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A Note on Methodology

A cursory examination of the literature will confirm that there are as many methodologies for developing disaster recovery plans as there are plan authors. This book seeks to find common ground by returning to the fundamental methodology of project management.

Fortunately, disaster recovery planning is too young an endeavor to have spawned argumentative schools of adherents to this or that guru's methodology. There are no gurus except, perhaps, those who have experienced and recovered from an actual disaster. Having talked with many of them in research for this book, they are wiser and somewhat modest about their accomplishment. Hardly the guru type.

This is not to say that there are not pretenders. In certain facets of disaster recovery plan development, one is almost certain to run up against a vendor representative, a plan author, or a risk manager who is convinced he or she has all the answers. It would seem that, in the wake of 9/11, everybody from the value added reseller to the local cellular telephone salesman has decided to hang out a DR consulting shingle. The best policy is to listen. They may, after all, have a few worthwhile observations.

In the meantime, there are far more important and basic skills to master. One of the most important is one's ability to think systematically about the planning task. This is no simple feat: One must, after all, superimpose rationality on an event that is inherently chaotic—disaster.

It cannot be overstressed that disaster recovery planning is not something that one can do perfectly the first time. Only by putting the plan on paper and testing it can its errors be realized and corrected. The only effective method for DR planning is trial and error.

There are a few other points to make about the approach of this book to its subject. As previously observed, developing a disaster recovery plan is a project entailing the performance of many discrete tasks and the allocation of fixed resources. The end product of the effort is less a plan document than a recovery capability. The plan is only a roadmap for yet another project: recovery from an actual disaster.

To help the reader understand the objectives and alternative strategies that must be considered in the formulation of the plan, it is sometimes necessary to describe in detail how the plan will be implemented in a disaster recovery project. To aid the reader, a simple diagrammatic distinction has been made between the planning project and the recovery project. When this book describes the plan development project, the accompanying illustrations use the techniques of data flow diagramming. When the recovery project is described, flow charts are used.

Data flow diagrams, or DFDs, seem appropriate to the description of the plan development project since the project generally consists of acquiring, processing, and presenting information.19 Figure 1–2 provides the context for the disaster recovery planning project. It shows the plethora of organizations— including corporate departments, professional groups, and regulatory agencies—that shape the environment of the planning endeavor and form the reality against which plan adequacy is judged.

Figure 1-2Figure 1–2 The context of disaster recovery planning.

From this simple diagram, however, little can be discerned about the components of disaster recovery planning. Thus, in the coming chapters, the reader will find other DFDs that illustrate the major activities involved in the planning project.

For example, Figure 1–3 is a DFD depicting data flows and activities described in Chapter 1. Information resources, such as industry standards, published disaster accounts, and legal mandates, are used to develop a rationale for the plan development project for presentation to senior management. Data from these sources is used to define methods (consultant or in-house development) and to create project outlines. Other inputs and outputs are also presented to account for the numerous tasks involved in the initial start-up phase of disaster recovery planning.

Figure 1-3Figure 1–3 Initialization phase data flow diagram.

DFDs do not necessarily show precedence or chronological order of tasks. They are flexible, spatial constructs that the reader, it is hoped, will find easy to apply to his or her planning requirements. As such, DFDs are preferable to the linear and rigid structure of a flowchart depicting tasks and milestones in the plan development project.

Elsewhere in this book, the reader will encounter flowcharts that provide examples of master plans for various aspects of the recovery project. These flowcharts attempt to superimpose order and sequence on recovery events. Flowcharts are not intended as models to be rigorously followed, but as guides for creating and organizing one's own implementation plan. A concatenated flowchart is provided at http://www.drplanning.org, a web site that has been established to serve as a "living appendix" to this book.

It is hoped that this distinction in illustrations will help to clarify any confusion that may arise between the planning project and the implementation project that is its product.

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