IT Disaster Recovery (DR) Planning: Everything You Need to Know

Ever heard of helicopter skiing? Well, as the name suggests, it’s one of those extreme sports that involves skiing down a mountain while being pulled by a helicopter. While this may sound pretty thrilling to some, applying the same daredevil attitude to your business could be catastrophic.

Businesses and IT departments that have been living on the edge without a comprehensive disaster recovery (DR) plan need to understand that disasters come in all shapes and sizes. After all, the threats that can disrupt your business are practically infinite.

Keep in mind that the average cost of downtime can go up to $11,600 per minute, and that’s without taking non-compliance penalties into consideration. Each minute you stay put, your business suffers — to the point of risking a permanent shutdown.

A DR plan is crucial for businesses of all sizes to resume operations during times of disruption. Let’s take a look at what goes into a well-crafted disaster recovery plan.

What Is a Disaster Recovery Plan?

An IT disaster recovery plan is part of a business continuity plan consisting of technologies and best practices to recover lost data and system functionality that allows a business to operate in case of a natural or man-made disaster.

It considers all types of disaster scenarios that impact operations:

  • Loss of data due to cyberattacks, equipment failure and human error
  • Network failure due to power outage
  • Loss of equipment or business site due to natural disasters
  • Loss of key employees

The DR Planning Team

A good DR plan is the responsibility of everybody. However, it’s not feasible to hold every person accountable for a DR plan. Irrespective of the size or nature of the business, your DR planning team should consist of the following essential personnel.

Top-Level Managers

Top-level managers oversee budgetary requirements, improve strategy and devise resolutions to meet current challenges.

Crisis Management Coordinator

These are the folks who do the dirty work of managing data recovery when disaster strikes. They coordinate efforts to ensure a successful recovery takes place and are on hand to solve issues (even the unplanned ones) as they arise.

Business Continuity Expert

A business continuity expert ensures the DR plan aligns with the business requirements that have been outlined with business impact analysis (BIA) as part of the business continuity plan. They facilitate open communication between key decision-makers and IT, encouraging seamless collaboration.

Business Unit Advisors

Enhance your DR planning efforts by including and encouraging representative(s) from each business unit mentioned in the BIA to provide their opinions on the current DR plan. Their input helps in understanding recovery efforts holistically, thereby ensuring that the recovery of one critical business unit does not negatively impact another unit.

Disaster Recovery Planning Benefits

A comprehensive DR plan enables businesses to meet time-bound commitments even during a disaster, allowing for improved resilience and profitability.

Here are four benefits a business can enjoy with a comprehensive DR plan in place:

1. Cost-Efficiency

DR planning forces business and IT leaders to look inwards, which includes identifying risks associated with outdated hardware and software. In some cases, aging hardware and software needs to be replaced or refreshed to accommodate time-bound SLAs to ensure the DR plan and recovery efforts are optimized, saving the business a lot of money in the long run.

2. Rich Customer Experience

Disaster recovery allows your business to serve customers during a catastrophe. Deliver seamless service while reducing the risk of downtime and create a positive customer experience that avoids potential churns. Furthermore, your business gains a competitive edge since customer experience overtakes price and product as a key brand differentiator.

3. Better Understanding of Scalability

Disaster recovery planning initiates thorough research and comparison of different options. Businesses can make informed decisions on matters such as public cloud vs. private cloud, for example. This helps them practically analyze each solution to see which one better serves their unique needs, such as required storage for restored files. Taking responsibility for these needs will give you a good idea of the scalability that must be addressed if the DR plan is to be effective.

4. Compliance With Industry Standards

Compliance has always been a prerequisite for regulated industries like healthcare and finance. However, with GDPR and CCPA, the need for compliance is extending to non-regulated industries as well. Creating an effective DR plan will help reduce the chances of incurring penalties for failure to meet regulatory compliance obligations.

Disaster Recovery Plan Checklist

Follow the checklist to get your DR planning up and running.

Perform Risk Assessment and Business Impact Analysis

Risk assessment and business impact analysis identifies possible threats, assess the likeliness of their occurrence and measures their potential impact on the business.

Establish Recovery Objectives

Determine recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) in your DR planning. Set appropriate recovery objectives for business operations and units based on their priority.

Delegate Duties Within the DR Team

Assign roles and responsibilities and document what is expected from each DR team member during a disaster. This will help you get through all the actions on your DR checklist.

Build a DR Site

Create an emergency site for the relocation of critical data, applications, physical resources and employees. If need be, create an additional checklist to ensure the secondary site has all the necessary office supplies, hardware and software to take on critical operations for a given period.

Prepare for Failback

Restore operations at the primary production center after they have been transferred to a DR site during failover. It is a must for any DR plan to mention failover operations to avoid any significant disruption to the business.

Document Security

Unexpected disruptions can lead to the loss of critical documents, which add to downtime and damage business reputation. Moreover, it is very hard to recover all lost data quickly. That is why you need to run backups and store them in off-site locations.

Determine Communication Channels

Establish communication channels that will be used during a DR event should your primary data center be hit with a disaster and IT infrastructure goes down.

Document Disaster Response Procedures

Detail every initiative of the disaster recovery procedure. This includes response strategies from specific DR team members and verification procedures of successful recovery.

Notify Stakeholders

Notify key stakeholders like the PR and marketing team, vendors, third-party suppliers and customers. Draft response templates to inform each of these groups and have answers ready to address their concerns.

Test Your Disaster Recovery Plan

DR testing should be a part of the plan. To ensure your DR plan works when it’s supposed to, you must test and review the DR plan and remove glitches if any.

Simplify Disaster Recovery With Unitrends

Unitrends uses intelligent recovery analytics to show the potential impact of an outage and helps detect and prevent downtime before it occurs. Unitrends also provides multi-site replication, instant recovery, failover to the cloud and automated DR testing. This gives businesses and IT leaders complete confidence when it comes to data and application protection and accessibility in the event of a disaster.

Learn more on how to avoid downtime even in the face of disaster.


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