Disaster Planning III – Replacing Hardware and Reinstalling Software

Planning for a disaster is something we all know we “should be doing” but few of us are.  This is the third in a series of posts that will provide a starting point for disaster planning and disaster preparation on the technology front.  This post will cover replacing equipment and restoring software. The previous posts covered backing up and restoring data and telecommunications and what do do while you’re down.

It is difficult to respond nimbly to a disaster with hardware loss if you have not planned ahead.

Data gets all of the press when people talk about disaster recovery planning.  Backups, restores, virtualization, etc. are all talking about data.  This post is about infrastructure: the hardware and software that makes your data usable, and things to know when recovering, repairing, and replacing all of that infrastructure.

Replacing Hardware

Fact 1:  Computer equipment is expensive.
Fact 2:  With IT hardware, you get what you pay for.
Fact 3:  Quality, business-grade computer equipment is rarely available at a store near you.

These three facts make it difficult to respond nimbly to a disaster scenario that includes hardware loss if you have not planned ahead.  However, we are all well on our way to preparing our Business Continuity Plans, so that won’t be a problem for anyone reading this blog….

Here are some things to keep in mind when designing the hardware replacement aspect of your Disaster Recovery Plan:

  • Business class computers usually have to be ordered and shipped. HP computers can usually be shipped the next day, as can some Dell computers.  Other Dell computers need a week or two lead time.
  • Resist the urge to go down to Best Buy and pick up a computer.  You will only find home grade computers there, which we know is not a good idea for businesses.  Spend the extra time and money and buy the right thing, not just the cheap and fast thing.
  • If you must buy a computer immediately, mentally prepare to get a second computer of professional grade as soon as you can.  Donate the store-bought computer to a local charity.  It seems like a waste of money, but it will save you time, money, and headache in the long run.
  • Have a spare computer available.  This can be used for spare parts, as a complete replacement, or as a temporary station for guests or employees displaced by an IT guy fixing their computer.
  • These examples have all been about computers, but the same advice goes for networking equipment, servers, telephone equipment, and any other hardware you need to replace.  It will be expensive and take time, but it is worth it to do it right the first time.

Call us today for help in designing your own IT Disaster Recovery Plan


While hardware is time consuming and expensive to replace, software is just the opposite.  As long as you have backups and documentation, replacing software should be inexpensive and relatively quick. Here are a few ways to make sure you are in a good place for software recovery:

  • It seems obvious, but make sure your data is backed up.  Sometimes third party programs save important information in inane locations.  Call the vendor and ask them exactly what needs to be backed up for a full recovery down the road.
  • Back up install CD’s and DVD’s.  Make duplicates of all your install CD’s and store them offsite.  Also, you will obviously need to know where all of your install CD’s are in the fist place.
  • Document all serial numbers and other installation codes needed to get a program working.  Store these codes offsite with your CD backups.
  • If you are replacing computers and installing fresh versions of Windows and all of your software, consider using install images to streamline this process. This a way to build a “master” computer template, designed the way you want it to be for several users, and install it automatically and identically onto many computers.  A small fee in imaging software can result in a huge savings in time and standardization when deploying several computers.

Another term for disaster planning is business continuity planning.  A good disaster recovery plan will include steps to keep your business running, in full or in part, while these things are happening.  This includes backup internet and telephone connections, a plan for informing your employees and customers what has happened and what to do, and the infrastructure and training to continue doing business during outages.

Problems, outages, and disasters will happen.  They can either cripple your business or merely cause a brief bump while you continue along as usual.  It all depends on how well you plan and train for the unexpected.

[box]“Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable”

–Dwight Eisenhower[/box]

While this is a great place to begin your disaster preparation, please remember that technology is only part of it.  Your IT Disaster Recovery Plan should be a part of your greater Business Continuity Plan that includes planning for temporary business locations; replacing inventory; contacting employees, vendors, and clients; etc.  FEMA has a good website (available here) that will help in developing your plan.

Finally, remember that in a disaster, nothing will go according to plan.  Things will get destroyed that you forgot were essential.  Things will survive that you thought were fragile.  Your whole plan may go south in a handbasket, but you will be in an far better place having done the planning. As Dwight Eisenhower famously said, “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”