Prepare for the Worst, Hope for the Best

by Nov 9, 2020

If you have spent any time in the IT world, you probably know that things do not always go according to plan. In fact, at times it seems that everything that can go wrong does. While this characteristic of information technology may can help alleviate the boredom that may come with other, less variable professions, it does pose some unique challenges. Like being prepared for anything.

As a database administrator, your focus needs to be on the systems for which you are responsible. A disaster recovery plan should be high on the list when you consider the various activities that are required in the pursuit of database performance and availability. That is if you have a plan at all.

The majority of small business owners do not have a written DR plan. This puts them at a distinct disadvantage if their IT systems are affected by an unexpected outage. There are many ways that a computing environment can suddenly be brought down. It can be the result of damage incurred during an extreme weather event, an extensive power outage, or a simple but serious human error. Regardless of the cause, you must recover your systems as quickly as possible to avoid unnecessary negative business ramifications.

Developing a Reliable Recovery Plan

From a DBA’s perspective, you need to have procedures in place that allow you to quickly restore your databases if a problem occurs. A very simple disaster recovery plan will suffice to perform the database restore. The recovery steps should be outlined in detail along with the location of the backup media and the steps required to access it. In some cases, this may involve recalling offsite tapes to a business recovery center.

Strictly speaking, restoring a database from a backup is a fairly trivial exercise for an experienced DBA. But recovering from a disaster often requires more than a database restore. In many instances, the infrastructure and network connectivity need to be recovered as well. These items are vitally important to your ability to successfully restore a mission-critical database application and most will likely involve the cooperation of other technical resources to recover them.

This is where a written and verified recovery plan demonstrates its value. The plan should encompass details such as what systems need to be recovered, the order in which they should be restored, and the teams that are responsible to perform the work. Access to the plan should be made available to all teams that play a role in the recovery as well as management and a disaster recovery coordinator if your company has one of those. The ability to quickly locate and execute the recovery plan will save precious time when a disaster strikes.

Potential Issues with Your DR Plan

There are some issues beyond the technical execution of the recovery procedures that go into creating a resilient plan. Keep these points in mind as you create the disaster recovery plan.

  • Buy-in from upper management will lay the groundwork for a successful disaster recovery plan and its execution if it’s ever needed. Resources may need to be expended in the development and testing of the DR plan, and management needs to understand the benefits that a reliable plan provides.

  • The DR plan needs to take into consideration the needs of the business that it supports. In a large SQL Server environment, systems need to be prioritized correctly to bring up the most important parts of the business first. Test and development systems probably do not need to be included in your plan.

  • Keeping the plan updated is an essential task that should be done regularly. As new databases are introduced into the environment, they need to be added to the plan, and their recovery correctly prioritized.

  • Without adequate testing, you are gambling that the plan will work if your organization experiences a disaster. That is not the optimal time to discover that something is awry with the recovery procedures. Thoroughly testing your plan with an eye toward constant improvement is the route you want to take.

The Right Tools for Disaster Recovery

The most important components of your disaster recovery plan when it’s time to execute it are the backups that will be used to restore your systems. Without viable backups, even the most comprehensive and detailed recovery plan will be useless. You might be able to recover the infrastructure on which your database runs, but it will have a lot of empty rows and will not do anything to help your business recover.

DBAs working in SQL Server environments can ensure that they have reliable backups with SQL Safe Backup. The tool lets you manage and view all of your SQL Server backups from a unified dashboard and easily scales to address environmental growth. Backup compression and encryption save time and protect your valuable data. The tool has multiple recovery options that allow you to quickly bring databases back up to minimize downtime. You can integrate SQL Safe Backup with enterprise storage solutions such as TSM for long-term and off-site retention.

When it comes to IT disaster recovery, make sure you have a well-documented, updated, and tested plan. Be prepared for the worst, and hope for the best. It’s a better strategy than hoping for the best and being left scrambling when an unexpected disaster hits.