Hurricane Katrina represents one of the largest natural disasters the United States has suffered. The cost of the hurricane in human life, damages and businesses lost was huge. However, those who had excellent disaster recovery plans survived and learned some important lessons that all organizations can benefit from.
For example, the Naval Reserve Forces Command headed by Captain Sam Sumwalt was prepared and survived with zero downtime despite having multiple mission-critical computer systems located in and around areas significantly damaged by Katrina.
Plan, prepare and practice
When the weather shifted and the hurricane became an increasing threat, Sumwalt’s team knew exactly what to do, and having practiced, they were able to pull it off quickly and without hesitation that would have meant disaster. The Navel Reserve was preparing for disaster for three years before Katrina struck. Planning included installing recovery servers, phasing in offsite replication of system data and gaining funding and buy-in from leadership. Once the plan was established, it was practiced; lessons were learned to improve the process. Testing helped improve the plan and train the employees. When the hurricane hit, there was no debating or decision making left to worry about, they simply carried out the practiced plan with no difficulty.
Backup your disaster recovery plan
The Naval Reserve was able to survive Katrina by switching operations to a Fort Worth, Texas data center, but Fort Worth was not safe from Hurricane Rita. Once you survive the initial disaster, you need to be prepared to continue operating in your new situation, which may have pitfalls of a new variety. Anticipating what happens after you weather a disaster can be as vital to survival for your organization.
BYOD has its place in disaster recovery
While BYOD may pose a number of security issues in the workplace, when it comes to disaster recovery, it can be a lifesaver. When employees take laptops home with them at the end of the work day, it means those devices are spread over a great geological area, which can make a big difference if your building and hardware located there is destroyed in a fire, flood or otherwise. After Katrina, many of Sumwalt’s employees were unable to return to the office, they were, however, able to access information and necessary files from their mobile devices. Disasters can strike unexpectedly at anytime, anywhere. Making mobile devices part of your disaster recovery plan can help you spread out your hardware and increase chances of recovery.
The Naval Reserve was not the only organization to survive Hurricane Katrina, but all of those that did survive were either very lucky, or very well prepared. Do not count on luck. With our weather getting more extreme over time among other threats, disaster preparedness is more important than ever.