What is an Effective Disaster Recovery Plan?
The rise of ransomware, rapid digitalization, and the sudden emergence of remote work have forced organizations to rethink their data protection and recovery strategies. According to Security Magazine, 73% of organizations reported facing system failures, with two-thirds of them having outages during the last 12 months. However, only half of the respondents had a documented disaster recovery plan in place.
In today’s digitally-dependent world, ineffective disaster planning leads to prolonged downtime, slow recovery, resulting in losses of revenue, productivity, and reputation. Sometimes this can cost you the entire business: nearly 40% of small businesses close after facing a natural disaster.
This article will cover why disaster recovery planning is important. Additionally, we’ll map out a way to develop an effective plan for a company.
What is a Disaster Recovery Plan?
A disaster recovery (DR) plan is a document that provides a set of guidelines on how to act during disruptions to operations. These disruptions include natural disasters, power outages, server failure, access loss, and ransomware.
As the plan covers different disaster scenarios, it is usually organized by disaster type and contains a detailed description of the procedures and tools that can help the company bring the system back online as soon as possible while also maintaining the availability of vital systems.
Though a disaster recovery plan usually focuses on business continuity, its scope isn’t limited to recovery procedures and action responses only. The plan covers the company’s goals and vulnerabilities, recovery metrics, incident reporting, recovery testing procedures, and other components specific to that business. This puts DR planning at the core of a company’s data protection and recovery strategy.
With a clear and step-by-step plan in place, companies can minimize the damage and quickly resume their mission-critical operations during a disaster, thus preventing the risk of losing the whole business. Accelerated recovery isn’t the only benefit of a DR plan, though. Let’s explore in more detail why any organization needs a recovery plan.
Benefits of a Disaster Recovery Plan
Any DR plan aims to accelerate the recovery process and reduce downtime and data loss. But an effective DR plan can bring even more benefits to the table. Let’s take a closer look at some of them.
- Vulnerabilities identification. A good DR plan includes recovery testing and sets the procedures for simulating a disaster event. The simulation helps you identify the threats to, and weaknesses of your infrastructure far before a disaster occurs.
- Business optimization. A disaster recovery plan ensures that you stay in line with new technologies and best practices. As a result, you can simplify backup and recovery activities, automate workflows, as well as improve your business scalability.
- Enhanced productivity. Effective DR planning involves the automation and scheduling of your disaster recovery activities. Adopting these tools reduces the number of human errors, prevents schedule overlaps, and allows employees to focus on more important tasks.
- Cyberattack prevention. Regular monitoring of the system’s vulnerabilities is an important part of any disaster recovery plan. Additionally, the plan needs to include risk analysis, preventative measures, and personnel security training to minimize cybersecurity risks.
- Customer loyalty. With a DR plan in place, you can improve the system’s uptime and availability, reduce risks of data loss and provide better service with fewer disruptions to your customers.
- Compliance. Regulations such as HIPAA and GDRR set high requirements for data privacy. A DR plan reduces the risk of a data breach and helps you avoid compliance penalties.
Along with providing the smooth and rapid recovery of your services, an effective disaster recovery plan can save you money, improve cyber resilience and help your business stay afloat.
Your plan can also use comprehensive disaster recovery solutions. These solutions simplify and automate the disaster recovery process, thus reducing the probability of human errors. More information is here.
What Should a Disaster Recovery Plan Include?
A disaster recovery plan is a comprehensive document that covers a variety of components. Most of these components are common for all companies, but some aspects can be specific to your particular organization. As there’s no single structure for a DR plan, it’s easy to miss something important. In a state of panic during a real disaster, this mistake can lead to eye-watering losses.
To ensure that nothing is overlooked, including the following five vital components in your disaster recovery planning.
IT inventory and scope
A disaster recovery plan should contain the details of your current IT infrastructure, including lists of hardware, software, and cloud services. This section of the plan should be regularly updated.
Along with the description of all your IT assets, the plan should provide the recovery scope and define all the critical components of your IT infrastructure. Critical components can include IT systems, applications, and virtual machines (VMs) with business-critical data. Also, consider links between critical VMs and systems: some applications can use the data hosted on another VM and vice versa.
Staff responsibilities and training
Your DR plan should list the employees responsible for aspects of the DR process along with their contact information. In addition to determining staff responsibilities, provide instructions on acting when these people are unavailable (for example, you can designate alternates).
An effective disaster recovery plan also includes staff training to ensure that there is no confusion or delay during an emergency. Employees should understand their roles, know whom to contact or what to do to initiate the recovery process.
A DR plan outlines the goals and objectives your company needs to achieve during or after a disaster. Here are two main recovery metrics:
- Recovery point objectives (RPO): This metric sets how much data in hours your company can afford to lose. For example, you can set an RPO of two hours in the disaster recovery plan, meaning that you need to back up your data at least every two hours to meet the objective.
- Recovery time objective (RTO): This metric determines the downtime your company can tolerate before the operations are restored. Depending on your industry and services, RTO can range from minutes to hours.
You can set different RTOs and RPOs for different VMs. For example, mission-critical VMs require the tightest metrics, while less important VMs can tolerate longer downtime and greater data loss.
Data protection and recovery procedures
A DR plan should set backup activities and their frequency. Along with backups, the plan should also describe disaster recovery procedures, including the configurations and resources of the disaster recovery site, as well as a detailed incident response plan. Additionally, you can include a disaster recovery plan checklist to verify that the recovery procedure is fully implemented during a disaster.
Testing and optimization
An effective DR plan is a tested plan. However, only half of the organizations with a DR plan test it regularly. Another research shows that 14% of respondents do not test their plans at all.
The plan should be consistent with your infrastructure’s changes and, thus, regularly revised, optimized, and tested. This will help you identify the plan’s inconsistencies and weak spots before a disaster occurs, saving you a lot of money.
The components mentioned are vital for a disaster recovery plan, but your planning shouldn’t be limited to them. Add sections about incident reporting to stakeholders and even media communication during a disaster if the public needs to know, and especially if your organization is a healthcare provider or a governmental agency.
Let’s now explore the steps of DR planning.
Disaster Recovery Plan Checklist
Since every business is unique, you have the flexibility to decide what measures are included in a disaster recovery plan. No one knows the vulnerabilities and capabilities of your organization better than you.
To help you navigate through planning, here is a checklist with the 10 most important disaster recovery plan steps:
- Map out your IT assets. List all the components of your IT infrastructure and note information about them, including their location, versions, network configurations, and vendors.
- Identify critical assets and dependencies. Classify the assets based on their importance to your business and identify their dependencies.
- Conduct risk assessment. Determine possible threats to your business and specific assets. Ensure regular monitoring of your system to detect new threats before they can grow into a bigger problem.
- Set objectives. Assess the impact of interruption and set recovery objectives, including RTOs and RPOs.
- Assign roles and responsibilities. List responsible employees with their contact details and assign their roles. Choose alternates in case if the person in charge isn’t available.
- Build a disaster recovery site. Equip and configure a secondary site to migrate your critical workloads when needed. Depending on your objectives, budget, and data sensitivity, you can build cold (only basic infrastructure), warm (partially equipped), or hot (the exact copy of your production site) sites.
- Outline disaster response and restoration. Describe the disaster response step-by-step, including last-minute backup, failover, data center migration, and failback.
- Determine communication channels. Ensure that your employees can communicate during the disaster. Determine communication channels and specify them in the plan.
- Communicate the plan. Deliver the plan to the disaster recovery team, the management, and other involved employees.
- Test and update regularly. Keep the plan up-to-date and modify it whenever your system has any changes. Test the plan to identify weak points and ensure that employees understand their roles.
Disaster recovery planning can be a daunting process where a tiny mistake can cause great damage in the future. If you want to save time and reduce the management overhead, consider using a data recovery solution. It won’t take planning off your shoulders, but it will help you gain complete visibility of your infrastructure and simplify the recovery process.
Disasters can come in different forms, and you never know when the next disaster will strike and what damage it will bring. Slow recovery can cost you both money and reputation or, in some cases, even your entire business.
An effective disaster recovery plan allows you to get ready for a variety of scenarios. You can identify and mitigate risks, reduce the possible damage, as well as prevent cyberattacks. Together with a reliable and comprehensive data recovery solution, a DR plan can help you resume IT operations with no or minimum downtime and data loss.
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