Information Technology Disaster Recovery Plan: Case Study

By Omar, Adnan; Alijani, David et al. | Academy of Strategic Management Journal, July 2011 | Go to article overview
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Information Technology Disaster Recovery Plan: Case Study

Omar, Adnan, Alijani, David, Mason, Roosevelt, Academy of Strategic Management Journal


Webster's Dictionary defines a disaster as "a sudden calamitous event bringing great damage, loss, or destruction; a sudden or great misfortune or failure." In a contemporary IT context, disaster is an event that shuts down a computing environment for more than a few minutes, often for several hours, days or even years. A disaster can wipe out a company's normal business day or even its entire IT infrastructure. While not different from other kinds of outages, the outage of a company's IT infrastructure spreads over a wider area, and affects more components. It is no longer a question of whether disaster will occur: it will. Thus, establishing reliable disaster recovery (DR) capabilities are critical to ensuring that an organization will be able to survive significant events. Understanding when to initiate DR procedures during an event is critical to achieving expected DR outcomes (BEC Technologies, 2008).

The devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans forced businesses and universities to seriously reevaluate their DR Plans. Many businesses could not operate because they did not have plans in place. Entire IT infrastructures were crippled by the flooding that resulted from the storm, and many organizations did not have a DR site outside the affected area, which left them without a way to immediately move forward. Disaster recovery is becoming an increasingly important aspect of enterprise computing. As devices, systems, and networks become ever more complex, there are increasingly more things that can go wrong. Consequently, recovery plans have also become more complex (Toigo, 2002). A disaster recovery plan establishes how a company or organization can reinstate its IT systems and services after a significant large-scale interruption.

The principles of Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Planning are quite straightforward: creating a remote DR center is the first step in developing a well-organized plan, and this will directly affect the recovery capabilities of the organization. The contents of the plan should follow a logical sequence and be written in a standard and understandable format. Effective documentation and procedures are extremely important in a disaster recovery plan. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Houston Community College (HCC) in Houston, Texas, has played a pioneering role in developing a DR plan, and continues developing its systems for the future. The objective of this study is to discuss the Information Technology Disaster Recovery Plan at HCC.

Statement of Problem

The flooding that resulted from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 2005 compelled most businesses and universities in vulnerable areas to reevaluate their Disaster Recovery plans. Several businesses were crippled because they lost records and information spanning several years. Concerned about their ability to operate if disasters of similar magnitude recurred, managements developed DR plans that describe the IT mechanisms for the purpose of bringing a functioning system back online (Robb, 2005). These plans also help organizations reinstate their IT systems and services after a significant large-scale interruption with a minimal time lag. Without a DR plan in place most businesses run the risk of crippling data loss.

DR solutions are expensive, but with a little planning and foresight DR does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition (Robb, 2005). Costs can vary tremendously, depending on the needs of each organization, the assessment of the threat, and the level of security one seeks. For most small to midsize institutions, one of the most affordable DR solutions would consist of the remote location for storing tape backups. However, for larger organizations, this method would be unacceptable, although the larger potential for data loss, and steep costs could compel managements to scale down DR plans so that they protects only the most critical applications.

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