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IT business continuity, disaster recovery strategy guide for CIOs

IT business continuity and disaster recovery planning were especially important in the enterprise this past year. The H1N1"swine flu" pandemic last year demonstrated to CIOs the necessity of having a BC plan in place for such circumstances. IT DR planning also gained prominence, as such high-profile snafus as last November's four-hour outage of the Federal Aviation Administration's telecommunications infrastructure led many CIOs to reexamine their DR strategy.

This year, business continuity and disaster recovery planning remain high on the CIO agenda. In SearchCIO's 2009 IT priorities survey, 38% of 92 CIOs and senior IT managers said that DR and BC would be a high priority in 2010, 51% called them a medium priority and only 11% considered them low priority. Moreover, 56% said that DR initiatives were not very vulnerable to budget cuts in this economic environment.

In this guide, learn how to communicate the value of an IT business continuity plan, why organizations have crafted a dedicated pandemic BC plan, and how IT disaster recovery planning and DR technologies can steer your organization's strategy away from disaster in 2010.

This guide is one of a series of SearchCIO.com CIO Briefings, which are designed to give IT leaders strategic-management and decision-making advice on timely topics. For a complete list of the topics already covered, visit the CIO Briefings section.

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  Value of an IT business continuity plan
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It's the bane of CIOs: How do you get senior management to appreciate the value of business continuity plans before an incident occurs? Unless the company is in a regulated industry that requires contingency plans, or is in an industry, such as financial services, where downtime clearly translates into boatloads of lost money, business continuity plans remain a tough sell for many CIOs and their BC managers.

Now, risk experts at research consultancy Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. contend they have hit upon an approach that will help prove the value of business continuity: mapping the relationship between the company's key performance indicators and key risk indicators to gauge what Gartner refers to as "availability risk."

Learn more in Proving the value of a business continuity plan -- before disaster hits. Also:

  Pandemic business continuity planning
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A few basic guidelines should help you customize your business continuity plan for a pandemic, an event in which key factors are absenteeism and uncertainty about its duration. For this advice, we conferred with Alan Berman, executive director at the Disaster Recovery Institute International and former CIO for a major financial institution, and two analysts specializing in BC and DR, Stephanie Balaouras at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., and Roberta Witty at Gartner.

For CIOs and other executives, a pandemic poses a serious risk/problem. "Senior IT officers have a fiducary obligation to their organizations to reduce the negative risk potential in advance or quickly instate mitigating actions if and when those examples of risk materialize," said Bruce Barnes, president of Bold Vision LLC, a Dublin, Ohio, consulting practice.

Learn more in Tips for business continuity and contingency planning for swine flu . IT business continuity plans for swine flu outbreaks focus on people and remote access issues. Here are experts' tips on what to include. ." Also:

  Value of IT disaster recovery planning
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Penny pinching and concessions were the operative modes for customers of the major disaster recovery service providers in 2009. Companies that had been eyeing expensive technologies to fill gaps in DR plans in 2008 focused instead on people and processes in 2009, according to Patrick Corcoran, global client solutions executives at IBM Corp. Bill Hughes, director of consulting services at SunGard Availability Services LP, also saw plenty of customers cutting corners by:

  • Using corporate buildings emptied by the the recession for secondary and tertiary recovery sites.
  • Recalibrating data tiers to save money on recovery services.
  • Using server virtualization to reduce the floor space and power consumption at leased recovery sites.

Here are three tips, taken from more than a dozen disaster recovery projects we profiled in 2009, aimed at helping you pay for your DR plans in 2010.

Learn more in CIOs: Planning, no frills make disaster recovery plans recessionproof. Also:

  IT disaster recovery strategy for the CIO
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As CIOs make their annual pitch for IT disaster recovery funding -- a hard sell in any economy -- Gene Ruth, who covers DR for Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group Inc., and other experts advised CIOs to keep the following point in mind: Equipment failure is the No. 1 reason for disaster recovery declarations.

Most IT disasters have nothing to do with the type of event that wipes out a facility, which is what many organizations consider when they plan for recovery from an IT disaster. "This is a message I drive home to clients, especially when they are trying to justify DR to senior management," said analyst John Morency, a certified information systems auditor and research director at Gartner.

A recently published study from SunGard Availability Services showed that of the 2,250 disaster events it handled in 2008, hardware failure accounted for 500. That was well ahead of the second-leading cause, hurricane and weather events (275); and the third, power outages (213).

Learn more in Four lessons in IT disaster recovery planning from an FAA outage. Also:

  IT disaster recovery solutions and technology
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Most CIOs will say they have a disaster recovery strategy with policies and processes in place to govern how people and technologies will function in the event of an extended outage. But how sure are these same CIOs that their strategies would work in the event of a real disaster? IT organizations need to give their data recovery solutions a reality check by addressing some of the following questions and problems:

How do you plan to recover systems?

Whether virtualization thrives in your environment or you are still in the physical systems world, ensure that your alternate facility is available and able to handle the IT systems workload necessary to run a near-normal operation. Sizing systems, therefore, is critical. You cannot set up systems randomly and hope they will work. This is a sure recipe for disaster or a total waste of money. The real acid test is to simulate the workload on these systems to measure their performance.

Learn more in Data recovery solutions must address a range of concerns. Also:

  More resources
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This was first published in April 2010

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