Disaster Recovery Plan

Disaster Recovery Plan: How to Survive and Bounce Back from a Crisis​

Whether a data breach, ransomware attack, or natural disaster, a devastating event can strike your company at any time, putting your operations, financial stability and reputation at risk. If calamity hits and you aren’t ready, the aftermath could be catastrophic for your business. This is why having a well-developed disaster recovery plan (DRP) is crucial. 

What is a Disaster Recovery Plan?

A disaster recovery plan outlines comprehensive processes your company must follow before, during and after a disaster. For example, how employees should respond to a crisis, the necessary steps for recovery, what data and equipment to safeguard and how to restore any lost data. However, disaster recovery plans are not a one size fits all solution. Each business is different, so it’s essential to understand the disaster recovery options available to you and choose which plan(s) best suits your needs. To help you out, we’ve outlined the most common types of disaster recovery.

1. Data Center Disaster Recovery

In this approach, the entire facility plays a significant role in disaster recovery, not just the data center itself. Backup to a failover site at a secondary data center or a colocation facility is often a large part of the plan. The DRP team must consider and make arrangements for various facility-related components, including physical security, backup power, HVAC, utility providers, and fire suppression.

2. Virtual Disaster Recovery

With virtual disaster recovery services, Managed Services Providers create a working replica of your entire computing environment, including servers, storage space, operating systems, apps, and data. These replicated workloads run in an alternate location or the cloud. 

3. Network Disaster Recovery

It is essential to have a disaster recovery strategy for maintaining network connectivity so that you can restore external and internal communications, application access, and data sharing. In addition, you should develop a plan to restore network services and ensure access to backup data and secondary storage sites. 

4. Cloud Disaster Recovery

The widespread acceptance of cloud services allows organizations that traditionally use an alternate location to host disaster recovery in the cloud. Cloud disaster recovery goes beyond simple backup to the cloud. It requires your IT team to set up automatic failover of workloads to a public cloud platform in the event of a disruption.

5. Disaster Recovery as a Service

Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) allows you to back up your data and IT infrastructure in a third-party cloud computing environment. It provides disaster recovery orchestration through a SaaS solution to regain access and functionality to IT infrastructure after a disaster. The as-a-service model means you don’t have to own all the resources or handle all the management for disaster recovery, instead relying on the service provider.

Why is a Disaster Recovery Plan Important?

Unfortunately, catastrophic events are more common than you might think. Here are the top 10 causes of disasters and subsequent data loss:

  • Human Error
  • Viruses & Malware
  • Hard Drive Damage
  • Power Outages
  • Computer Theft
  • Liquid Damage
  • Natural Disasters
  • Software Corruption
  • Hard Drive Formatting
  • Hackers and Insiders

The inconvenience of data loss can have even more significant implications for your business when a large amount of data is lost. Ninety-three percent of companies that experience data loss and downtime, extending for ten or more days, will file for bankruptcy within 12 months. Also, 43 percent of companies without disaster recovery plans will go out of business after significant data loss.

A disaster recovery plan will help you prepare for the worst and minimize the damage caused by an unexpected crisis. Even though you hope a disaster won’t strike, taking steps to protect your company from the consequences of a significant problem is essential. 

Key Benefits of a Disaster Recovery Plan

Business Continuity

Every minute that your operations are offline is damaging to your company. It increases expenses, impacts your reputation and reduces employee productivity. A disaster recovery plan enables your company to continue operating with minimal disruption. 

Customer Retention

Unplanned incidents can significantly damage your company’s reputation and jeopardize its long-term viability. Therefore, a quick recovery is crucial to keeping your reputation intact. 

Cost Efficiency

A data catastrophe can be extremely costly. A single disaster can potentially force your company to close down due to ransoms, legal penalties from compromised personal information, and loss of income and productivity. However, you can avoid these consequences by implementing a disaster recovery plan.

Disaster Recovery Plan Checklist

Here are the key steps to a successful disaster recovery plan:

Disaster Recovery Plan

1. Form a Disaster Recovery Team

Without the proper personnel working together, collaborative disaster recovery planning can be disjointed and incomplete. Therefore, you must form a dedicated disaster recovery team of employees and managers across all parts of the organization. This team is responsible for developing, implementing, updating, and testing the DRP to ensure that your company can recover quickly. Furthermore, your disaster recovery plan should include each member’s role and contact details and the first point of contact in the event of a crisis.

2. Inventory Vital Hardware and Software

Another early step in disaster recovery planning is inventorying your company’s mission-critical hardware and software. You will use this information to create a list of items to safeguard as part of your disaster recovery plan. This is an extensive step because you must account for every on-premise, cloud-based, and mobile/BYOD tool and technology your organization uses.

3. Prioritize Recovery Efforts

Once you inventory your apps, data and resources, you must prioritize their recovery. Divide systems and applications into three tiers:

  • Mission-critical applications and systems are the first priority. These systems must get back up and running immediately to avoid catastrophic data loss and severe business disruption.
  • Essential systems are less critical and can be unavailable for up to 24 hours without significantly impacting the business.
  • Non-essential are the lowest priority because businesses can run without them for a few days.

Be sure to consider any system dependencies because they may affect how you prioritize recovery efforts.

4. Define Your Downtime Tolerance

After prioritizing your recovery efforts, you can define recovery time objectives (RTO) and recovery point objectives (RPO). These are the metrics you will use to determine your downtime and data loss tolerance. These metrics enable you to determine how much time an application can be down before serious harm is done to the business (RTO) or how much data you can lose before significant damage is done to the company (RPO). 

5. Specify backup and offsite recovery 

You comprehensively understand your risks, critical assets, RTO and RPO at this stage. You can now build your disaster recovery setup and choose which type of disaster recovery plan (as outlined above) best suits your needs. 

6. Develop a Crisis Communication Strategy

An effective communication strategy is vital for business continuity, regardless of the type of disaster. Assign specific individuals to specific roles. Make sure customers know what has happened and how to contact you if your business is closed or relocated. If telephone systems are down, ensure someone is designated to use social media or alternate channels to communicate and monitor customer concerns. Decide whether you want to make regulatory or public relations communications to inform stakeholders and customers of your actions to protect them after a data breach. You should also include emergency contact information for your managed services staff if you require help recovering. 

7. Test and Revise

Don’t wait for a disaster to determine whether your disaster recovery plan works. Implement a comprehensive testing strategy now (and use it). Your strategy should accomplish three objectives:

  • Test your backups to make sure all of your data is protected and recoverable
  • Test your disaster recovery processes to make sure they work
  • Test your people to make sure they know what to do in a real emergency

Wrapping Up

While it may be difficult for some organizations to invest in comprehensive disaster recovery planning, those that plan for long-term growth and sustainability cannot ignore the concept. Moreover, organizations that have prioritized disaster recovery will reduce downtime, risk and costs and be able to resume normal operations faster if a crisis occurs. 

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