Creating an Effective Disaster Recovery Plan for Business Continuity

Disasters are a constant threat to businesses and organizations.

Whether it’s a natural disaster, cyber attack, or any other event, the potential data loss has severe consequences, including damage to business reputation, customer trust, and revenue. In some cases, a disaster leads to a business’ end.

That’s why having a disaster recovery or DR plan to ensure business continuity by establishing a resilient IT infrastructure is so crucial to the survival of any company.

In this article, we detail how to create a disaster recovery plan for your business and the best practices to follow to protect yourself from catastrophe.

What is a disaster recovery plan? 

A disaster recovery plan is a detailed strategy that organizations can develop to protect their IT Infrastructure and to guarantee their survival in the event of data loss, such as cyber attacks, natural disasters, or hardware and software failures.

A disaster recovery plan comprises strategies like data backup, data replication, offsite copies, and data recovery methods to ensure business continuity by minimizing downtime.

Employees can refer to the disaster recovery plan to learn about necessary, company-specific protocols to follow before, during, and after a disaster.

What is the purpose of a disaster recovery plan?

No matter the size or type of organization, your company needs to invest in a disaster recovery plan. 

Risk mitigation

A disaster recovery plan proactively prepares businesses for different kinds of disaster situations by identifying potential risks and developing mitigation techniques.

Business continuity

A disaster recovery plan protects business continuity after data loss, enabling organizations to bring back critical IT systems, applications, and data online. This will get the business up and running again with fewer productivity disruptions.

Data protection

With a robust disaster recovery plan in place, you can ensure complete data protection for the entire IT infrastructure that runs single or diverse platforms – virtual, physical, cloud, and SaaS applications.

A disaster recovery plan allows businesses to recover quickly from any data loss and ensures that the company’s valuable asset – data, is always available for business operations.

Compliance

Adherence to data protection and disaster recovery planning regulations is non-negotiable for several businesses and countries.

Compliance enables you to avoid legal issues and potential fines for businesses. Make sure compliance requirements are a part of your disaster recovery plan. 

Less productivity disruption

Whenever a disaster strikes or data loss occurs in any way, it hinders business productivity. However, a well-structured disaster recovery plan helps organizations maintain operational stability, recover data, and continue business operations without interruption.

Customer trust

Your reliability instills confidence in customers, which paves the way for long-term client relationships. To do this, you need a resilient disaster recovery plan that empowers you to keep operations up, even during setbacks.

Reputation management

Data is crucial for smooth business operations, which is why data availability is directly proportional to a company’s reputation.

A disaster recovery plan prevents reputational damage by guaranteeing that customers always have the necessary data. No halt in business operations means your customers and stakeholders have faith in you. 

Financial protection

A disaster recovery plan can prevent financial loss from data loss, high downtime, productivity disruptions, loss of customer trust, and reputation damage. Invest in a tailored disaster recovery plan for long-term financial security.

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Disaster recovery plan checklist

Creating a comprehensive disaster recovery plan helps businesses face unforeseen challenges.

Begin by conducting a thorough risk assessment to understand potential threats and then prioritize systems from most to least. With this information, implement a suitable backup plan for your entire IT infrastructure.

Clearly communicate expectations for roles and responsibilities to everyone involved in setting up and maintaining the disaster recovery plan. Finally, we recommend testing and updating it regularly to align with any changes to the business environment.

Let’s break down each key component involved in building an effective disaster recovery plan.

Assessing the risks 

A disaster recovery plan starts with identifying potential external and internal risks. 

  • Internal risks, such as human errors, hardware failure, or software glitches
  • External risks, such as malware attacks and natural disasters

Businesses need to create a list of possible pitfalls based on likelihood and severity. This roster identifies the impact that each risk poses so you and your team can moderate their negative effects.

Risk category

Potential risks

Likelihood level

Impact level

Natural disasters

Earthquakes, fire, floods, hurricanes

Medium

High

Cyber security threats

Malware, ransomware, phishing, data breaches

High

High

Human errors

Accidental data deletion

Medium

Medium

Technical failures

Hardware malfunctions, software glitches

Medium

Medium

Establishing recovery objectives 

To establish recovery objectives, you have to understand two key factors.

Firstly, you need to assess the importance of each workload or application in your environment. The level can vary from high to medium to low. Secondly, based on this assessment, set the recovery time and point objectives (RPO and RTO) that play a crucial role in minimizing data loss and ensuring swift business continuity.

RPO is the place from which you want to restore the data, which means you have to define your acceptable data loss. RTO is how quickly you want a system or application to get up and running again after a disaster.

Within the disaster recovery plan framework, it’s crucial to align recovery objectives with the priority level of workloads. This lets businesses minimize the impact of data loss incidents and perform a timely recovery.

Implementing a backup solution 

Backup is the process of copying data and keeping it in a storage medium within the same or different location. You can restore data from the backup whenever needed.

A backup plan forms the backbone of a disaster recovery plan that protects business-critical data against loss and enables you to resume business operations swiftly.

How to choose the right backup solution 

The key factors listed below can help you make an informed decision in choosing the right backup solution that aligns seamlessly with your disaster recovery plan. 

  • Diverse workload support: Most IT environments comprise diverse workloads such as virtual machines (VMs), servers, endpoints, cloud VMs, and SaaS applications. Hence, ensure that your solution offers backup support for all workloads in your environment with centralized management and reporting capabilities. 
  • Backup approach: There are multiple backup approaches, such as on-premise, remote, hybrid, and direct-to-cloud backup. Make sure the backup solution supports the approach your organization prefers.
  • Lowest RPO and RTO: Choose a backup solution that offers near-zero recovery objectives.
  • Flexible storage and scalability: Backup solutions have to contribute to versatile storage options, like NAS and SAN, or cloud storage, like AWS, Azure, and Google. As your business grows, the backup solution should scale up as you need.
  • Data retention and compliance: You should be able to retain data as long as you need, especially for compliance with local regulations.
  • Cost: One of the important decision factors is budget. Make sure you can afford the solution. It’s also smart to get flexible licensing options to cater to evolving business needs.
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Disaster recovery strategies 

In addition to backup, there are a few other technologies and processes to consider implementing as a part of the disaster recovery strategy.

These predefined methods allow businesses to respond to any disaster immediately and resume operations quickly.

Virtual machine (VM) replication 

VM replication creates exact copies of VMs and hosts them on another site.

The changes on the source VMs can be replicated in real time or periodically. The replica machine remains turned off at your secondary site. You can shift the operations when needed.

  • Failover: If a disaster strikes in your primary site or if a VM fails, you can immediately perform failover, which turns on the replica VM and switches all your operations to a secondary site. 
    You can also permanently finalize the failover and use the replica VM as your primary VM.
  • Failback: In case you want to restore your source VM with all the changes made during the failover event, you can perform failback and resume your production operations from the primary site itself.

Offsite disaster recovery 

Offsite disaster recovery is the process of making offsite copies of backups to your data center in a different location. This means you have a redundant copy of your data in a remote location to verify additional data protection via geographical separation.

Even if your primary site experiences a disaster, your offsite copy can restore data so you can get back to work. Configure near-zero recovery objectives for offsite backups to guarantee swift recovery and minimal data loss. Offsite copies also allow you to rebuild your entire primary site.

Cloud disaster recovery 

Cloud-based disaster recovery uses cloud storage to recover from disruptive events. One of the modern approaches to disaster recovery,

Cloud disaster recovery copies your data and stores it in the cloud. It’s highly scalable and provides access to your data from anywhere at any time, so you can restore data from the cloud instantly, even if your entire local site is compromised.

Backup vs. disaster recovery  

Both backup and disaster recovery are important for effective data protection, restoring IT systems, and resuming business operations. 

Aspect

Backup

Disaster recovery

Objective

To routinely copy and store data for retrieval in case of data loss

To recover business-critical functions after a site-level disaster

Scope

Workload, application, and data

Business continuity, high availability, data replication, failover, failback, etc.

Applicability

Suitable for restoring data in cases like human error, hardware failure, or software glitches

Suitable for restoring data and ensuring business continuity during natural disasters, cyber attacks, or site failures

Cost

Lower upfront costs compared to a full disaster recovery plan

Higher costs

Testing your disaster recovery plan 

Regularly test your disaster recovery plan to make sure it stays effective. This is the best way to validate the existing approach and resolve any potential gaps before an actual catastrophe happens.

The first step is documenting and communicating the disaster recovery plan to everyone involved.

The entire plan, including each individual’s roles and responsibilities, should be discussed thoroughly. If an unforeseen incident occurs, your team must be prepared to execute the necessary steps to recover from it.

The next step is functional testing, which performs specific functions such as data recovery and failover. This is to ascertain whether you can still carry out critical functions and to ensure that you meet your recovery objectives.

You can do simulation testing to test out disaster scenarios and observe how your plan performs under these conditions.  

Parallel testing is also available. This technique switches both primary and backup systems to see if the backups can work seamlessly. 

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Finally, you can go for full-scale testing to see if your disaster recovery plan works. Every step in your disaster recovery plan is evaluated to determine whether it can be used as a full replacement if your primary site fails.

Regularly update the disaster recovery plan so it remains aligned with the changing business environment.

Disaster recovery best practices

Businesses can build a resilient plan by adhering to the best practices that help you tackle any unforeseen data loss incidents with confidence. 

  • Document and training: Make sure the disaster recovery document is current. Conduct awareness programs for employees to inform them about the plan and their roles and responsibilities.
  • Aim for near-zero recovery time and point objectives: Define proper recovery objectives for your workloads based on their importance. For highly critical workloads, establish continuous or close-to-continuous data protection starting every 5 to 15 minutes.
  • Set up a comprehensive local backup: Implement a backup solution for all critical workloads in your environment to protect them against data loss.
  • Use offsite storage: If you have a remote data center, set up an offsite copy or replicate VMs for it. This allows you to maintain a separate data copy and recover from it when needed.
  • Explore cloud-based solutions: Utilize cloud solutions for backup or offsite copy as they offer scalability, geographic redundancy, and universal accessibility.
  • Automate: Incorporate automation for processes like recovery, failover, and backup verification. This ensures swift recovery and verifies data consistency.
  • Follow security and compliance rules: Ensure the security measures are built into the disaster recovery plan. Include encryption and ransomware protection, and confirm compliance with relevant regulations.
  • Test all the time: Conduct regular testing to determine the continued effectiveness of your plan.
  • Establish post-incident evaluation: Update the disaster recovery plan for enhanced resilience based on the results of tests or actual disaster incidents. 

Differences between a business continuity plan and a disaster recovery plan

Disaster recovery plans and business continuity plans (BCP) are both essential to your organization’s resilience.

A disaster recovery plan focuses primarily on IT-related recovery, while BCP is a comprehensive strategy that covers all aspects of continuity during and after disruptions. It’s important to make sure the two plans work together seamlessly.  

Let’s compare disaster recovery plan and BCP based on some of their key aspects:

Aspect

Disaster recovery plan

Business continuity plan

Definition

Focuses on restoring workloads, applications, and data after a disaster

Keeps the business operations running during disasters

Critical business functions

Recovers IT-related functions and applications

Recovers all critical business functions, regardless of their IT dependence

Risk analysis

Includes only IT Systems, applications and data

Includes operational, financial, reputational, and regulation risks

Components

Primarily focused on technology-backup, replication, and recovery

Encompasses a broader range of components than disaster recovery plans, including crisis management, workforce continuity, and facility availability

Timeframe

Has shorter recovery times, focuses on restoring IT workloads and applications fast

Involves both short-term and long-term strategies for sustaining overall business operations

Preparing your business for disaster recovery

A proactive and well-implemented disaster relief plan continues to be an invaluable asset that contributes to your company’s survival and sets you up to thrive after any kind of catastrophe as technology and its risks evolve.

Create an effective disaster recovery plan for your IT infrastructure and give yourself and your team the peace of mind that comes from complete data protection, risk mitigation, system restoration, and business continuity during unforeseen disruptions.

Crafting a discovery recovery plan? Enhance your data security arsenal with the best practices to boost data security and avoid a breach.

Edited by Aisha West

منبع: https://learn.g2.com/disaster-recovery-plan