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This is a general management question to IT managers out there.

We are a small firm with about 4 servers in our colo cabinent. No full time IT manager. But we do have one person on monthly contract and I am having a terrible time getting him to share what these plans actually are. I am sure he HAS a plan (and its probably in his head..) but that does us no good if he gets hit by a bus..

How would you guys handle this? He is a long time friend, but I fear this is dangerous for us long term..I have confronted him on several occasions about this, and he tells me not to worry, he has got it covered..

Thanks.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by HopelessN00b Feb 15 at 5:23

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Just hire someone else. –  Iain Jun 26 '12 at 21:18
    
I have to agree with Iain, get someone else. He might be a long time friend, but he's apparently not concerned with the longevity of your business. With friends like that, who needs enemies? –  Chris S Jun 26 '12 at 21:45
    
Disconnect him if you can. –  Andrew Smith Jun 26 '12 at 21:45
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Side note: Server Fault is supposed to be for Professional IT Personnel only (hence the downvotes), but seeing as this is a critical IT Related topic, I think it's close enough. –  Chris S Jun 26 '12 at 21:48
    
There is another side of the coin here. How much money have you dedicated to a disaster recovery plan? In many small and midsized firms, the budget for disaster recovery is zero. Some firms assume that it's all up to the IT guy, and other firms find it hard to justify spending money on a theoretical disaster. –  Stefan Lasiewski Jun 27 '12 at 4:17

4 Answers 4

up vote 18 down vote accepted

First, it's YOUR business and the first step is for YOU to determine what your business continuity and disaster recovery needs and objectives are. Have you defined and documented those? If not, do so. A BC/DR is NOT just about the technology and the data.

Once you've done that you can present them to this person and tell him you need him to provide documentation regarding the technical aspects of your BC/DR plan that supports your BC/DR objectives.

If he's unwilling or incapable of doing so, there's no need to damage or risk the friendship over it. Explain to him why you need this and why you'll need to get another party involved to handle it. If he's a friend and a professional he'll understand and be supportive of your decision.

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I'd agree that this is probably the most elegant way of approaching this without damaging the friendship in the event that you need to hire someone else. As joeqwerty said, make a list of objectives of what you want (backups of servers, personnel files, off-site storage, a plan for how things will be restored in the event that the building burns down, etc..) and give him a week for an outline on how he can accomplish all that. Once you have his proposal, sit down with him and decide on a deadline. If he says it's taken care of, then ask him to document the process and give the documents to you –  Safado Jun 26 '12 at 22:20
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+1 running a business is about leadership. Provide direction - tell them what you want them to do. If you provide instruction and they cannot deliver, only then look elsewhere. –  LordScree Jun 27 '12 at 9:45
    
One way of approaching this is to tell the IT guy that your insurance company is requiring a documented DR plan. And that may not even be a fib -- I'm pretty sure it would be in your policy somewhere. This way it doesn't sound like you are trying to make him redundant, you are making an external entity the "bad guy". –  Derek Pressnall Jun 27 '12 at 14:33
    
As a matter of fact our insurance company has asked for this, thats one of the (many) reasons I need this on file...that info was already relayed months ago.. –  Alex Jun 27 '12 at 19:10

I'd ask him why he doesn't have one in writing now, what he needs to get that done... and then give it to him and hold him accountable for delivering.

I've been in a number of small shops as the lead or only IT guy, and didn't have a written DR or backup plan because I never had time to write one up, or more than 5 minutes between firefighting excursions. (I've since moved onto consulting and bigger environments, thank God, but it's worth pointing out that you need to both provide him the resources and time to get it done, as well as give him the authority to make it a priority.) It's hard to prioritize documentation and planning over day-to-day firefighting, stupid user tricks and executive privilege requests, largely because everyone else puts a higher priority on their stupid issue than anything else, let alone something like a DR document that can be done "later."

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"provide him the resources.. time... authority" and priority to get it done. Not in writing? It don't exist. Not in writing that it's a requirement from YOU that he gets it done? The requirement for documentation don't exist either. Make it a required project. He makes it happen or you find someone who will, friendship set aside for business needs. –  WernerCD Jun 27 '12 at 0:26

Hit him over the head with a copy of Limoncelli and Mandia and Procise. Hell, read both books yourself - M&P saved my rear a few times in school and Limoncelli just has everything. Between the two, you should be able to understand what a DR plan (Or anything that comes your way) entails.

Bring him to lunch, and quiz him about this great big plan he has in his head. Take notes. Hand him the notes after lunch, and get him to write it up.

A basic DR plan will NOT take very long to write up (I've knocked one together within a few hours for a school assignment), but as with anything that needs planning, it'll get procrastinated on without an ultimatum.

Edit: On rereading, I'm slightly horrified - the lack of backups mean, should an actual disaster occur, you have no means of restoring your data. You can't run dry runs after something bad actually happens. His plan in the head dosen't sound very much like even a schoolboy DR plan.

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I did not say we had no backups. We have backups on tape, NAS, server and cloud. What I don't have is a concrete DR plan with chain of command, details where files are located, RTO estimates (based on drills-none of which have ever been run in spite of my request to run drills with low level staffers. –  Alex Jun 27 '12 at 1:02

It's a business, so forget about your friendship and hire someone who is willing to do this job properly (or give your friend one last chance to do so himself, but I wouldn't do this because he has clearly demonstrated he is not a professional).

It's is absolutely mandatory that you are capable to continue your operations if he is incapacitated and if he does not understand than he he has no business doing IT management work.

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Update. He is no longer working with us. I have several new contractors on staff and its taken me a few months, but we now have a formal HA-DR plan in place. Thanks to all for chiming in.. –  Alex Dec 31 '12 at 4:30

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