.

DR isn't just about getting data, systems and applications back up and running; it's about getting the business operational again. That process must include the work of ensuring that users -- including employees, partners, contractors and even customers -- can connect to and productively use the recovered environment. Because the reality is, until users can connect to your environment post-disaster recovery, your recovery protocol isn't finished.

What is user connectivity from a DR perspective?

DR efforts that ensure user connectivity revolve around client endpoints, client connectivity and client applications. Though there can be quite a few unknowns, if you are planning based on specific scenarios, it's feasible to logically work through the disaster and make some assumptions around the user's situation.

Depending on your organization, aspects of user connectivity to be considered and included in your post-disaster recovery planning may include the following:

Until users can connect to your environment post-disaster recovery, your recovery protocol isn't finished.
  • Remote recovery environments -- In cases where there's a loss of a corporate data center and the plan is to recover remotely, such as into the cloud, you must establish what steps will take place to connect users to the environment. Do you need to set up a VPN? Update DNS entries? Update client application or OS settings?
  • Remote offices -- If the disaster includes a loss of location and users now need to work from a temporary location, what is the process to connect that location's network to the recovery environment?
  • Remote workers -- Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, can displace entire companies and 100% of their technology. Your plan should include how to ensure that workers in those situations have an ability to easily connect to and use the recovery environment.
  • Personal devices -- Users of traditional desktop endpoints may be left with no corporate device to use post-disaster; there must be a contingency plan for connecting personal devices to the recovery environment.
  • Applications -- Some applications may have DNS names or IP addresses configured. Your recovery efforts might involve updating those application settings, whether they are manually or automatically addressed.
  • Failback -- What steps are necessary to undo all that you did to address the previous five components when the recovery environment is reverted to the corporate production network?

For every recovery scenario in the DR plan, there must be a user connectivity section that spells out the capacity in which users are expected to connect post-disaster recovery, such as in a remote location with a personal device. Documentation should then list the steps that the DR team must take to ensure users can use the recovered environment. Also, as part of your DR testing strategy, test any and all steps related to user connectivity, just as if you were performing a real DR scenario.

You should include some specific users as part of your planning and even testing -- these include both tech-savvy users and complete novices. You should understand how much of the recovery burden is on users. This may include any reconfigurations or training the users must do themselves to be connected post-disaster. Having both ends of the user spectrum represented ensures the plans you put in place to address user connectivity will actually work when put into the hands of users.

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