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A Working Definition of Disaster

The term disaster, as used in this book, means the unplanned interruption of normal business processes resulting from the interruption of the IT infrastructure components used to support them. This definition includes information systems and networks and their hardware and software components—as well as data itself.

Of IT infrastructure-related business process interruptions, those resulting from a loss of data itself are arguably the most devastating. Whether a loss of data results from accidental or intentional erasure and/or the destruction of the media on which data is recorded or from any of a number of manmade or natural phenomena, data is the most difficult of all infrastructure components to replace. As a result, interruptions of business processes resulting from data loss may be the most difficult to surmount.

In addition to data loss, business process interruptions can also result from a loss of IT infrastructure components used to transport, process, and/or present data for use. A broad range of factors can lead to infrastructure component loss. These may include events that cause the destruction of key system, network or storage hardware or software, such as fires or floods. Component "loss" may also be the by-product of disruptions in regional infrastructure supports such as power or telecommunications outages.

These infrastructure interruptions have the potential to wreak as much havoc within a company as the loss of the data itself. However, their effects can generally be minimized through the application of recovery or continuity strategies that are the result of advanced planning and preparation.

The above description of disaster may suggest that only a major calamity—a terrorist bombing, an earthquake, or even a war—would qualify as a disaster. The term disaster conjures to mind a smoking data center at Goliath, Inc., rather than an accidental hard disk erasure at the small business office down the block. In either case, if the result is an unplanned interruption of normal business processes, the event may be classified as a disaster. Disasters are relative and contextual.

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