Creating a Disaster Recovery IT Plan

Creating a Disaster Recovery IT Plan


On Monday, August 29, 2005, New Orleans was hit with one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history. While the devastation incurred by Hurricane Katrina can hardly be given proper reflection in a tech blog, the lessons learned by the IT department at Loyola University, located in Uptown New Orleans, can serve as a reminder of the importance of having a well-developed disaster recovery IT plan.

In 2007 and 2008, Bret L. Jacobs, Executive Director of Technology at Loyola University, presented at NY Tech Summit. Jacobs provided a timeline of the disaster and touched on major lessons learned by the Loyola University IT department in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. (Click for a full PDF of the presentation.)

While the campus at Loyola University was spared major physical damage, power and water took weeks to restore and it was clear from the onset that the recovery process would be long-term. Just 8 days after Hurricane Katrina hit, critical systems were restored at Loyola University’s recovery center in Illinois. A full fifty-five days later, all IT functions returned to Loyola campus.

Lessons Learned

Loyola University had established a disaster recovery plan in 2003 and tested it annually.  However, the lessons learned are priceless to those involved in the recovery process:

  • Have a readiness plan in place. Loyola University shipped recovery tapes to an alternate location when they heard news of the hurricane, which proved crucial to restoring critical systems.
  • Have a communications plan in place. Primary and secondary communications failed, and staff could not be reached for days after the hurricane hit the city.
  • Establish a temporary website to communicate with key audiences (in this case, faculty, staff and students).
  • Consider all scenarios when creating a disaster recovery plan. Loyola University had no power or water for weeks after Hurricane Katina hit.
  • Account for costs associated with recovery plan; plan for additional costs if plan is delayed by unforeseen circumstances.
  • Create crucial partnerships ahead of time.
  • Designate a preferred evacuation location.
Disaster Recovery Resources

While it’s clear that all organizations need a disaster recovery plan – and on a larger scale, a business continuity plan – it can be hard to know where to start. SearchDisasterRecovery.com is a great resource for templates, tutorials, monitoring tools and tips (a free membership is required to access resources).

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