A step-by-step guide to disaster recovery planning

16 July 2020 by Tilly Holland

According to data specialists, Nexstor, 90% of businesses with no disaster recovery capabilities close after a major failure, while 60% of small businesses that lose data close within six months. These are scary statistics and show the importance of having a comprehensive disaster recovery plan. In this blog, we go into a bit more detail about disaster recovery planning and the steps you should take to prepare your organisation.

A disaster recovery strategy

Every organisation that wants to protect its data should have a disaster recovery strategy in place. From flooding to cybercrime, like ransomware, when an organisation is hit by a disaster it can be an incredibly daunting task for it to get back up and running again.

Businesses are increasingly reliant on large data centres and high-performing networks due to the amount of data they produce. The protection of the software and hardware that allows them to function is, therefore, a vital asset to protect. When your IT is thinking about a disaster recovery plan, ensure they consider the following disaster recovery steps.

Make sure you know the scope of your project 

Does your organisation need quick and easy access to your data to stay in business? If so, then your disaster recovery plan should ensure that your data is kept safe and secure at all times – even if your onsite hardware experiences a critical failure. A good way of doing this is by using offsite data storage options like a data centre.

Know your organisation’s vulnerabilities

Has your organisation had a history of being hit by cybercrime? Or are you in a geographic region that has a history of flooding? Your disaster recovery plan should aim to protect as many of your assets as possible, but you may have to prioritise to ensure you protect the most important areas of your business.

Conduct a risk analysis

You may now know what your organisation’s vulnerabilities are, but now you need to test your safeguards. Testing your vulnerabilities will give you a valuable perspective of how well positioned you are to protect your most valuable assets.

Identify your recovery strategies

Ensuring you have an effective and cost-efficient recovery strategy is the next step. Having a data recovery specialist on speed dial is a vital part of any disaster recovery plan. The less time you waste the more chance you have of recovering any data that might be lost. A data recovery company can also help you restore any backup you may have.

Put your plan to paper

You are now ready to draw up your plan. You should gather all of your insights and ideas and put them into an easy-to-understand, comprehensive guide. This guide should be stored in a place that is easy for all employees to access. It is also important to ensure you have a hard copy.

Train your employees

It is vital that you train your employees to understand everything that is involved in the disaster recovery plan. You should have been collaborating with key employees throughout this process, but you must make sure every member of your organisation knows what steps to take in the event of a disaster. Doing things in the wrong order could put your whole organisation at risk and might lead to the destruction of the data you are trying to recover. Training your employees will also give you a fresh perspective of your plan, and could highlight some points you may not have thought of.

Test your plan

If you don’t test your plan, how will you know if it actually works? Running through the plan in a staged environment will allow you to see how each step unfolds and whether you need to amend anything.

Revise and update when necessary

Technology is changing and updating all the time. Is it a good idea to revise your plan regularly to ensure it is still up-to-date. There may be new products or services you want to implement into your plan, or you may have had a major operational change. Either way, asking these kinds of questions will make sure you are prepared when a disaster strikes.

Business Continuity Plans and Disaster Recovery Plans

There is often a lot of confusion regarding the difference between business continuity plans (BCPs) and disaster recovery plans (DRPs).

A BCP is a documented plan that lays out the steps to take when an organisation is affected by unexpected scenarios that are often business-critical. A good BCP covers the need for resources, processes, and functions to get back to regular operation, reducing the amount of downtime.

A DRP is a documented process for restoring vital support systems, e.g. hardware, IT assets and communications. A DRP’s aim is to minimise downtime and focuses on getting technical operations back up and running in as short a time as possible.

What’s the difference between them? 

The main difference is when each plan takes effect. A BCP focuses on keeping your organisation operational during the disaster and immediately after. A DRP focuses on how you respond after the event has happened, and most importantly, how your organisation returns to normal. For example, if your organisation’s headquarters are badly flooded, your BCP will suggest that all employees work remotely. However, this solution is only a temporary fix to the disaster. Therefore, the DRP will focus on how to get all employees back into a single office and how to replace all of the equipment that may have been damaged.

Download our IT Disaster Recovery Plan template

The purpose of our template is to help small businesses familiarise themselves with the building blocks of an IT Disaster Recovery Plan (IT DRP) and to start thinking about what it would take to resume normal operations if their data and infrastructure were implicated in a severe IT-incident.

Download now