People and plans

In the second half of our two part feature NME takes a closer look at the business continuity and disaster recovery plan. Once the plan has been drawn up, how do IT professionals set about implementing it and deploying it across personnel and systems?

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By  Sean Robson Published  April 12, 2009

In the second half of our two part feature NME takes a closer look at the business continuity and disaster recovery plan. Once the plan has been drawn up, how do IT professionals set about implementing it and deploying it across personnel and systems?

Drawing up a disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) plan takes time, care and careful assessment. Once the plan has been drawn up it is not simply a case of, sitting back and waiting, the plan needs to be implemented across the organisation's employees and systems.

The implementation of DR/BC plans across these systems and personnel has, however, been hampered by a focus in the region on technology and hardware.

From our perspective we try to get across the value of doing it on a regular basis and to get people to build it into their day to day processes. It’s critical to recognise the operational value of knowing that things will work because unless you test you just do not know.

Tareque Choudhury, head of security practice for BT in the Middle East and Africa has experienced this phenomenon.

"We have absolutely seen that here and now, especially with the financial climate, people want to see something tangible. When it comes down to spending money on consultancy or on processes then they are not spending the money. We are actually seeing this with the slowdown on implementing processes and the consultancy around it," he said.

"My personal view on the region is that they rely a lot on technology and the hardware in order to implement solutions. The DR/BC implementation should take the users into account much more," agreed Pantelis Verginades, technical sales consultant ME, NEC Computers.

Brocade's Khalid Khalil, sales manager for MEA, has seen a slightly different approach from regional users.

"There is no question that data backup and disaster recovery plans have always been equipment centric. The DB/DR area though has also been process oriented as it always came with a set of procedures to be followed and implemented when backing up or restoring data," said Khalil.

The status quo

Users take a variety of differing approaches when it comes to the implementation and deployment of the DR/BC plan. These may range from a reliance on hardware to training only a select few people to deal with potential crisis.

"There are two elements, the biggest thing that they seem to be getting a lot of attention from is to do with hardware vendors and array based replication. What's the best, quickest, easiest way to do that? The perception in the market place is that if we have one array here and one array here then we have two copies and we are taken care of," said Anthony Harrison, systems engineering manager, Symantec.

"What we are also seeing in the market is a general reluctance from people to take on ownership of the service. My initial perception was that given the growth in Dubai, they would be keen to adopt all of these best practices in the IT world; I am not seeing that to be honest," continued Harrison.

BT's Choudery said that there are some users in the region that have put policy in place but the enforcement is lacking.

"We are starting to see some regional users put policies in place, we are seeing a lot of them creating policies to do with data retention and back-ups, but not necessarily enforcing them," noted Choudery.

Good staff, and providing them with good training, is key to solving the problem, according to GV Rao, general manager of ICT, United development company, Qatar: "Coaching staff plays a key role and this gives them the confidence which will lead to the success. In the IT field, technical talent is the biggest asset and when they are in good shape the systems will automatically come in place in the right spots."

"One of the vital reasons for including staff in a DR plan is to ensure they are trained and drilled into the routine of how to move over to a DR mode smoothly, being familiar with the processes and procedures to be followed in DR situation to minimise disruption," says Mohammed Shah, vice president technology infrastructure and services, Knowledge Economic City Developer company.

What's stopping them?

DR/BC plans are, by their very nature complicated and often intricate, requiring a commitment from staff to adopt new processes, and a realisation of why they are important. This is a challenge for the regional CIO.

"Change is a continuous process and as we all know, most people resist change. It is not easy to implement a system which often changes the existing process and procedures. It is very difficult to change the mindset of the users who are used to working in a specific process," explains Rao.

He advises IT professionals to ensure that they have the buy in from top management to ensure enterprise wide acceptance and up take.

David Allinson, general manager, Opennet, believes that the implementation stage often highlights the piecemeal way people put processes together. "Change management is not a formal process here while at the same time there is the added issue of changing personnel. People move on and suddenly the systems maintenance becomes someone else's job."

"Change is never easy or comfortable. The key is to gain the understanding and support of those involved in the change at various levels of the organisation. Advocating and educating people on the change and its tangible business benefits helps, in my experience, to succeed in change management," agrees Shah.

Its not only change management that is making things difficult for enterprises to implement the DR processes across the organisation. One of these challenges is organisational culture.

"The culture is an issue, people don't see DR as a critical thing and it is only when it happens to them that they say, oh maybe we should have prepared for that. I think also that there is a tendency to not share information regarding DR as people are concerned with protecting their own little empires," notes Waseem Salim, business marketing manager, at HP MEA.

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