Your organization’s disaster recovery plan (DRP) is an essential component of its business continuity plan (BCP) and must include not only the physical setups for data replication and protection at a secondary location, but also effective failover and fallback strategies to ensure you will be able to execute your DRP successfully.
Failover and failback operations are critical DRP elements that provide restoration and limit damage in DR scenarios. The failover stage is the process that initiates when a system failure occurs to reduce the complications and damage that happens as a result. It can be deployed in a redundant manner or in a standby operation mode when the error of the primary server, application or other system occurs. A “heartbeat” system sends a pulse between different servers during the standby, or “hibernation,” state until data can be restored and the system is returned to normal input/output.
Failback describes the restoration of your IT environment from failover back to normal operations. You need to know what your failback strategy is because failover is designed to be a temporary state, and there may be time constraints in transitioning back. Not to mention that, in many cases, only mission critical functions are online in the failover environment.
The following tips help you plan for successful failover and failback process:
- If your organization processes, transmits, or stores protected health information or cardholder data then you are required to maintain compliance with regulations like HIPAA, or PCI DSS. Should either or both sets of regulations apply to your company, then you must start your planning by reviewing the requirements specific to failover and failback to make sure you incorporate their specifications.
- Check the licensing limits in your application stack to make sure you have addressed all requirements before putting them in use for any length of time.
- Be certain you have adequate capacity and know what your DRP production capacity is estimated to cover.
- How long do you have? If you are working with a managed service provider (MSP) or another third-party vendor to manage data backup and disaster recovery function, be certain to review carefully any documentation addressing time restraints on transitioning your environment back to the original site.
- Related to working 3rd party providers like MSPs, make sure you know who is responsible for which steps. The last thing you want in a DR scenario is to assume a critical step is being done by your MSP if that understanding isn’t shared between everyone involved.
- Review your operational service level agreements (SLAs) to ensure they will carry over to the DR environment should that be necessary.
- Be sure to estimate and factor in the time you may need to obtain any replacement hardware.
- Review the potential costs for turning your DR site into a permanent site, which can include failover declaration fees, software, equipment, and facility costs.
- Test your failover strategy to see whether your business will be able to recover in your standby DR site and will run applications successfully when your primary site is disengaged.
- Test your failback plan to determine that your company will be able to return from the recovery site to the original site.
- Test. Test. Test. There are many products that offer the ability to test failover without affecting production, eliminating one of the biggest reasons IT teams have had to push off this critical task.
Different Degrees of Disaster
The worst-case scenario for a business disaster is obvious—some catastrophic event physically destroys your primary site. Whether a tornado, fire, or man-made disaster, most people have the same concern: “What if everything at our primary location is suddenly wiped out?”
But there are varying degrees of failures that can occur with your business’ mission-critical systems and data that might not be as immediately evident. Partial loss of or corruption of data, security breaches, temporary service outages, and even loss of key personnel can constitute a disaster that impacts your day-to-day operations.
Failover and failback strategies are integral parts of an effective disaster recovery plan. Make sure you are familiar with these aspects of disaster planning to bring your business back online and in production as quickly as possible should a disaster occur.
Whether you’re moving your IT infrastructure to a disaster recovery provider for the first time or looking to switch to a new one, finding the right partner to keep your operations running 24/7/365 is crucial and can be challenging. Download our white paper, “Top 10 Questions to Ask Your Disaster Recovery Provider,” and contact us to discuss your goals.
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