When an IT server goes down because its hard disk crashes, the effect is noticeable immediately.
People go to their “panic stations” (or rather, their designated disaster recovery roles!) to contain and repair the damage, so that there is no lasting, significant impact on the organisation. This kind of event is sudden and unpredictable, even if it can be taken into account in disaster recovery planning.
Good DR management, however, also looks at longer-term measures to reduce probabilities and impacts over time, as well as tackling day-to-day requirements.
Threats and disasters in our interlinked businesses and economies can come from almost anywhere. There is the oft-quoted example from chaos theory of the butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the globe, and triggering a hurricane on the opposite side. While this possibility may seem remote, other examples like the 2011 earthquake in Japan have shown how much seemingly distant disasters can affect businesses.
Semiconductor suppliers in Japan whose disaster recovery plans could not cope with the disaster then caused disruption in other companies relying on those specific semiconductor products.
Each organisation is likely to prepare itself in its own way to factor in disaster scenarios over longer periods and involving bigger geographical regions. Still, some elements are likely to be common to many longer-range disaster recovery plans. They include the standardisation of IT operations, the aggregation of servers into secure, robust data centres, and the use of cloud resources for data back-up, restore and fail-over.
These measures are particularly useful when there is a wider geographical distribution of offices, manufacturing plants, and warehouses for distribution. Organisations that value effective longer-term DR practices will also seek to involve their suppliers and to get them in turn to implement suitable DR practices and solutions.
The challenge as in other areas of management will be to prepare for the long term, while continuing to deal with the short term.