Julian Morris, senior vice-president and director of IT for DraftWorldwide, experienced service disruptions and downtime after attempting to merge three disparate systems corrupted by the Nimda virus. Morris learned 10 valuable disaster recovery (DR) lessons in the process.

1. Be prepared. Test systems and define every detail of your network.

2. Have a DR plan that is so detailed an average person could recover your systems without the IT staff.

3. Prioritize. Have a list of tasks that are pivotal to getting operations up when a catastrophic event occurs.

4. Pick your team carefully. Choose folks who work well under extreme pressure. 5. Develop information-gathering templates. Pre-designed impact and damage-assessment checklists and recovery-site equipment checklists will aid in quick restoration of mission-critical data. Morris has copies of his DR plan on paper, on CDs, in PDFs, offsite in a storage facility and in the homes of DR team members.

6. Have a well-defined communication plan. If phone lines are down, you need to have alternate means of communication.

7. Know who your stars are. Identify the core 10 percent of your staff – the people you’ll trust to maintain operations while you run in recovery mode.

8. Manage user expectations. Employees will want frequent updates. Morris has a 12-step DR guide with system recovery as the 12th step. He has a time frame assigned to each step so that he can tell users where he is within the 12 steps and when they can expect recovery.

9. Remind users that there was life before the Internet. Morris suggests running a test that will force users to resort to pre-Internet days.

10. Check the pulse of your staff. The pressure felt during a DR operation can be overwhelming.