Whether you operate a business or run a household, disasters sometimes hit — and it’s important to be prepared when they do. When it comes to running a company, having a disaster recovery plan is vital to keeping it up and running. If you have to relocate, you want to make sure your employees stay in communication, know where to go and continue doing their jobs.
We’ll explain what a disaster recovery plan is and the six key components every plan should include.
What Is a Disaster Recovery Plan?
A disaster recovery plan (DRP) is a business’s strategy for dealing with situations that may arise and negatively impact operations. The goal of a disaster recovery plan is to quickly and effectively contain issues the disaster may cause so you can return to normal operations as soon as possible.
Disasters are anything that may halt or interrupt business operations or cause harm to business employees or customers. A few examples of disasters businesses may face include:
- Power outages
- Natural disasters (hurricanes, tornados, fire, etc.)
- Malware or cyberattacks
- Data breaches
- System failures
- Building disasters (burst pipe, electrical fire, etc.)
By creating a plan for situations like these ahead of time, businesses can reduce the harm these situations may cause.
What To Include in a Disaster Recovery Plan
DRPs should outline everything a business will need to know and do in case the worst happens. Here are the most important components of a disaster recovery plan.
This section of the DRP includes the objectives the plan hopes to accomplish. For example, in the event of a natural disaster, one of the foremost goals will be to quickly evacuate employees or customers to a safe location.
Other goals a DRP should include are:
- Recovery Time Objective (RTO): This goal establishes the amount of time after a disaster that business operations can be down before unacceptable consequences occur. For example, the RTO of vital software that captures business-critical information will be shorter than the RTO of software that manages non-critical company information.
- Recovery Point Objective (RPO): This goal establishes how much data a company is willing to lose after a disaster. If the RPO is to lose no more than one hour of data, that means the company must back up system data at least every hour to meet this goal.
Key personnel are the employees essential to executing the disaster recovery plan. For example, the previous example mentioned evacuating employees in case of a natural disaster. Key personnel in this situation could be team managers, who would be responsible for documenting who on their team is present or missing.
Document each key personnel’s name, role, and contact information. It’s also important to assign backup personnel for each role in case someone isn’t present on the day disaster hits.
Disaster recovery plans should also include an inventory of important business assets. This includes equipment, hardware, software, and any cloud services.
When listing equipment, be sure to include the manufacturer, model, serial number, cost, and whether the company owns, rents, or leases the equipment. For IT assets like software, including whether the asset is business-critical and if the company owns the asset or uses it as a service.
Along with knowing what important inventory the company has, you should also know where inventory is located and where to move it in case of disaster. This is why disaster recovery plans should include planned recovery sites.
For physical assets, companies may designate remote warehouses or other storage facilities to temporarily hold inventory. For non-physical assets like websites, companies may hire vendors that provide disaster recovery data centers. These backup centers typically fall into three categories:
- Hot Sites: Data centers that can provide full functionality to businesses in case of disaster. They are staffed, offer common IT assets, and can access up-to-date company data.
- Warm Sites: Data centers that can provide partial functionality to businesses in case of disaster. They can access critical business systems but not up-to-date company data.
- Cold Sites: Data centers that can provide limited functionality to businesses in case of disaster. They store system or data backups but cannot run operational systems.
Disaster Recovery Procedures
A disaster recovery plan needs to outline specific steps and procedures that will occur following news of a disaster. This includes:
- Emergency Responses: What will happen in the first minutes and hours after learning about a disaster? How will you protect lives? How will you limit damages? Include any emergency contact information, such as local and state emergency management agencies, contractors, and insurance agents.
- Backup Responses: What fail-safes does the company have in place to maintain essential data processing or operational tasks? Be sure to include information on how sensitive data is stored and who has access to it. Also include information on how to default to recovery sites.
- Recovery Responses: What must happen for normal business operations to resume? Include how you will recover important data or equipment. Also, include a communication plan to avoid missing any important information. Contact any planned disaster recovery services.
Don’t wait for an emergency to see how effective your company’s DRP is. You should test disaster recovery plans well before disaster strikes to work out any kinks and ensure everyone understands how to perform their roles. For this reason, it’s important to run scheduled emergency drills every so often.
Along with testing operations, make a plan to keep DRPs up to date. Set aside time to review DRPs at least once a year. During this time, make any necessary changes to the DRP so all procedures and policies stay current.
Types of Data and Technology DRPs
Data and technology are critical to maintaining business operations in our modern world. That’s why it’s so important to plan for possible failure — and recovery — of these systems. Here are a few strategies businesses can use to protect important data and technology systems.
One way companies can plan for a disaster is by storing backups of important data or files on the cloud. This allows for quick recovery of business-essential assets in case of emergency. It also tends to be a cost-effective option.
When creating a cloud DR, companies should record the location of the physical or virtual servers storing the backup data. It’s also important to make security plans since security issues are common challenges associated with cloud storage.
Data Center DR
If your company requires on-demand service for customers or can’t tolerate extended downtime, using a data center as part of your disaster recovery plan may be a good idea. Data centers are physical locations complete with the IT necessary for business operations, including storage of important business data.
Businesses can choose to create their own data centers to default to in case of emergency, but this may not be cost-effective. Paying rent on a facility that’s largely unused through the year may be too expensive to make sense. In this case, businesses may choose to subscribe to vendors that provide disaster recovery data centers as a service. These services may even provide staff that can take over customer service operations in case of emergency.
Rather than creating physical replicas of critical business systems with data centers, companies may choose to create virtual replicas. This is called virtualization.
With virtualization, it’s possible to split a single hardware system into multiple operating systems, called virtual machines. This can allow companies to centralize data or storage located in different servers, ultimately allowing for quicker data recovery in case of emergency.
A network is a system of linked computers or servers that can share information. This communication can be critical to maintaining proper business operations. Networks can go down for a number of reasons. A natural disaster — like a fire or earthquake, for example — may damage cable lines connecting the network.
Creating a network DRP becomes more difficult depending on the size and complexity of the network. Since networks largely deal with communication and storage, be sure to create backup plans in these regards. Tools like data centers or virtualization can help temporarily run business operations until you can resolve the network failure.
Why DRPs Are Important
Wondering why disaster recovery plans are important for your business? Disaster recovery plans mitigate the dangers of unforeseen circumstances. They can:
- Protect lives
- Protect sensitive customer data
- Protect business assets
- Limit property damages
- Reduce business downtime
- Create systems for scaling business operations
- Satisfy compliance requirements
- Increase customer confidence and retention
- Increase business productivity
- Increase business cost-efficiency
Emergencies can and do happen. Planning for them may take time and effort, but it’s well worth it to protect your employees, customers, and livelihood.
FAQ About Disaster Recovery Plans
Have other questions about creating your disaster recovery plan? Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions.
What Are the Five Phases of a Disaster Recovery Plan?
The five phases of a disaster recovery plan are prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.
- Prevention: This step seeks to stop incidents from occurring. For example, surveillance and security teams may be able to identify and stop intruders before an emergency situation arises.
- Mitigation: This involves taking necessary precautions to reduce the risk of disaster or to limit damage in case of unavoidable disaster. One mitigative action could be using surge protectors to keep company electronics safe in case of a power surge.
- Preparedness: This involves creating plans and providing training so a community knows how to respond when disaster strikes. Companies can prepare employees for disaster by running scheduled drills.
- Response: This refers to the actions carried out before, during, or after an emergency to protect lives, reduce economic losses and prevent suffering. Response actions may include preemptively evacuating endangered areas, defaulting to a recovery site to run business operations or deploying search and rescue teams.
- Recovery: These are actions taken to restore a community to normal or near-normal conditions. Recovery actions could include contacting insurance providers to receive compensation for damaged equipment, cleaning up debris, or rebuilding efforts.
What’s the Difference Between RPO and RTO?
When it comes to RPO vs. RTO, think of data lost vs. time lost.
A recovery point objective (RPO) establishes how much data loss a company can tolerate after a disaster. For example, a company that can’t tolerate more than one hour of data loss will need to back up data at least every hour as part of its RPO.
A recovery time objective establishes how much downtime a company can tolerate after a disaster. This refers to more than just data loss. RTO considers the overall cost of downtime, including lost business revenue or labor costs.
How Can Your Business Prepare?
Prepare for emergencies by creating, maintaining, and testing disaster recovery plans. The details of a business disaster recovery plan can vary greatly depending on the size of your company and the way you conduct business. Some plans might focus more on IT while others center on systems recovery. The leaders in your company must decide what type of plans you need to continue operations.
In addition to having a plan, keep employees prepared. Schedule a trial run to assess what employees know and monitor their response time. Companies that practice for emergency situations are usually better prepared for the real thing. This also gives you a chance to see if you missed certain details in your plan.
Don’t forget to take preemptive measures for disaster safety. This can include training employees in first aid techniques, following building codes or maintaining emergency supply kits.
In the event your company needs rewiring, BigRentz can provide IT services and give you the equipment you need to get your network back up and running.