IT Disaster Recovery Plan
An IT disaster recovery strategy is a business plan that seeks to mitigate the harmful effects of an information technology (IT) disruption. The strategy encompasses more than the ways a business will respond to a disruption — it includes policies, procedures and practices that prevent IT disasters and expedite resolutions should one occur.
An IT disaster recovery strategy is usually a document that lays out the potential risks and ways to respond to them. It also includes training procedures, evaluation methods and key benchmarks for employees to follow.
IT disaster recovery planning is crucial for businesses at every level. Organizations of all sizes rely on IT systems more than ever, and a disruption takes away valuable uptime. At best, an IT disruption is a small bump in the road. But a significant disruption can result in the loss of important documents, compromise sensitive client data and harm a business’s reputation. Even a few hours offline can cost a company thousands of dollars in lost business and time spent troubleshooting the issue.
Types of IT Disasters
IT disasters take many forms and occur on different scales. An IT disaster could be as simple as an issue with a single device or server. Larger IT disasters may affect an entire city, state, region or nation beyond the business. Most IT disasters fall into one of three categories:
- Natural disasters
- Human-caused events
- Cybersecurity threats
- Technical issues
1. Natural Disasters
Natural disasters impact entire communities and are outside of a business’s control. However, a business can control how it responds. IT recovery strategies account for fires, floods, earthquakes, storms, tornadoes and other natural disasters that could cause physical harm to the hardware that enables IT functionality. A business must assess its vulnerability to natural disasters and make a plan to continue or resume operations when one occurs.
2. Human-Made Disasters
A human-caused disaster can be something as simple as a mistake made by an employee or as complex as a terror attack. While the scope of a human-made disaster varies, the need for an appropriate response remains. Common disasters that businesses will plan for include accidental file deletion, utility service provider outages, power surges, burst pipes, burglary, vandalism, bomb threats and acts of war.
3. Cybersecurity Threats
Businesses face exposure to cyberthreats every day. Hackers may attempt to breach companies’ networks to access their intellectual property or steal sensitive customer information. Examples include phishing scams where criminals send employees emails that appear legitimate but contain links that send them to harmful sites. Certain websites may contain malware that infects computers and compromises network security.
It’s crucial to foster a culture that promotes safe internet use and use software that thwarts cyberattackers. Studies show that 88% of data breaches stem from human error, so safe policies, insightful training sessions and actionable testing procedures are essential. All personnel should be able to recognize suspicious links or communication and report them.
4. Technical Issues
Businesses often face technical obstacles when maintaining or updating their IT infrastructures. Hardware simply fails on occasion, particularly if it is old. Businesses also undergo growing pains when updating their IT assets, resulting in lost uptime. An IT recovery strategy can include guidelines for updating hardware and software, as well as contingencies for reverting back to an old system temporarily.
Steps in Creating an IT Disaster Recovery Plan
IT disaster recovery planning requires diligence and widespread participation across the company. Businesses can follow these steps to implement a steadfast IT disaster mitigation plan:
- Inventory all IT assets
- Assess risks and threats
- Establish recovery objectives
- Develop a communication plan
- Create a backup recovery strategy
- Test and review the plan
1. Inventory All IT Assets
Businesses should list all hardware, software, communication tools and data. Taking a detailed account of the IT assets at a company’s disposal will help determine the strategy’s scope and the risks that apply.
2. Assess Risks and Threats
Factors like a company’s size, location, IT reliance and industry impact its risk exposure and mitigation priorities. Knowing the IT risks a company faces allows disaster recovery planners to optimize the strategy according to the most likely and costly threats.
3. Establish Recovery Objectives
All members of a business must know how to respond when an IT disaster strikes and what metrics indicate sufficient response. A response strategy should include recovery objectives that prioritize certain IT assets and establish the amount of time the IT department has to respond. Setting targets starts with determining the minimum acceptable impact of an IT disaster, then building a plan that mitigates disruption.
4. Develop a Communication Plan
Effective IT disaster recovery mobilization requires synchronization across all departments. Key actors must communicate quickly and articulately at a moment’s notice. Proper communication in the wake of an IT disaster demands structure. The disruption may cause disorganization, so predetermining how employees will communicate and what they will say reintroduces an element of control into the situation.
5. Create a Backup and Recovery Strategy
After taking inventory of IT assets, assessing potential risks, establishing recovery objectives and determining communication guidelines, a business can form a true recovery strategy. An IT professional will use the preliminary information to establish a set of methods that will accomplish the recovery strategy objectives.
Most recovery strategies involve frequent data backups before an incident occurs. Companies can save backups of their files to secure hardware or a cloud-based storage system so that copies exist if a disruption occurs. The more frequently a company saves backups, the more recent their data will be after recovery. Cloud-based backups minimize the effects of natural disasters and other incidents that would compromise IT hardware.
6. Test and Review the Plan
Successful IT recovery strategies involve ongoing review, assessment and adjustment. A company should review and test its recovery strategy after its creation to confirm it produces the desired outcomes. Further testing should occur in the future to validate the processes’ continued success as the company’s IT infrastructure evolves. Thorough recovery strategies include regularly scheduled testing and review of all policies and the personnel responsible for perpetuating them.
Key Components of an IT Disaster Recovery Plan
IT disaster recovery plans consist of the following components:
- Thorough documentation
- Emergency response procedures
- Data backup and recovery procedures
- Network recovery procedures
- Hardware and software data recovery procedures
- Contact information for key personnel and vendors
1. Thorough Documentation
Businesses should put their IT disaster recovery plans into writing to ensure clarity and synchronicity. It’s also important to keep records of all training sessions, policy reviews, disruptions and responses.
2. Emergency Response Procedures
IT disruptions that stem from natural disasters or other physical threats may be as dangerous for staff as those conditions are for IT assets. Disaster recovery plans detail the steps to take when salvaging assets while ensuring personnel safety.
3. Data Backup and Recovery Procedures
The most critical element of an IT disaster recovery plan is the set of procedures that must occur to retain data. IT personnel will establish multiple data backup methods, determine the backup frequency and articulate how the company can access the emergency copies.
4. Network Recovery Procedures
Businesses rely on internal and external network connectivity for communication and data accessibility. A network recovery plan will express how the company can restore network connectivity in specific situations. Couple any network recovery procedure with guidelines for avoiding network failures or outages.
5. Hardware and Software Data Recovery Procedures
Businesses house critical data within hardware and software. If either fails or goes out of date, the data could be lost. A recovery plan should describe procedures for obtaining data from old or damaged hardware and outdated software. IT professionals will build out the strategy with tools and protocols that the company can use to recover data from old and damaged assets.
6. Contact Information for Key Personnel and Vendors
Collecting contact information for all key personnel and vendors is important. Depending on the disruption’s scope, certain decision-makers may not be reachable. Establish a chain of command and ensure contact information is available for each person. The recovery plan should also include ways to reach vendors such as the internet service provider or software as a service provider.
Challenges in Implementing an IT Disaster Recovery Plan
As with any strategy a business implements, there are certain challenges to overcome when enacting an IT disaster recovery plan. These challenges revolve around the practicality of starting and maintaining a recovery infrastructure sufficient for the business’s size and needs. Challenges include:
- Budget constraints
- Lack of understanding or support from management
- Lack of trained personnel
- Keeping the plan up to date
An IT recovery plan is an investment. The money a company spends developing and maintaining its strategy is often less than the cost of a major disruption. Depending on its budget, a business can choose to hire an internal IT team capable of fulfilling an IT recovery strategy, augment its internal team with outside assistance or fully outsource IT management.
Lack of Understanding or Support From Management
IT recovery strategies are most effective with top-down commitment. Communicating an IT disaster recovery plan’s value to key decision-makers positions allows IT departments to access the resources needed to launch an effective strategy.
Lack of Trained Personnel
IT management involves a specific set of skills that are outside of most employees’ range, but that’s fine — valuable team members should focus on the roles they are most qualified to fulfill. The company should hire or outsource enough IT personnel to maintain and mobilize a recovery plan while allowing other employees to remain engaged with high-value tasks.
Keeping the Plan Updated
The IT world’s constant evolution creates opportunities for businesses to implement new technology that enhances their capabilities. As an operation updates its IT infrastructure to compete with the market, it’s critical to update the IT recovery strategy. Prioritizing reviews and analyses helps businesses keep their plans current.
Best Practices for Implementing and Maintaining an IT Disaster Recovery Plan
Organizations should consider the following best practices when mobilizing an IT recovery strategy:
- Document everything: Businesses should maintain written versions of their IT strategies and record information such as the number of incidents, their causes, recovery tactics and outcomes.
- Update regularly: IT professionals should update the recovery plan annually and consider further alterations when updating or upgrading IT assets.
- Train and test all employees: Employees across departments should understand their roles within an IT disaster mitigation and recovery plan.
- Review the process and outcomes: Company leaders should audit the recovery process to ensure it covers important criteria and reduces harm to the minimal acceptable impact.
- Outsource recovery planning: Businesses of all sizes see success by delegating disaster recovery planning to third-party professionals. IT management companies have the resources and experience to institute an efficient recovery strategy for any organization.
Implement a Calculated IT Disaster Recovery Plan
Your business’s data, hardware and software are essential to your success, but IT assets are vulnerable to various physical and virtual threats. Implement a strategy that prevents damage to your IT infrastructure and establish a disaster recovery plan for the unexpected.
Kirbtech is an IT management company with over a decade of experience helping businesses maintain agile software and hardware. We are capable of developing disaster recovery solutions for small and midsized businesses in various industries. Our experts will help you prevent IT disasters and mitigate the effects of those that occur, so contact us online to discuss your organization.