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Businesses use IT in almost every aspect of their operations. They store data on the cloud or provide services and products through cloud software. Their reliance on IT means that they cannot afford to lose access to their systems due to natural or man-made disasters.
Natural disasters might include floods, fires, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Additionally, man-made disasters like cyberattacks and civil unrest. Businesses need to prepare for these eventualities by developing disaster recovery (DR) plans.
Without a DR plan, businesses stand to lose all their IT infrastructure. This could mean the end of the business or an expensive restoration process.
What is Disaster Recovery?
DR is a set of procedures and policies that outline what a business needs to do in the event of a disaster. This includes developing methods of restoring hardware, software, and data for the business’s critical operations. It focuses on the IT infrastructure of a business and not the entirety of business functions.
DR assumes that the primary site of business is unrecoverable, and operations need to continue at a secondary site. It is the process of continuing and restoring critical aspects of IT infrastructure. For example, a business could have a secondary work site, which has similar hardware and software to the original site. Cloud-backups of data could also be sent there.
For businesses to develop a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP), they need to do a Business Impact Analysis. The analysis comprises an assessment of critical business hardware, software, and data.
A DR team needs to determine the impact that a loss to these critical aspects would have on the business. For instance, if the staff loses access to an application, the business needs to look at a similar application for the staff to use.
During the Business Impact Analysis, DR teams have to establish the recovery time objectives (RTO) and recovery point objectives (RPO) of these parts of the business. The RTO is the maximum amount of time it takes for a business process to recover and resume operation. The RPO dictates the threshold between the last backup of processes and the resumption of operations.
A DR team needs to consider the RPO and RTO and the risk analysis of business operations. A combination of these metrics allows them to employ cost-effective DR strategies to keep the plan within the IT budget.
Elements of a Disaster Recovery Plan
A DR plan stems from the results of a Business Impact and Risk Analysis of the business’s critical systems. DR planning is a subcategory of business continuity, which focuses on protocols, strategies, and instructions on resuming and restoring IT systems.
These systems are hardware (employee computers, servers), data (client lists, ledgers), networking (server access, communication platforms), software (applications, cloud), and others.
There are three main DR measures that a business should implement. These include:
- Prevention: a set of rules that minimize the risk of a disaster impacting a business’s operations.
- Detection: strategies for monitoring and finding potential threats to the continuity of operations.
- Correction measures: what steps need to be followed for the business to recover from a recent disaster.
A DR team consults the IT budget of the business to determine which measures to incorporate. They also conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine the scope of each measure.
DR teams need to employ these measures in a DRP and develop tests to assess the effectiveness of their strategies. Employees can do paper tests where they review the procedures and provide the DR team with feedback. DR teams can also run simulations where they create the conditions of a disaster and test the business’s responsiveness.
They also need to document the test results to finetune each measure to ensure that the plan conforms to the RPO and RTO of critical operations.
The Importance of Disaster Recovery
Businesses rely on IT systems more and more. Most of them store client information digitally and use software to provide services to their customers. If a business loses access to their IT systems, any prolonged downtime leads to loss of profit and business reputation.
Many businesses that do not have a DRP suffer major losses to business continuity. Some companies may survive a disaster but then fail within the next few years. Other businesses do not and never recover from a disaster.
That is why businesses need to develop a DRP to ensure that the business can quickly recover and continue operations without the fear of shutting down.
A Guide and Checklist for Your Disaster Recovery Plan
A business first needs to build a DR team, which consists of managers and experts in the business. They perform a business impact analysis before drafting a plan. This ensures that the DR team knows which IT operations are vital.
Next, the team needs to determine the RPO and RTO of these operations and develop strategies around these metrics. The strategies must fit within the business’s IT budget.
Once the team has determined the RPO, RTO, and DR strategies, they can outline procedures for backing up data, communication, secondary site availability, and employee roles during a disaster.
A DR team needs to compile an inventory of all hardware, software, and data needed for critical operations. This includes employee workstations, servers, vital applications, and any business-related data.
Furthermore, they need to identify which hardware and software in the inventory are vital for operations. For example, an on-site server or any applications needed to provide services or products.
The team needs to ensure that they use uniform hardware across the business for easy replacement and monitoring. Business software also needs to be compatible with the uniform hardware so that employees can effortlessly reinstall any necessary software.
After that, DR teams need to develop a data backup plan. They need to decide on how to backup critical data and whether they should employ a cloud-backup solution or a physical (external hard drives, USB drives) backup. Finally, they need to consider using an outside MSP or an in-house backup solution to ensure all their systems and data are secure.
Finally, the DR team should document all aspects of the plan and test each measure regularly. DR teams need to ensure that RPO and RTO are constantly refined meaning downtime estimates become more accurate.
A Disaster Recovery Plan Checklist
Here is a quick checklist summarizing the above points so that businesses can ensure that they are prepared for disaster recovery.
- Build a DR team.
- Perform a business impact and risk analysis.
- Determine suitable DR strategies.
- Compile an inventory of all hardware, software, and data.
- Identify critical hardware, data, and software.
- Establish specific DR measures for the critical systems.
- Develop a data backup plan.
- Document and test backup plan and DR measures.
- Review and amend plans regularly.
Businesses rely on IT to provide services to their clients. They need servers and workstations to store important data. This makes disaster recovery vital because, with any loss to IT infrastructure, a business will face financial loss.
DR teams must implement their plan over months or even years to get an accurate picture of their preparedness for a disaster. This means that DR teams need to constantly review and revise their DRPs.