Disaster Recovery Plan: What it is and why you need it
A Disaster Recovery Plan, often known as a DRP or Business Continuity Plan, is a detailed and strategic step-by-step plan for restoring data and IT infrastructure in the event of a human or natural disaster.
Covid-19 has been an eye opener for many business owners and IT managers, highlighting the importance of planning for a pandemic and natural disasters before they take place. Recent research highlighted that, even now, six months into the pandemic, 68% of small businesses and 30% of all businesses still do not have a disaster recovery plan, with 90% of them stating that they will not survive a catastrophic incident without one.
What’s involved in creating a DRP
Creating an effective DRP involves detailed step-by-step procedures for restoring your business data and infrastructure after a disaster takes place. However, the plan should not just be a list of steps to get things back up and running, it should also specify:
- Nominated staff members who will perform which tasks from the plan
- How quickly each task should be performed and what’s their priority for the business to continue functioning
- How procedures may differ across a multi-site organisation, with potentially different plans for each location
It is also very important to think about communication. Disaster recovery is not a one-person job. The plan needs to include communication methods for each disaster your business is likely to encounter.
If, for example, your main infrastructure or network fails, how will your employees access the plan? Consider keeping copies on USBs, or even printing them out. Ensure that you have a plan in place for employees to talk to each other and share information.
Consider the most likely causes of disasters
Depending on the location, or locations, of your infrastructure, the types of disasters you are most likely to face can vary widely. If you have a data centre in a remote location, for example, power outages could be your main threat.
When you know which disasters your business is most likely to face, you can plan accordingly. It is important to understand that the frequency, severity and predictability of a disaster can vary scientifically depending on the type. Therefore, make sure that each type has its own set of procedures, and do not use a standard plan for each scenario.
Each scenario will have a different impact on your business. To estimate each impact, you will need to understand the inner-workings of your business like a mechanic knows the inner-workings of a car. This is why, creating a DSP is very much a team effort, and you will need your key members of staff with you to help you understand your business throughout, or outsource the expertise of a managed IT support service, who will ask the right questions to get you thinking about your business model.
Disaster recovery plans need to be updated
Infrastructures are constantly changing: your disaster recovery plan needs to change, too, to keep pace. It is important to make a note of regularly reviewing your plan and strategy. Perhaps once or twice a year, sit down and walk through how you would use the current plan to respond to a given type of disaster. This exercise will help you identify gaps that need to be addressed.
Even humans make mistakes
Have you ever accidentally saved over a word document or had your computer crash before you could save an important file? It happens to the best of us.
Even the most cautious can forget a step in an important process causing data loss or the wrong data being entered. While very common, these mistakes can often be the hardest to prevent and correct.
Often, the best way to prevent human error is in process improvements and quality assurance activities. A disaster recovery plan that incorporates checking and double checking is often the best remedy, along with online backups. Having a DSP that creates a series of online data backups lets you easily restore your files to an error-free state.
The less expensive and more sensible option would be to have your data backed up regularly. Ideally, and more cost-effective than building your own top-of-the-line data centre, would be to outsource your IT infrastructure to a leading disaster recovery management service, eliminating any capital expenses while ensuring protection from service interruptions.
No business is invulnerable to IT disasters
No business is invulnerable to IT disasters, but speedy recovery due to a well-crafted IT disaster recovery plan is expected by today’s ever-demanding customers. Too many businesses fail because they were ill prepared for an IT disaster, even when a simple solution like online backup could have easily saved them.
While on average it is much cheaper to retain a customer then to acquire a new customer, re-acquiring an old customer after an IT disaster can be next to impossible. It takes a lot to earn customers’ trust, but after an IT disaster like loss of data or an extended outage in service, trust quickly evaporates.
If you haven’t thought about developing an IT disaster recovery plan yet, it should be at the top of your priority list. Your business and customers demand it.
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