Plan B: Improving your recovery capability

Backup is only as good as its ability to be recovered. Plan B’s Ian Forrester outlines how to ensure recovery.

Most businesses rely heavily on data and IT systems for day-today operations and retention of business value.

While data backup regimes continue to improve as a result, your backup is only as good as its ability to be recovered (and your data is no use without the infrastructure to deliver it back to the business).

While it may sound daunting, there are simple steps you can take to ensure you have a robust recovery programme:

• Plan – ensure you know what the business needs and expects during recovery.

• Test – understand what your current programmes will deliver.

• Rehearse – make sure the people required for your recovery know their roles.


The first priority for any organisation reviewing recovery requirements is to document your business continuity plan (BCP).

Get the business to agree the critical functions to prioritise and acceptable recovery timeframes, and work out how you will meet those objectives in a crisis.

Make sure your plan also considers how and where your team will work if your normal environment is unavailable.

Once your plan is in place, you can investigate what resources are required to meet your recovery requirements. If you rely on third-parties for critical functions, make sure they have a robust BCP too.

Your plan should be a dynamic document that is reviewed at least once every 12 months and whenever major changes occur in the business.


Testing allows you to find out how long your recovery will actually take and identify potential issues before they become a problem.

You should test your ability to recover at least once a year to ensure your recovery timeframes are still correct (and that no new issues have been introduced to your backup).

Your testing programme should include full recovery of your servers to alternate hardware, as you can’t be sure your normal servers will be operational in an outage.

An independent test of your data recovery is also very useful as it provides credibility to your stakeholders and shows that an external team can recover your data if required in an emergency.


An important (but often missed) part of good recovery preparation is making sure the people selected to manage your recovery are fully prepared.

Identify the scenarios that are most likely to affect your business and rehearse the team on how they would deal with each. You can do this as a discussion of each scenario around a table or do a full run-through of selected scenarios.

The more you rehearse the more confident and capable your team will be in a real situation. When it comes to recovering your business, backup alone is not enough.

Know what you want to achieve during recovery and put the checks in place so you know you can!

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