Emergencies are unpredictable, but that doesn’t mean we can’t prepare for them. Their unpredictability is the main reason we must have assurance against bad outcomes. Emergency management mitigates the overall impact of a disaster, however drastic.
When you apply this to a business structure, it can be the difference between struggling through setbacks or making a speedy recovery. Business continuity, or the ability of your company to continue despite exposure to threats, relies heavily on your level of disaster preparedness.
Your organization should make intentional decisions about how it will survive in times of uncertainty. Once critical systems fail, this jeopardizes your client’s trust in your product. Your business will also struggle to recover from the setback, if it does at all.
Therefore, businesses need to create both prevention and recovery plans. These procedures include keeping the business operational during the disaster itself. As companies today depend more and more on technology in their everyday transactions, involving information technology in this plan is crucial.
What Is an IT Disaster Recovery Plan?
An IT disaster recovery plan is a documented methodical proposal for managing situations that occur in the event of natural or human-made disasters. The steps of a disaster recovery plan typically revolve around taking actions that help a business resume operations as quickly as possible. Business continuity systems stress the importance of a disaster recovery plan.
Such a method is fundamental to preventing or alleviating data loss and recovering systems. Therefore, disaster recovery plans must be developed in conjunction with business continuity systems.
Most or all businesses rely on technology for almost every operational process. Companies use technology like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and email every day to communicate effectively. Additionally, some organizations use electronic data interchange (EDI) to make electronic transactions — like invoices and payments — between partners.
Businesses implement servers that are capable of storing large amounts of data through the cloud or housing them physically to hold their most vital information and run processes efficiently. Laptop or desktop computers are also essential for most office spaces.
This technology may extend outside the office into wireless devices. But depending on the technology your business uses and the details of the disaster, your network could still be compromised. This issue is why the very first step in developing an IT disaster recovery plan should be identifying vulnerabilities and risks, as well as setting objectives for recovery.
Business Impact Analysis
Companies develop a business impact analysis to identify vulnerabilities and their effects. This analysis is another structured procedure for evaluating how a potential disaster will affect integral business processes. A business impact analysis, along with an IT disaster recovery plan, falls under the category of a business continuity plan. The evaluation works with the presumption that not all processes are critical — thus, it’s suitable to focus more attention on the most significant ones.
For example, a power supply failure in the coffee and lounge room of a company will not be as dire of a situation as the breakdown of the business’s information technology systems. Based on this analysis, companies can streamline decision-making by allocating the better part of funding and resources to their more crucial components.
Conducting a business impact analysis consists of gathering and evaluating data, preparing a report of your observations and presenting your research to the corresponding management team. Your business can decide to hire a third-party company to manage and collect information. The business impact analysis usually includes a survey or questionnaire to assess and identify the essential business operations that need preservation in the case of a disruption.
Once the business impact analysis is presented and closely scrutinized, several things need to be taken into account. Companies must consider the impact of revenue streams, market shares and public image, among other things.
Risk assessment is another major element of a disaster recovery plan. Also called a risk analysis, this assessment concentrates less on the loss of business and more on identifying the actual risks that might lead to that effect. Through risk analysis, organizations hope to mitigate these unfavorable effects when they do occur. A risk analysis must theorize the probability of an oncoming disaster as well as the potential harm a failure can bring.
Risk assessments have several important uses. Their primary purpose is to prepare and lessen the results of an adverse event. Secondly, they aid in evaluating whether the risks of any project are balanced by its advantages. Businesses must ask if a project is beneficial to the extent that the pros outweigh the cons in risky project development. Risk analyses also plan what happens if there is a software or hardware failure, even if the cause isn’t natural.
Risk assessments are imperative in the recovery process. During the analysis, businesses must quantify how the aftermath of such a failure will change the company’s future — this means preparing for when new competitors gain popularity in the industry or when governments place legal restrictions on the market, for example.
Like the business impact analysis, a risk assessment will typically begin with a survey asking for collective inputs about potential risks and threats. Next, the evaluation identifies and analyzes risks. The analysis involves figuring the likelihood of a risk and its outcome. The final steps begin with developing and implementing a risk management plan — this policy should take specific measures to eliminate or reduce risk.
Finally, your business should keep a close eye on the risks identified and classify future risks that arise.
How Does Disaster Recovery Work?
Disaster recovery itself needs to heed the groundwork of both the business impact analysis and the risk assessment. At the same time, an IT disaster recovery plan accounts for the specific risks and impacts related to the business’s IT structure. Recovery policies should anticipate the loss of any technological frameworks.
Computer environments, hardware, service connectivity, software and data stores should all be taken into consideration. For these frameworks, disasters and failures of several varieties can occur, including application, communication, data center, building, campus, citywide, regional, national or international.
Disaster Recovery Plan Objectives
Two principal models account for the disaster recovery plan objectives. These objectives ensure a well-ordered system for disaster preparation. They emphasize a business’s initiative in preparing for the worst, ultimately diminishing the damage that would occur if not for strategic planning. The two main disaster recovery plan objectives are:
- Recovery time objective: Recovery time objective (RTO) refers to the amount of downtime a business can tolerate if a system fails. You can measure this duration in hours, minutes or seconds. As downtime disrupts critical operations, it can affect a business’s revenue and reputation. In 2019, 25 percent of companies worldwide reported that an hour of downtime cost them between $301,000 and $400,000. This objective is determined by the particular equipment vulnerable to failure and the redundancies set aside for them.
- Recovery point objective: Recovery point objective (RPO) is a measure of the age of recovered files. When a system fails, system administrators must recover records from backup storage. Though businesses should strive to back up their data frequently, it’s unlikely your business will have backed up its data without having prior knowledge of an upcoming disaster. For that reason, files will be at least a little bit aged.
RPO is expressed backward from the point of failure, as in five days ago or 24 hours ago, for instance. After your business designates an RPO, you’ll need to schedule backups around it. That means if your business’s RPO is 120 hours, you’ll need to back up the system every 120 hours.
Objectives are not the only elements of how disaster recovery works. Alongside a disaster recovery plan is a disaster recovery strategy. The key difference between the two is that a recovery strategy defines in general terms what businesses should do in response to an incident. A recovery plan describes how exactly this plan is executed. Recovery plans build upon the foundation of recovery strategies.
What Is a Disaster Recovery Strategy?
Recovery strategies must recognize the many factors that go into the restoration process. These include budget, insurance, technology, data, suppliers, compliance requirements, employees and physical facilities. The appropriate management team should approve recovery strategies, so the organization can take a position on the associated risks. The recovery strategy needs to be in line with your company’s goals. Similar to business impact analyses, a recovery strategy can be internal or vendor-supported.
For backup purposes, an internal recovery strategy might be holding business hardware in multiple locations. The data at each location, including the principal source, should be replicas of one another. This way, there won’t be any complications restoring backups. A vendor-supported recovery might rely on hot sites or fully functional third-party data centers. These sources often possess unique equipment that can salvage or store resources once a disaster strikes. Vendors can also host data streams, data security services and applications.
You can access the information stored by vendors via the internet on an internal or external website. The vendor can hold data automatically once an outage occurs. They will store this information until you can adequately restore your system. Vendors sometimes offer data filtering and malware detection as well.
What Is a Disaster Recovery Plan?
A disaster recovery plan should be customized depending on the environment that would need restoration when a disaster occurs. Given the range of modern technology, there is a diverse range of recovery plans you can arrange, including:
- Data centers: This plan should detail how to recover technological infrastructure, namely data centers. Since data centers manage major business information, the risk assessment should play a pivotal part in this plan. Organizations need to consider geographical location, power supply, security enforcements and office space.
- Network: Network disaster recovery plans are just as elaborate as those of data centers, if not more. A business’s network can consist of various features and interconnections. This plan is best organized with the help of professional IT staff. Because of its complexity, the system needs to be in a step-by-step format and receive regular updates.
- Cloud-based: Storing data and running software through the cloud has been an increasingly popular method of cutting infrastructure costs and opting for remote computing. However, even the cloud faces some threats. Security is the most significant concern for cloud servers. Deliberate and repeated testing can relieve this concern and sustain future data loss caused by a disaster.
- Virtualization: Virtualized systems like a virtual machine or desktop can ease much of the worry in a disaster scenario. A virtual environment can initiate the recovery process in minutes, decreasing downtime. Virtual systems are also the optimal environment for testing. Virtualized disaster recovery plans mostly need to ascertain that applications can return to normal operations following restoration.
IT Disaster Recovery Checklist
An IT disaster recovery plan can be simple and straightforward if your business doesn’t require anything more than the fundamental elements. Preparation is paramount, so creating an IT disaster recovery plan checklist can be your first step to safeguarding your company:
- Establish the scope of recovery: What hardware and software will your business need to recover if a disaster occurs? To what extent can you restore these systems?
- Be familiar with the network infrastructure: You may accomplish this through documentation or personal examination. Networks can be very intricate, so your business needs to be sure of what it will include in a recovery plan.
- Define RPOs and RTOs: Your business can manipulate its control over the situation if it has managed expectations for downtime and data loss. Be cognizant of your tolerance for these issues.
- Employ analyses and risk assessments: Use a business impact analysis and risk assessment to identify serious threats and business affairs. You’ll need to choose the most critical business operations to maintain. Calculate the figurative and literal costs of operation failure.
- Investigate past disasters: Look at past disasters and analyze how your business recovered from them. Naturally, this will serve as a starting point for a more exhaustive IT disaster recovery plan.
- Build a disaster recovery strategy: As discussed, this is your business’s broad response to an incident or outage. These strategies are eminent in building the final disaster recovery plan.
- Decide who is responsible: Assign responsibilities to members within your organization for specific recovery procedures. Doing this might involve establishing an incident response team — a group of IT specialists who have expertise in handling issues related to disaster recovery. This team should test for vulnerabilities and create an incident response plan for security attacks.
- Conduct a review: Have your management review and approve the disaster recovery plan. These individuals should have input on the matter. These team members should know the risks outlined in the restoration procedures, so they can remove some of these points if applicable.
- Organize a communication plan: A communication plan should delineate how your business will communicate updates and alerts during a crisis. As an illustration, email is usually reliable during normal business operations. However, a disaster can endanger employees, and you should use a more immediate means of contact. The response team also needs to communicate amongst themselves and stay up to date with helpful information.
- Do tests: Test the disaster discovery plan at regular intervals and update it if necessary. Doing this enables you to make timely modifications instead of discovering faults during the time of disaster.
- Audit your disaster recovery plan: This step means making official and accessible documentation. These documents will go into detail about the procedures and practices that employees and administrators should enact in case of a disaster.
- Revise your SLAs: Include information about your IT disaster recovery plan in your company’s service-level agreements (SLAs). SLAs offer a promise to clients that you will meet a specific standard of service. Providers should be transparent with clients about how these standards might change, if at all, in case of circumstance.
Tips for Your Organization
While the basic principles of an IT disaster recovery plan may be straightforward, productively applying these directives can be difficult — this is because your business has to build a recovery plan that works intuitively with its available resources. Additionally, your company has to be practical about taking measures for disaster preparation. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
1. Be Transparent
It pays to be honest. Although every business is eager to make their clients happy, set performance standards for your company that you can keep up with. Do not make promises to a client that you can get your server up and running in hours if you need to negotiate maintenance plans with a third-party vendor. When it is possible to make enthusiastic promises, do so. When it is not, balance customers’ expectations with what you can accomplish, given your budget and resources.
2. Stay Within Budget
Small businesses are accustomed to having to stretch their budgets to accommodate advanced systems. Your business should be creative about the resources it already has. Rather than investing in out-of-budget software or hardware, your organization can use incremental backups to make up for any disparities. Cloud computing is an excellent way to address the risk of data loss, as well. It is usually cost-effective and encryption-compatible.
3. Consider Relevant Business Measures
Note the key measures in disaster recovery plans — detection, prevention and correction. Detective measures alert the relevant team of vulnerabilities in your IT systems. Vulnerabilities can be anything from an out-of-date firewall system to broken sprinklers. Detecting these problems early on means you can direct attention toward fixing them. Preventative measures stop dilemmas from happening in the first place. An example of a preventative plan would be to prepare backups to prevent data loss.
Finally, corrective actions deal with the follow-up of a disaster — amending systems that sustained damage. Insurance and disaster recovery audits fall under this category.
Work With an IT Expert
Businesses work with substantial amounts of data. If these files are compromised, it could result in the undoing of a successful company. Every type of organization can benefit from an IT disaster recovery plan. Technology has numerous niches in almost every business. It aids in communication, daily operations, data storage and more. Therefore, applying a recovery plan is an indispensable facet of running your organization. But you don’t have to tackle a disaster alone.
Morefield Communications can help you by managing and maintaining your computer systems professionally and aptly. We are dedicated to giving you solutions-focused service that will address a combination of personal risks.
Our services include network management and systems technical support. Your network can trust in 24-hour service, and your technology will remain consistently current. We’ll even provide new technology, so you can rest assured that you’re working with the best products for your business.