5 Essential elements of an IT disaster recovery plan

Here's how to create a disaster recovery plan tailor-made for your business

As the digital landscape grows and evolves without missing a beat, businesses worldwide receive new shiny IT toys to nudge their business growth in the right direction. All this progress served the business world tremendously, producing new channels for sales, streamlining workflows, and automating tedious routine procedures. So, it is safe to say that technology is your friend when you try to establish and grow your business. 

However, with this rising tide of technology reliance, new digital risks are actively creeping up on your safety. From malicious attacks to natural disasters or plain old human errors, the risks of having highly digitized business processes have become too significant and too costly to avoid. The heart of the issue is your most precious resource - data! Each company with high IT dependency inherently risks losing all of its crucial information in a data disaster. All it takes is a single breach in your digital ecosystem to erase or damage your vital data and endanger your business continuity. As dire as the situation might seem, there are reliable, cost-effective methods to avoid such disasters and ensure digital security. You need an air-tight DRP (Disaster Recovery Plan) ready to execute! 

Today, we will discuss what makes a perfect DRP and how you can implement it without spending a small fortune! If you want to develop a solid DR plan for your company and do not know where to start, here are 5 key elements of building a fail-proof disaster recovery system.  

Create a disaster recovery team

Much like every other complex methodology, a great DRP starts with assembling an expert team of disaster recovery specialists. Whether this team is in-house or outsourced depends on your scope and business circumstances. If your company is an SME, managed service provider companies could swiftly accommodate your requirements. But if your size goes beyond a medium-sized business, you can not go wrong with having at least a small department focused on DRP. After you have decided on the best-fitting approach for your budget, now comes the time for assigning appropriate roles and responsibilities. A clear segregation of duties for a disaster recovery team will maximize your disaster readiness. 

There are two crucial aspects to consider - 

1. Ensure that your DR team possesses the expertise to handle a diverse set of wide-spread data disasters. As we have discussed above, data loss can come in many shapes and formes, and you your team needs appropriate experience and knowledge it takes to combat all of these unfortunate probabilities. 

2. Educate each employee in your company on how to contact a DR team. Remember, your finest disaster recovery efforts will go to waste if your end users do not recognize and report the data loss in a timely manner. Every end-user within your workflow must have a DR team contact information so they can act swiftly and give you a mich higher chance for comprehensive recovery. 

The team assembly process is one of the essential steps in cementing your disaster recovery capabilities. An adept DR team will shield you from countless data-loss scenarios and seamlessly maintain your disaster defenses on the highest level. 

Determine and analyze disaster risks

After constructing a dream team of DR specialists, their first assignment is clear-cut - assess your company’s unique situation and highest probable disaster risks. Every business has different weaknesses when it comes to data-loss possibilities. Analyzing your specific digital ecosystem will help you narrow down plausible weak points and optimize your disaster recovery plan. With these insights, your DR team will know what to plan for and derive a reliable recovery strategy against each disaster scenario. After your DR team completes the risk analysis, you will have a feasible estimate of the time and money you need to augment your company’s disaster responses. 

When constructing a perfect recovery plan, your team should consider several important factors, for example, business RTO (Recovery Time Objective). RTO is the maximum amount of time your digital ecosystem can stay shut down without causing any lasting damage to your sales, reputation, and business continuity in general. Therefore, no recovery strategy should take longer than an optimal RTO metric from start to finish. 

Once your DR team deftly analyses every likely data loss hazard and comes up with feasible projections to mitigate them, you can move into arguably the most significant phase of DRP implementation. 

Identify critical applications and essential resources for business continuity

With your unique company structure, workflow, customer relationships, and other crucial variables, you are ever so slightly different from other companies in the world. Thus, each company has its distinct priorities when it comes to digital security. The end goal in this phase of DRP is to optimize your disaster recovery efforts. Most companies do not have the luxury to plan for every possible data-loss scenario for every conceivable IT component in their business. Identifying the most influential applications, databases, and resources will help your disaster recovery team to defend what actually matters for your company.

After pinning down the essential digital assets for your business continuity, you need actionable strategies on how to keep them alive once the disaster strikes. The difficulty of achieving this can vary dramatically from case to case. Some systems can stay shut down for a while before they lead to severe losses. Other modules, like customer relationship software or inventory management tools, might need to get back on their feet almost instantly. So, every organization must have a firm grasp of the RTO metric of their essential digital assets. That will enable you to wisely allocate your disaster recovery resources toward time-sensitive digital assets, letting you ensure business continuity without any irreversible losses. 

Your clear-cut priority here is ensuring the short-term continuity of your mission-critical business tasks. Short-term perseverance will naturally lead you to big-picture recovery, giving you plenty of time and resources to recover your peak abilities. So, a perfect analysis of your digital assets will let you plan around their possible failures and help you stay prepared for even the wildest data accidents coming your way. 

Have a rock-solid backup and off-site storage failsafe

Now that you comprehensively understand your business-vital applications, documents, and resources, it is time to build some air-tight backup systems. Backups are a crucial ingredient in keeping your business running smoothly through storms. If you diligently set up backups for every vital resource in your company, you can comfortably withstand even the most crippling data disasters. Whatever accident occurs, your company will have dependable data copies ready to put in the work instead of the originals. That is the power of backups! And you should spare no expenses to implement them effectively. 

In most cases, backups and recovery plans should target your inventory records, customer and vendor information, and crucial financial data. Depending on your specific business needs, this list could be much longer. So, you must carefully analyze what data you can live without for a brief period. However, backups go much deeper than just securing your business continuity plan. Most data disasters result in irreparable damages, erasing the damaged data from the face of the earth once and for all. Therefore, we suggest increasing your backup budget to cover almost all your data centers. Since additional storage costs for data backups do not cost nearly as much as the first setup, it will take you a fraction of the initial budget to failproof up to 80% of your digital resources. 

The crucial metric when determining the extent of backups is RPO (Recovery Point Objective). RPO is the maximum amount of data you can lose without endangering your core business activities. So, when dealing with a tight budget, you can take it easy with every database that falls outside the calculated RPO. However, considering that most companies are unable to properly analyze their optimal RPO, you should always aim wide in terms of what data you can comfortably lose to a disaster. 

Another critical topic is having off-site backups. Now, we have entered a double-check phase for the DRP. “But why do I need off-site backups if I have a rock-solid DR plan ready to execute?” - the answer is simple. Disaster recovery still highly depends on the end-use reaction speed and other unpredictable variables, so it’s not very rare for a DR plan to fail outright. Thus, to guarantee your swift recovery, you need a backup plan to your backup plan! That is where off-site comes in. Every document, resource, and data center should be stored outside your company premises. This approach is especially effective in the unfortunate case of a natural disaster that could physically wipe out your servers and hardware without a chance of repair. Off-site backups are effectively safe from any disaster strike, giving you a lifeline in the gravest of situations. With a swift recovery process in place, your company will live on even in the face of the most devastating data loss scenarios! 

Continuously test and update DRP

We have almost accomplished constructing a perfect DRP! Up to this point, we have assembled an expert team of recovery specialists, analyzed the most probable disaster scenarios, identified the crucial assets to defend from such disasters, and implemented appropriate on-site and off-site backup procedures! Now, all that is left is to keep up the good work and maintain our defensive abilities in top shape! 

It is no secret that a successful, growing business is constantly changing and evolving like a living organism. To keep up with the competition, you must actively update your IT tools, customer channels, workflow software, and numerous other variables. The continual shape-shifting of your IT infrastructure opens your company up to brand-new data disaster challenges. DRP is not a one-off expenditure that will yield value forever!

Therefore, your DR team should systematically re-analyze and update the existing disaster recovery plans. Do not make the common mistake of setting up your DRP once and thinking that your data is safe in perpetuity. It is not! New threats will pop up almost every month, and you need to refocus your DR efforts to stay shielded from business-stopping scenarios. The continuous upgrades might sometimes prove costly, but they ensure that your existing DRP is not becoming obsolete. 

Creating DRP is not easy, but you have great alternatives!

Covering all key components of a successful DRP leads to a logical conclusion for newcomers - “Disaster recovery planning is a huge hassle!” If you had the same idea pop into your head, don’t worry! DRP is indeed a sizeable undertaking for any small to medium company. Thus, at the end of our crash course in DRPs, we want to let you know that there is a cost-effective way to negate data disasters in your company! 

The heightened reliance on technology for businesses did not just bring new challenges and risks to the market. It also introduced a sturdy new industry of companies specializing in providing all-inclusive IT services. These MSPs (Managed Service Companies) are experts at helping you improve, maintain, and secure your IT infrastructure. One of their most popular services is comprehensive DRP implementation and support. 

MSPs are a match made in heaven for smaller entities that want to secure their data without skyrocketing their expenses. They carefully analyze your company’s specific circumstances and identify the biggest threats to your data integrity. In the event of a disaster, the MSP will execute every required protocol and provide comprehensive assistance, delivering the same quality of service as a fully-fledged in-house team. 

Since disaster recovery planning and execution do not require everyday attention, it makes much more sense to hire an outside company to do all the work for you. A dedicated in-house team for DRP will require a full-time salary and human resources, which might prove wasteful in most circumstances. Therefore, unless you have a colossal amount of data to back up and a gigantic IT infrastructure, an outsourced DRP is the way to go! 

However, you should still wisely decide what MSP partner you should choose. Disaster recovery requires precision and lightning-fast response time. Even with cutting-edge decryption tools, an unresponsive MSP might cause you to lose your vital data permanently! So, make sure that your MSP of choice has flawless communication and response capabilities. An ideal communication plan should include pre-determined response speed and crystal-clear contact options for your employees. Remember, when disaster strikes, there is no time to waste! 

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