No one likes to visualize disasters. There is something in the human psyche that shies away from contemplating on potential destruction. Yet, the truth cannot be denied — disaster planning helps control the impact of disaster and enables faster recovery. Visualization of disaster is the necessary first step in the direction of disaster recovery planning — whatever the type of disaster.

An example of a digital disaster is the loss of the working files of “Toy Story” that paralyzed Pixar. The thousands of smaller files (Woody’s hat and boots) that make up the composite animation of Woody disappeared.  The backups help them restore the files and complete the film!



Since we propose to discuss digital disaster recovery, let us begin with the definition of digital disaster. Does everyone have the same definition of digital disaster? At a very broad, generic level everyone’s definition of a digital disaster is bound to be the same — the loss of mission-critical information.  At granular levels, the definition of what constitutes “information” and what is “mission-critical” will vary from one enterprise to another.

Like other types of disasters, digital disasters will fall under two categories—manmade and natural.  Natural disasters are beyond human control and are perpetrated by the forces of nature and can result in partial or total destruction of resources. Manmade disasters can be accidental or deliberate.  Disaster planning will have to visualize all types of scenarios under each of these categories and plan for the recovery of the digital assets.

It is should be remembered that digital assets cannot exist independent of the media of storage. It exists and is accessible because it is stored on a drive or tape or server. Hence, digital assets can be said to be more fragile than traditional materials. Consequently, the media will have to be physically and electronically secured.

It follows that disaster recovery planning for digital assets will include exercises that define digital assets and digital disaster causes, identification of the elements of a digital disaster plan and listing out of local and remote resources that will be required for executing an effective disaster recovery plan.  Sustainability of the digital assets will have to be ensured by replication/ mirroring/ encryption/ redundancy or whatever it takes.  Human resources will have to be mobilized and top management support will have to be garnered. Stakeholders will have to be educated.

In short, the enterprise needs to build up the technical and financial infrastructure that is required for maintaining the digital assets for future use.