A Guide To The Ultimate Disaster Recovery Plan

A Guide To The Ultimate Disaster Recovery Plan

Your business relies heavily on technology as are all businesses around the world at the moment. We are the first to recognize how important technology is, we’re literally dependent on it. 

But, at the same time, we also know technology comes with lots of potential risks and vulnerabilities that can lead to downtime and financial loss. Things like natural disasters, cyber attacks, and equipment failures can really break your business. 

If you’ve ever had an “Oh no, did I just delete that?” moment or watched the news and seen companies struggling with data breaches, then you understand how crucial is to have a rock-solid disaster recovery plan (DRP) in place. 

Now, what goes into an ultimate DRP? This insurance you hope you never need but are so grateful for when you do?

Well, this next guide will walk you through the key steps and best practices for putting together the best plan.

First, let’s see what actually is a disaster recovery plan. 

What exactly is a Disaster Recovery Plan?

Let’s start with the basics, right? At its core, a Disaster Recovery Plan is actually a blueprint. This is meant to provide the steps your business needs to take when faced with disruptions or crises, such as technical failures, human errors, natural disasters, or cyber-attacks. 

The goal of having such a plan in place? Minimize your downtime, protect data integrity, and ensure business continuity.  Now, let’s talk a bit more about DRS’s importance. 

Why it’s important to have a bulletproof DRS?

When a crisis hits, an efficient disaster recovery plan will help lower the potential damage, disruption, and chaos. It will give you and your team peace of mind to know that the company can handle whatever comes its way – from natural disasters to IT outages and everything in between. You’ve got the plan in place with the right steps to follow. This will help all of you be prepared for the unexpected and also bounce back quicker. 

Now, of course, disasters often mean financial losses, from lost revenue to extra costs for repairs and operational expenses. If you have a great plan in place it will limit the way a specific event can affect your business by keeping downtime short and giving the steps to follow.

By laying out how to properly back up and securely store critical data offsite, these plans will also help your business stay compliant with regulatory standards in your industry and boost your cyber security

So, you see, a DRP is in fact this battle-tested playbook of possible risks your team can follow when and if a crisis hits. 

Now that we understand these must-know basics, it’s time to start putting together your Disaster Recovery Plan. 

Identify potential risks

Every business is unique, and so are its vulnerabilities. That’s why first you have to do an in-depth risk assessment. What are the potential threats? How severe are their impacts? This isn’t a fun exercise, but it’s crucial. It’s about understanding your weakest links.

So, think about what could disrupt your business operations. Consider where you’re located, the tech you rely on, the rules you’ve got to follow, and other specifics that could shed light on potential hazards. 

The usual suspects can include:

  • Severe weather events like blizzards, floods or hurricanes that damage facilities. So, if your sites are in a hurricane alley? Well, then that’s a big risk.
  • IT system failures from things like electrical outages, hardware crashes, and network attacks. 
  • Malicious cyber attacks like data breaches or ransomware that encrypt critical data. 
  • Supply chain disruptions that cut off essential equipment, materials, or services.
  • Then there are the accidental human errors, like file deleting or corruption. It happens to the best of us.

Now that you know what could be the biggest risks for your business, you need to identify exactly how all these might impact your main operations. Have a talk about it with your people, from the IT to the legal teams, and start mapping out your DRP.

Define recovery time objectives / RTO

Once you’ve ID’ed your biggest risk events, you need to break down and set “recovery time objectives” (or RTO) for critical systems and processes. 

RTOs determine how quickly you need to bounce back and be up and running again without losing too many of the crucial aspects that make your business unique.

Here are some examples for setting RTOs:

  • Restore corporate email within 2 hours
  • Get manufacturing back online within 24 hours
  • Recover core financial data within 4 hours

The idea is this: set shorter RTOs for the aspects that are critical and longer ones for less crucial things. 

But, and this is very important, always make sure your RTOs are based on actual business impact data, so you’re not setting yourself up for unrealistic timeframes.

Identify potential risks for Disaster Recovery Plan

Create a detailed response plan

Now comes the fun part – writing down your game plan for response during different disaster scenarios. 

Here’s what you need to cover on your checklist:

  • Emergency response to protect people, data, and property when incidents happen. And this should only be about the tech part, but also if you need to make a quick exit. So, plan out those escape routes and have evacuation drills too. 
  • Internal and external communications plans for informing employees, clients, vendors, media and more.
  • Roles and responsibilities for response teams across IT, facilities, execs, legal, finance, HR, etc. Who’s doing what?
  • Technical processes for restoring data and apps from backup. Make sure you also test those backups from time to time! 
  • Contingency plans that allow workarounds if your systems are down. Maybe it’s time to go back to old-school manual processing.

One thing to remember is to make sure you dive into those details on how exactly your business will react to each disaster risk you defined above. Having this mapped will give you and your team a roadmap to navigate when chaos strikes.

Read more: 5 Myths About Cyber Security Explained

Develop a strong backup strategy

One important aspect that you may not think it’s important for your DRP is your backup strategy. Yes, your recovery speed fully depends on having critical data and apps backed up and ready to go. 

Let’s break down your options:

  • Daily tape backups stored offsite in case your main locations are damaged
  • Cloud-based backup for fast restoral of files, servers, apps
  • Local redundant systems or storage at another site
  • Snapshots and mirrors of key databases

Now, once you regularly schedule some of these backups, make sure you also test out restoring from those backups. This way you can spot any gaps that’ll slow you down when recovering from real crises. And remember, redundancy is key!

Point a dedicated disaster recovery team

Let’s talk teams now, because, of course, you need to point out the people who are going to handle things when a crisis hits. 

So, you need to decide on who will be in the following teams:

  • The incident response team: These are your go-to people when things go sideways, they will be the ones ready to lead. You need to think of everyone, from the IT to the people who know every corner of your office space.
  • The decision-makers: These are the executives who make strategy calls and budget approvals during a longer disruption. In other words, they are the ones to decide on the game plan, handle budgets, and generally steer the ship during crises. 
  • Plan B spaces: If your main offices aren’t accessible anymore, you need to map out backup work locations. So, have a plan B in place for switching your work to them rapidly. A bit of upfront planning can save a whole lot of panic later.
Conduct regular tests for Disaster Recovery Plan

Conduct regular tests

No plan is bulletproof until tested. To make sure your DRP survives first contact with the wild, unpredictable world of a disaster, run regular tests so your business is ready to face all kinds of crises.

  • Start with tabletop exercises and run through disaster scenarios and responses. It’s a “What could go wrong?” type of exercise, where you discover potential things that could go wrong and the best responses.
  • As we already said above, you need to run tests to check how restoring your data from backups actually works. This is to make sure that what’s written in the guidebook works seamlessly in the real world.
  • Simulate workarounds and location/technology failovers. If a system’s down, how do you keep the business running? So, explore those mock failovers and see what you learn from them. 

The whole idea behind these tests and training is to identify the weak points of your plan and understand more about your business needs.

Continue to monitor and improve

Creating a disaster recovery plan is just the first step, monitoring and improving it is key to keeping it strong. While you can build the best plan, the world and tech around it don’t stand still. 

That means you need to update it from time to time. So, set some yearly reminders to reassess and tune up your plan.

Here are some of the things you need to watch for:

  • New office spaces or infrastructure that may need different backup/recovery tactics.
  • Team members changing roles – make sure everyone still knows who does what during response.
  • New cyber threats that may not be addressed in the current plan.
  • New rules and regulations related to your business continuity.
  • Outdated technology – if it’s not serving your business anymore, maybe it’s time for an upgrade.
  • Changes in how your team works, such as remote employees.

In short, you need to spot what’s changed and update your plan accordingly. And remember, it’s all about finding the right balance. You should follow the fundamental steps of your plan while being flexible enough to adapt as new threats and tech appear. 

Also, bring in some fresh eyes from different departments. A different perspective can spot aspects you might’ve missed. In this ever-changing world of risks and tech, annual tune-ups are the key to resilience.

Let’s sum up

Creating the ultimate disaster recovery plan is almost like mapping out a journey. The more detailed your map, the better prepared you are to face and overcome unexpected obstacles. 

In today’s fast-paced digital age, being armed with a solid DRP is not just smart, it’s absolutely essential. 

We hope this article inspired you to start creating one. And if you already have one, maybe it’s time for an update. Either way, it’s best to be prepared and stay proactive.