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Building Digital Resilience: How to Develop a Robust Disaster Recovery Plan

developing a disaster recovery plan

As organizations look to innovate at speed, they’re occasionally disrupted by unforeseen incidents. Every minute of downtime costs companies thousands of dollars in lost productivity and revenue, tarnished reputation, missed opportunities and hefty recovery expenses. To add insult to injury, cybercriminals may exploit the chaos to launch malicious attacks, and regulatory compliance penalties could be levied as a result of operational deficiencies.

Consequently, it is in every organization’s best interest to have a holistic, well-designed disaster recovery (DR) solution that limits the extent of disruption – from downtime to data loss – a crisis can bring on normal operations. Whether you’re building one from scratch or improving an existing plan, our advice is to keep it concise, write it for the people executing the recovery and factor in the following considerations.

Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your IT Disaster Recovery Plan

IT disaster recovery or cyber-recovery is the technology subset of your business’s disaster recovery and business continuity planning. An IT disaster recovery plan documents the following procedures for taking immediate action to minimize damage to network systems and continue operations in the event of a disaster.

1. Perform an Audit/Risk Assessment

Catalog as many natural and human-made disasters as possible and rank them according to their probability and the severity of their impact on your operations. This involves working together cross-functionally and examining disruptive scenarios, including inaccessible workspaces, power outages, environmental disasters, hardware and software malfunctions, insider threats, sabotage, cyberattacks and human errors. With these potential risks identified and calculated, you can begin creating an effective plan for how your most critical operations could be maintained across various scenarios.

2. Determine Critical Operations

There is no one-size-fits-all recovery solution. That’s why it’s essential to establish which operations you deem critical and must be absolutely maintained in the event of a disaster. Evaluate your resources – processes, applications and data – and identify which of them are driving your business, generating revenue and keeping your operations going.

Banks and financial organizations, for instance, must ensure transactions can be made based on current and accurate digital records and that service is uninterrupted during a crisis. Your recovery plan needs to ensure not just business continuity but also the protection of private financial and personal information for your employees, customers and relevant stakeholders.

Before a disaster strikes, determine how much data you can stand to lose, your recovery point objective (RPO), and how long systems can be down before it significantly affects your operations, your recovery time objective (RTO). Having a precise RPO and RTO will inform your budget and help you find the right balance between risk and investment.

3. Map Out Network Infrastructure

Identify what assets you need to protect, including network systems and equipment, servers, workstations, cloud services, mobile devices and, above all, your critical data. Note each item’s physical and/or virtual location, vendor and version, networking parameters, etc. An audit can also help you spot old software and hardware, which may be keeping you from your goal of becoming digitally resilient. Work with your IT services provider to modernize any legacy technology so it can survive disasters, natural or otherwise.

Creating a blueprint of your entire network infrastructure will help facilitate smoother system restoration after a disaster. Be sure to prioritize each component as mission-critical, mission-essential or nonessential according to its level of importance to business continuity.

8 steps to disaster recovery

4. Enable Backups for Crucial Data Restoration

Backup is the backbone of every robust DR plan. Throughout the recovery process, it’s essential to have a backup management plan for any critical data that must be maintained in times of crisis, including customer records, financial documents, inventory lists or other sensitive information. Ideally, the backup should be stored both on-premise and on a cloud-based server to ensure it will be conveniently accessible on demand.

Architecting your own backup and recovery solution involves labor-intensive replication of your system capabilities and considerable costs for support personnel, management, facilities and infrastructure. A managed cloud backup solution, like Omega’s Smart Stor, can deliver a fully functional backup and recovery process with simplified management to help get your business up and running in the event of a disaster or disruption.

5. Assign Personnel and Document Responsibilities

Your recovery plan will not be successful without the appropriate personnel to help implement it. Identify by roles and responsibilities the critical people charged with responding to a crisis and list their full contact information. Designate a team that will be directly involved in recovery efforts. The team should also include key personnel from each department or area of your business, as well as any external resources, such as IT support or consultants, needed to successfully execute the plan. This team of key players should have the ability to swiftly and confidently execute the DR plan at a moment’s notice.

6. Create a Communication Plan

After establishing the roles and responsibilities of your recovery team, it’s important to create a communication plan that will ensure everyone involved is kept acquainted with the status of the recovery process. It’s also important to have convenient crisis communication platforms to address concerns, such as keeping in touch with partners and shareholders, notifying customers of the incident and providing regular updates to employees. Establish clear protocols for how and when communication should take place to minimize confusion during a crisis.

7. Test and Analyze

If you leave your recovery plan untested until your first disaster, you’re going to find blind spots at the worst possible time. And if your team doesn’t know what they are supposed to be doing, the plan will be ineffective. To aid a more seamless recovery process, run a partial DR test (or tabletop exercise) at least twice per year and a full recovery simulation at least annually. Spring surprise drills on the company from time to time so you can get an accurate assessment of how well the processes will work in the event of a real emergency. Not only does practice allow your team to acclimate to the process, but it’s also an opportunity to address potential gaps or mistakes, allowing you to improve with every disaster drill.

Seek help from your managed service provider (MSP) to make sure your plan is not only battle-tested but also aligned with the most current disaster threats and scenarios.

8. Review and Revise Regularly

Periodically, there will be evolutions across your organization that will affect your DR plan. These changes may include employees joining or leaving the company or changing roles, technology upgrades or migrations, modified policies, enhancements to products or services, consolidated business units or structural changes. Review your DR plan and update it at least every six months to reflect these organizational changes and how they impact crisis response and recovery.

Your plan isn’t complete unless it considers all the technologies, systems and applications currently involved and ensures the people who act on it understand the changes.

A Streamlined Approach to Disaster Recovery

Creating a robust DR plan requires a lot of effort – no doubt – but think of the work it would take to explain to customers, shareholders, insurance companies and regulatory bodies why you did not have one prepared in advance. Many business leaders learned this lesson post-Covid. In fact, according to a recent International Data Corporation (IDC) study, 78 percent of organizations are making cyber-recovery and digital resilience a financial priority starting in 2023. Likewise, you need to put strategies in place immediately that will enable you to recover business operations rapidly and without data loss in the event your resources become unavailable.

Whether you’re seeking input on the technology component of your IT disaster recovery plan, looking for the right backup and recovery solution for your unique needs, or just starting to weave digital resilience into your business agenda, our team at Omega Systems can help.

At Omega, we offer a hybrid approach to data recovery, combining the reliability of a local backup device (BDR) with the convenience of cloud-based backup. Rest assured, your data is always secure and immediately accessible, so you can spend more time focusing on growing your business – and less time worrying about downtime and data loss.

Contact our cyber-recovery experts today to learn more. We’ll work with your team to regularly stress test the quality of your backup and recovery operations so your organization is ready and equipped for any scenario that comes your way.

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