In any business, time is money. What may shock you is how much money that time is actually worth. According to Gartner, the average cost of one hour of downtime for a business is roughly $300,000. That’s $5,600 a minute. Multiply that out by the amount of time it takes to recover from data theft, sabotage, or a natural disaster, and you could easily be looking at millions of dollars in lost revenue. That is, unless you’ve planned ahead with an effective disaster recovery plan.
Even one hour of lost time due to a cyberattack or natural disaster could adversely affect your business operations. Read on to learn how to develop an effective disaster recovery plan so you can quickly rebound no matter what happens, including:
- Knowing what a disaster recovery plan is and why you need it.
- Developing an effective strategy.
- Identifying key roles.
- Prioritizing business operations and objectives.
- Deploying backups.
What Is a Disaster Recovery Plan?
A disaster recovery plan is made up of resources and processes that a business can use to restore apps, data, digital assets, equipment, and network operations in the event of any unplanned disruption.
Events such as natural disasters (floods, fires, earthquakes, etc.), theft, and cybercrime often interrupt business operations or restrict access to data. The goal of a disaster recovery plan is to get back up and running as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Some companies will choose to write their own disaster recovery plans, while others may contract with a managed service provider (MSP) specializing in disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS). Either way, crafting a disaster recovery plan that covers you for any contingency is crucial.
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Why Do You Need a Disaster Recovery Plan?
A disaster recovery plan is not just a good idea, it is an essential component of your business. Cybercrime is on the rise, targeting small and medium-sized businesses just as often as large corporations. According to Cybersecurity Magazine, 43% of recent data breaches affected small and medium-sized businesses. Additionally, you could be cut off from your data by power outages, hardware failure, data corruption, and natural occurrences that restrict IT workflows. So, why do you need a disaster recovery plan? A few key benefits rise to the top:
- Your disaster recovery plan will ensure business continuity in the case of a disaster. Imagine the confidence of knowing that no matter what happens, your business is prepared and can continue operations seamlessly.
- An effective disaster recovery plan will help you get back up and running faster and more efficiently.
- The plan also helps to communicate to your entire team, from top to bottom, what to do in the event of an emergency.
Writing a Disaster Recovery Plan: What Should Your Disaster Recovery Plan Include?
A solid disaster recovery plan should include five main elements, which we’ll detail below:
- An effective strategy.
- Key team members who can carry out the plan.
- Clear objectives and priorities.
- Solid backups.
- Testing protocols.
An Effective Strategy
One of the most critical aspects of your disaster recovery plan should be your strategy. Typically, the details of a disaster recovery plan include steps for prevention, preparation, mitigation, and recovery. Think about both the big picture and fine details when putting together the pieces.
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Some tips for creating an effective strategy include:
- Identify possible disasters. Consider the types of disasters your business may encounter and design your plan around those. Every business is susceptible to cybercrime, which should be a significant component of your plan. If your business is located in a disaster prone location, let that dictate your plan objectives.
- Plan for “minor” disasters. A “major” disaster like an earthquake could take out the entire office and on-premises infrastructure, but “minor” disasters can also be disruptive. Good employees make mistakes and delete things, and bad employees sometimes make worse mistakes. A disaster recovery plan protects you from those “minor” disasters as well.
- Create multiple disaster recovery plans. You may need to create different versions of your disaster recovery plan based on specific scenarios and the severity of the disaster. For example, you may need a plan that responds to a cyberattack and restores data quickly, while another plan may deal with hardware destruction and replacement rather than data restoration.
- Plan from your recovery backward. Think about what you need to accomplish with your disaster recovery and plan your backup routine to support it. Then, after your plan is written, go back and ensure that your backup routine follows the plan initiatives and accomplishes the goals in an acceptable time frame.
- Develop KPIs. Include critical key performance indicators (KPIs) in the plan, such as a recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO). RTO refers to how quickly you intend to restore your systems after a disaster, and RPO is the maximum amount of data loss you can safely incur.
Establish the Key Team Members and Their Roles and Hierarchy
Another crucial component of your disaster recovery plan is identifying key team members to carry out the instructions. You must clearly define roles and hierarchy for effectiveness. Consider the following when building your disaster recovery team:
- Communicate roles and hierarchy. Ensure that each team member knows their role in the plan and understands where they land in the hierarchy. Build in redundancy if a major player is unavailable.
- Develop a master contact list. Create a master list with updated contact information for each team member and update it regularly as things change. Be sure the list includes everyone’s cell phone and landline numbers (if applicable) and emergency contacts for each person. Don’t assume you will have working internet and consider alternative ways to reach critical team members in the middle of the night.
- Plan on how to manage your team. Think about how you will stay organized and manage your team to function 24/7 until you resolve the disaster.
Prioritize Business Operations and Objectives
Another important aspect of your disaster recovery plan is prioritizing business operations and objectives and crafting your plan around those.
Identify the most critical aspects of the business that need to be restored first. Then, focus on those and leave the less essential things until later. Understand that it is not feasible to restore everything at once. Instead, you must prioritize the most critical business areas and get those up and running and then, other, less crucial parts of the system. Detail these priorities in your plan so that no one wastes time on nonessential operations.
Know How to Deploy Your Backups
Backups should be a routine function for your organization, and you should know them inside and out. Be sure to familiarize yourself with every aspect of the backup process, including where data is stored, how recent it is, and how to restore it at a moment’s notice.
Having a reliable backup plan could save your business. You don’t want to waste precious time figuring out where the latest backup is, where it’s stored (whether that’s locally or on the cloud), or how to access it. Off-site cloud storage for your server is a safe, reliable way to store and retrieve your data, especially in the event of a disaster.
Practice restoring your backups regularly to test their viability. Document the process for restoring in case you are unavailable and someone else has to take over. Data restoration should be a central part of your disaster recovery plan. Remember, backups are not your entire disaster recovery plan but only a piece of the overall system.
Foolproof Your Plan With Disaster Recovery Testing
The best-laid plans don’t always work out. Therefore, it’s essential that you foolproof your disaster recovery plan by testing it regularly (once a year, or every six months, whatever works for you). You don’t have to experience a real catastrophe; you can simulate what a disaster would look like and run through the entire process to ensure everything works as expected. Some disaster recovery testing best practices include:
- Planning for the worst-case scenario. Think about things like access to a car, how you will get to the office, and how you will access your backups if they are stored online and you don’t have internet? Prepare by having multiple alternate plans (A, B, C, etc.). Remember, disasters come in all shapes and sizes so, be prepared to think outside the box. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, businesses had to scramble to adjust. Prepare for anything, even minor disruptions or cut-offs from resources you rely on.
- Securing resources in advance. If you need resources to make it work, such as budgetary funds, software, hardware, or services, get those approved now so you’re not stuck provisioning necessary resources in the middle of a disaster.
- Regularly reviewing and updating your disaster recovery plan as things change. Team members come and go, so schedule routine updates every three to six months to ensure that everything is up to date and viable.
- Distributing copies of your disaster recovery plan. All staff members, including executives, should have a copy of your plan, and you should clearly communicate how it works and what everyone’s responsibility is.
- Conducting post mortems after training and simulations (or a real disaster) to determine what works and what doesn’t. Make changes to your plan accordingly.
Don’t wait until a disaster occurs before writing your disaster recovery plan. A disaster recovery plan is an ever-evolving process you must maintain as the business changes and grows so you can face anything that the future brings.
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