Disaster Recovery Plan

5 Must-Haves for a Modern, Effective Disaster Recovery Plan

In today’s digital landscape, organizations depend on their IT environments to be up and running 24/7. Unplanned downtime of infrastructure, applications or data can cost a company hours of productivity, with each hour costing the company a great deal of money. This, combined with the costs of lost data from a disaster, is enough to put a company out of business. Disasters can range in size and scope from a targeted cybersecurity attack to a natural disaster such as an earthquake or hurricane. Therefore, companies must have a disaster recovery plan to be adequately prepared for a disaster. Unfortunately, due to the rapid adoption of digital transformation in the past few years, most disaster recovery solutions are no longer feasible for the modern data landscape of most organizations. Traditional data recovery solutions are still modeled around the physical data center and cannot scale with the amount of data modern organizations produce and use. To keep up operations in the face of an unforeseen disaster, organizations need to have a disaster recovery strategy in place and must aim to achieve two key goals:

  • Preparing for unplanned events, such as viruses and malware, hard drive damage, power outages, natural disasters, computer theft, hackers and insiders, and more.
  • Protecting data during planned disruptive events such as migrations, cloud adoption, data center consolidations, etc.

To create a modern and effective disaster recovery plan, companies should include the following five things:

1. A Risk and Vulnerability Analysis

The first step in your recovery plan process should understand the risks and vulnerabilities you are most likely to face in your business. Understanding the history of your business and similar businesses in the industry or region can help you map out the threats you are most likely to face. This could be anything from natural disasters to critical equipment failure, loss of internet, and cyber attacks. For example, while most companies are susceptible to cybercrime or power outages, your company may be in an area that is unlikely ever to experience a natural disaster like a hurricane. Your disaster recovery plan should be effective against all the most likely or significant threats. If required, you can also create disaster recovery plans for specific types of disasters. 

2. Identification of Critical Business Processes and Applications

Another essential thing to include in every disaster recovery plan is a list of critical business processes and applications. To define these, you will need to identify and list all the essential assets for daily operations in your business. For IT, this may include infrastructure, network equipment, servers, endpoints, software, cloud services, mobile devices and more. Your list should be separated into critical assets (things your business cannot operate without), important assets (things that would considerably affect your ability to operate without), and other assets that do not significantly affect your business.

3. Defined RTO and RPO

Preventing data loss and bringing operations back online are the most important reasons for having a disaster recovery plan. RTO (recovery time objective) deals with the time your company takes to get its operations back up and running. RPO (recovery point objective) deals with the amount of data lost. The lower both of these numbers are, the better for your business. To define your RTO and RPO, you need to understand the maximum amount of downtime or data loss your company can sustain. Once you have defined these objectives, you can use them to determine the frequency of backups and the processes you must have in place to recover your operations within a sustainable amount of time.

4. Defined Backup & Recovery Site

The next critical piece of an effective disaster recovery plan has a defined backup and recovery site. Backing up data or entire systems is not a new concept. Still, traditional backups usually fail to deliver sufficient RTO and RPO in the modern day because backup operations are often only taken once per day, and the time it takes to recover data from a traditional backup can take up to days or even weeks. However, these backup solutions are still helpful for long-term data retention and compliance. A preferred backup and recovery approach is replicating data to another system continuously. This could be to cold storage or a warm backup, on-site or off-site. While on-site locations are less resilient to disaster, they tend to give a shorter RTO and allow your business to replicate data more frequently. Similarly, Cold storage is much less expensive than warm storage but usually takes much longer to access than fast and easy-to-access warm storage. Therefore, it is essential to consider vulnerabilities, risks, critical assets, RTO and RPO when deciding whether to have an on-site or off-site, warm or cold storage.

5. Disaster Recovery Documentation

Lastly, you will want to document everything from your equipment to your data to have a plan ready for a disaster. This documentation should include the following:

  • An inventory of your critical assets (the main systems and equipment essential to keeping your business operational.)
  • Contact information for your disaster recovery team
  • Alternative locations in the event your workplace is unavailable
  • A communication plan that defines roles for employees during a disaster recovery situation. In a disaster, customers must be notified of what has happened and understand how to contact you. Your communication plan should also include compliant communications to customers during a data breach.
  • A checklist of procedures that must be performed for system restoration and recovery
  • A list of the predetermined data backup schedules

Wrapping Up

While having all of these essential things in your disaster recovery plan, it is still important to test and retest your plan to ensure there are no issues in the event of a natural disaster. Testing allows you to identify potential gaps in the plan and keep employees informed and prepared for a natural disaster. Having an effective disaster recovery plan implemented in your business can be the difference-maker that keeps a company from going out of business in the face of a crisis.

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