A natural disaster, cyberattack, or prolonged power outage can be devastating for an unprepared business, resulting in lost customers, corrupted data, and reduced performance. While it’s impossible to prepare for every scenario, having a disaster recovery plan gives your business a fighting chance by outlining strategies to minimize the effects of a disaster and restore operations.
Creating a set of formal disaster recovery strategies can feel overwhelming as it requires you to consider every aspect of your business and how a disaster will affect it. But when disaster strikes, having these strategies in place can mean the difference between your business carrying on or shutting your doors for good.
What Is a Disaster Recovery Plan?
A disaster recovery plan (DRP) is a set of procedures that outlines strategies to respond to disasters. While the plan must have procedures to minimize the damage from a disaster, the core of a good DRP is determining how to promote recovery after the event.
A comprehensive disaster plan must account for artificial and natural disasters, including:
- Hacking or cyber attacks
- Equipment failure
- Power outages
- Data loss
- Other events that can severely impede business operations
Why You Need a Disaster Recovery Plan
Typically, a DRP forms part of a larger business continuity plan and ensures that a business can continue operations despite the challenges imposed by natural and artificial disasters. While the focus is on recovery, disaster recovery strategies provide many additional benefits to the organization, including:
- Cost-effectiveness: DRPs usually include protocols for preventing and reducing risks to core business systems. A side-effect of this is that these protocols usually improve the cost-efficiency of these systems by identifying problems before they happen and maintaining hardware and software in optimal running condition. Many protocols focus on moving and storing data in secure locations, often in cloud-based solutions, reducing the need for backups and server maintenance.
- Improved customer retention: Customers are generally unforgiving of data breaches, extended downtime, or sensitive data losses. By continuing to provide service through the disaster, your business can keep an available revenue stream and improve customer loyalty.
- Compliance: Several industries require companies to meet certain uptime, security, privacy, and availability goals. A DRP is essential in complying with industry regulators such as HIPAA and FINRA.
Key Elements in a Disaster Recovery Plan
Recovery Time Objective and Recovery Point Objective
Any good plan starts with explicitly stated goals. The goal of a DRP is to get your business up and running as quickly as possible, and the two most common metrics used in a recovery strategy are the recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO).
The RTO addresses the maximum downtime the company can afford before restoring normal operations, while the RPO provides the maximum amount of data the company can afford to lose.
These two goals establish clear limits of what the recovery plan has to achieve to be successful and keep your business open.
Employees must know what to do in the event of a disaster. A DRP must assign roles to individuals to manage disaster recovery procedures and their contact details. Key responsibilities include:
- Maintaining business continuity systems and system backups
- Declaring a disaster
- Contacting third-party vendors
- Reporting to management
- Reporting and liaising with press and customers
- Crisis management and disaster recovery
Current IT Inventory
The inventory must contain current information about all hardware, software, and third-party assets necessary for business operations. Most DRPs divide these into three categories:
- Business critical assets that are essential for business operations
- Important assets that the business uses daily and the loss of which will prevent normal operations
- Unimportant assets that the business uses infrequently
Disaster recovery strategies should focus on critical assets first, followed by important and unimportant assets.
This section should cover how the business manages the backup of every data resource. It should detail where and how backups occur and recovery strategies for each resource.
Adequate preparation and backup strategies can help businesses recover from disasters more effectively, as much of the hard work is already done. You can perform these backups in-house or outsource them as part of a package of managed services by Herrod Technologies for added peace of mind.
While the backup section focuses on mitigating the effects of a disaster before it happens, this section looks at what steps the organization should take during a disaster. These typically include:
- Last-minute backup strategies
- Mitigation procedures
- Damage limitation
- Eradication of threats
Disaster Recovery Sites
The DRP must outline where the company stores its assets and if/where it will move assets during a disaster. These sites include:
- Hot sites: These contain all of the IT infrastructure, equipment, personnel, and data backups to immediately restore business operations.
- Warm sites: These contain enough resources to run business-critical systems but cannot restore all business operations.
- Cold sites: Generally, data stores that cannot run business systems without downtime.
Sensitive Data Identification
Sensitive data includes information such as personally identifiable information, credit card holder information, intellectual property, and other information that can harm a business if mishandled.
As part of compliance with privacy regulations, businesses must have a section dedicated to how the company handles this data during normal operations and disasters. The DRP must include who has access to the data, specialized backup procedures, and potential ways disasters can affect this information.
Steps in Disaster Recovery Plan Development
While every organization is different and faces unique risks and challenges, drawing up a disaster recovery plan usually follows a set path of the following steps:
- Risk assessment
- Critical needs evaluation
- Setting disaster plan recovery objectives, including RPOs and RTOs
- Collection of vital information such as backup schedules, inventories, and personnel roles and responsibilities
- Drafting of procedures for system restoration or recovery
- Testing and revision
Now that you understand the importance of disaster recovery for businesses, it’s time to develop your disaster recovery strategies. Our Herrod Technology team has extensive experience helping businesses prepare for the worst, and we’re ready to do the same for you. Schedule a consultation call and discover how our services can keep your business safe.