How often are disaster preparedness plans tested?

Dec 11, 2012

Source: SolarWinds

Government IT workers have been forced out of their offices by earthquakes, fires, floods, terrorism and a variety of severe weather, according to a recent survey on disaster preparedness. And nearly eight out of 10 respondents said their agencies have disaster preparedness plans.

But most agencies do not regularly test or update those plans. Only 41 percent of respondents report that they update their plans annually. Forty-nine percent said their plans are tested annually or more often.

Still, a bare majority — 51 percent — say they are certain or very confident that their agencies could be up and running within 18 hours of a significant disaster.

“People usually are aware of the impact that a disaster has on operations,” said Sanjay Castelino, vice president and market leader for SolarWinds, the IT management software company that conducted the survey along with Network World. “In many ways the public sector thinks about it more often because they are the resource of last resort.”

The results of the survey are based on the responses of just 53 federal, state and local workers, so they are hardly representative or statistically significant. But they provide an anecdotal glimpse at the state of preparedness.

Although having a disaster plan is a necessary first step in preparing for disasters, plans cannot be effective if they are static, Castelino said. Infrastructure evolves constantly, and plans must be updated to keep pace with those changes. Plans should be tested frequently to ensure they actually work.

There is no benchmark for adequate spending on disaster preparedness, Castelino said. “It depends on what the IT infrastructure means to you.” Not every system needs the same level of planning and backup. More time and resources should be devoted to mission-critical systems than to those that would be merely inconvenient to lose. “It’s a measured approach based on the cost of downtime.”

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