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Tinfoil Hats Anyone?

The recent revelations exposed by Edward Snowden about the NSA’s PRISM scheme may have shocked many people.  Sadly they did not shock me.  What the NSA decides to do is its own business, but the revelations that GCHQ is engaged in a mass wiretapping scheme of its own show that the UK government is either complicit in a surveillance society or utterly clueless.

William Hague’s claim that “If you are innocent you have nothing to fear” is the kind of thing that comes straight out of 1984, Fahrenheit 451 or other works of that ilk.  Of course, the news that Ian Livingston, the BT CEO and exec who authorised the illegal and secret tests of Phorm’s technology on over 20,000 BT Internet customers is now to work as a government advisor shows that if you’re the right kind of criminal, you can get a job in high places.  The Spectator asks some questions that Mr Hague needed to answer in the House of Commons.

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Disaster Recovery 101 Part 3: The Meat Of The Plan

Part 1 looked at the basics you need before starting the DR planning process.  Part 2 looked at the process of starting the DR plan and talking with the different parts of your organisation to build a picture.  Today I’ll look at the next stage: getting an actual plan document in place.

Remember that this is a general outline of an approach to DR planning.  Every business and organisation has its own structure and provision; the ideas and suggestions made in this series should be amended to fit your own business needs and IT provision.

At this stage (ideally) you should have

  • A good, secure backup regime
  • Up to date documentation which is stored securely
  • Support from top level management for the DR planning process
  • Documents describing expectations of an ideal minimum level of service for the different sections of the organisation

At this stage no promises have been made to anyone about service levels.  You can’t make a commitment until you have gone through the planning process and seen what you can do in reality.

The ideal minimum service level documents should help you draw up a wish list for a basic level of service.  Some will be practical and realistic, others will be neither.  If you have pages and pages of notes from this exercise try and distil them into something more manageable.  This body of work is your bedrock.  From this you will be able to work with an IT services company to develop a DR plan.

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Disaster Recovery 101 Part 2: Starting The Plan

In part 1 I looked at the basics you need in place before any DR plan can be put together, tested and approved.  So we have our IT provision in place.  It is well documented.  Backups are regular, tested and stored securely, ideally off-site.  Original media and license documents are stored securely off-site.

Now we can look at starting the DR planning process.  Things can get a bit more challenging here but don’t worry. Remember, calmness and clear thinking are your friends here.

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Disaster Recovery 101: Intro & Foundations

Recently I came across Russell Dyas’ excellent blog entry about Disaster Recovery.  It’s a useful reminder about having a disaster recovery plan and testing it.  After all, plan that falls apart isn’t worth anything.  In my experience (12 years or so) Disaster Recovery – DR – is for every company, whatever its size.  Every company needs a DR plan in place.  One that you have tested and communicated so that should an incident ever happen, your plan will prove its value to the company.

To many people Disaster Recovery sounds intimidating and expensive, especially that first word.

Disaster.

It’s frightening and can (and does) cause panic and confusion.  That’s probably why it’s easier to use “DR” rather than “Disaster Recovery”.  I never use the D-word when on DR work.  I prefer to use the word “incident”, just like above.  It doesn’t give rise to the same kind of images as the D-word.

There’s a simpler way to think of DR scenarios: what if your organisation cannot do business?  A DR plan aims to help get operational as quickly as you can and then to get fully back with as little loss of data as possible.  Forget about the images of typhoons, burning buildings, fire engines and all that.  Clear and calm thinking are your friends.

Large companies can and often do have their DR plans developed by an external DR supplier.  That can be very convenient but can also be very expensive.  Some companies can’t be fully covered by a DR supplier while others may not have the resources to do that.  SME organisations and small not-for-profit organisations come to mind.

That doesn’t mean you can’t put together a good DR plan, be confident about it and about following it if an incident occurs.

For those organisations that have an out of date DR plan or don’t have one at all, the idea of looking at DR may be one which is scary.  This set of posts should help to calm any nerves, clear up any confusion and suggest a way forward.  I’ll take a general look at some DR basics based on my experiences and observations.

At the end of this set of posts readers will have:

  1. A basic definition of DR
  2. Foundations needed before DR planning can start
  3. Steps in drawing up a DR plan
  4. Testing your DR plan
  5. Agreeing activation procedure and signing off the plan
  6. Keeping the plan up to date

Please remember that this is a general outline of DR.  The suggestions made in these posts are based on my experience and are, I believe, a good way to start a DR planning process.  They should be altered to fit your own business needs; what is ideal for a company of 80 staff isn’t right for a company of 4 staff.  But the basic principles behind the suggestions remain the same.

In this first part I’ll look at some foundations that need to be in place before any DR plan can start to be drawn up.

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