The Complete Guide to Creating a Disaster Recovery Plan
Most businesses today feel that their IT infrastructure is more important than ever before.
While there are huge benefits to network technology, being so reliant on IT also means that businesses must have a contingency plan for what happens when something damages their network, such as natural disasters, hardware failures, and ransomware attacks.
In the IT management world, this is known as a “disaster recovery (DR) plan.” This guide will help you understand disaster recovery planning, what makes a DR plan successful, and how you can develop one for your business.
The Basics: What is a Disaster Recovery Plan?
A disaster recovery plan consists of detailed steps your organization should take to respond to any unexpected incidents, such as power outages, earthquakes, floods, cyber-attacks, and other disruptions. The plan gives stakeholders a central document to focus company-wide DR efforts, facilitating communication and improving outcomes, while making it easier for organizations to test and maintain their DR systems.
According to CSO online 72% of businesses seek outside help with BDR programs.
Why Is a Disaster Recovery Plan Important?
A DR plan is important to proactively avoid damage to your brand’s reputation, revenue losses, and dissatisfied clients. Customers in most industries have become more accustomed to fast, 24/7 business operations, meaning that organizations must be able to restore critical systems quickly after a major technology problems. Without one, they risk damaging their reputation and losing customers.
The longer the downtime, the more adverse the impact on the business. Therefore, a good disaster recovery plan enables quick recovery from any disruption in the business.
Other key goals of an effective DRP
- Minimizes interruption in business operations after catastrophic downtime
- Limit the economic impact caused by a major network disruption
- Enables smooth and fast service restoration
- Minimizes costs related to recovery of services
- Trains staff to respond proactively in emergency situations
- Help your team communicate effectively around disaster recovery situations
According to IDC’s Worldwide State of Data Protections & DR Survey, over 30% of network outages resulted in direct revenue loss.
How to Develop a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP)?
An efficient DRP should hit all the points listed above. Next, we’ll look at each step in the process of developing a DR plan:
1) Locate Your Data and Create an IT Inventory
It is important to identify where critical data assets are located and maintain that information in an IT inventory, so you consistently apply the right protections to each system.
Your data inventory should list all the details of your software and hardware assets that are vital for the company to continue its operations. In this era of hybrid onsite, remote, and cloud networks, this is trickier than it might sound at first.
This inventory should also provide details on how vendor SLAs or regulations will impact the DR plan.
To gauge disaster preparedness, you may decide to ask employees how the absence of certain networks or systems could impact their work. If possible, you could simulate different disaster scenarios to anticipate which systems could potentially be affected in the event of a power outage, fire, flood, hurricane, or other disaster.
2) Prioritize Important Systems and Sensitive Data
All data are important, but some of them are more critical than the rest. Establishing priority is useful to ensure that you meet your data recovery goals. Of course, data that’s less important can be given low priority, meaning it can be assigned to a longer recovery schedule and doesn’t need to be backed up as frequently.
Conversely, critical data that is absolutely required to continue operations with minimum downtime—such as regulated data or customer personally identifiable information (PII)—should be given higher priority. This could mean assigning a faster recovery schedule and backing up high-priority data more often.
3) Run a Risk Analysis
Next, identify, and evaluate the risks associated with each type of disaster. Risk analysis should specify what could affect your assets and how. Common sources of risk include hardware, software, your employees, and data loss.
Risk analysis should largely focus on the following:
- Loss of sensitive data
- Loss of production capabilities
- Loss of IT/operating technology systems
When carrying out a risk analysis, cast a wide net that addresses all the disasters that you could conceivably encounter.
- Natural Disasters
Consider your data protections for a major natural calamity, such as earthquakes and floods. Do you have a data backup in the cloud or in another location? Are your critical systems located in a secured space that will be the least affected? Even if the location of your infrastructure makes it safe from earthquakes or hurricanes, there may be the risk of a secondary impact, like a water pipe bursting. Always take this into account when deciding the location of your servers.
- System Failure
The better your network monitoring and maintenance effort, the lower the chance that your network will experience catastrophic downtime. However, there will always be a risk of a machine crashing without any error messages or warning, or a serious software error detailing your workday, which is why any DR plan should include an evaluation of any sudden system failure.
- Cyber Attacks and Malicious Activities
Network intrusion by hackers is one of the major motivations for building a DRP. Any plan should include an analysis of how a conventional hacker could target your data inventory, while also looking at how malicious activity from an insider could damage or alter your business data.
- Accidental Errors
According to a 2022 Data Breach Incident Report by Verizon, 82% of data breaches are the result of human error. Even if your employees are trained and you’ve implemented all the most important safety protocols, it still doesn’t completely eliminate the risk of human error. An employee may unintentionally delete a critical file, click on a malicious link, or damage equipment by accident.
4) Establish Recovery Goals
Once your systems are down, knowing where to begin becomes more challenging. It is important to set up recovery goals to jumpstart your recovery efforts. When establishing recovery goals, outline your RTO and RPO.
- Recovery Time Objective (RTO)
This is the maximum acceptable amount of time your organization should need to restore its critical systems after a disaster. The RTO will vary from system to system, depending on its priority.
For example, a business that relies on database operations would give the shortest RTO to key applications such as its SQL Server. However, shipping software that helps deliver a product to customers could be assigned a longer RTO, as it may be essential but not critical to your overall organizational procedures.
- Recovery Point Objective (RPO)
This is the maximum amount of production data that it’s acceptable for an organization to lose when recovering from a disaster. For instance, an RPO of 60 minutes would require the system to backup new data every 60 minutes, so that if the system crashed, all data that’s more than 60 minutes old would be preserved.
5) Develop the Right Backup Technologies
Data recovery requires comprehensive backup systems to ensure that critical organizational data are available for restoration in case of data loss resulting from a disaster.
We recommend familiarizing yourself with the 3-2-1 backup strategy, which is a time-tested approach that ensures adequate protection and availability of data with up-to-date backup copies to ensure business continuity.
The basic concept of this strategy is based on replication. In this approach, there are three copies of data, two on-site data storage devices, and one copy in an off-site location. For instance, one copy of your data is on your computer, while the second copy is on an external hard drive. A third copy is kept in cloud storage, which continuously scans your computer and uploads the new data to the offsite cloud data center.
Your Disaster Recovery Service Partner in Ohio
There’s a part two of this guide coming soon, but if in the meantime you need help developing, implementing, or maintaining a disaster recovery plan, you should feel free to reach out to the Astute Technology Management team any time at 614 389 4102. We’re here to help companies in both Columbus and Cincinnati feel confident in the face of any IT problem!