Disaster Recovery (DR) Plans have developed alongside growing technologies and have changed along with businesses as well. DR plans are goal-oriented, detailed plans that outline strategies on how to respond and resolve unplanned incidents. Properly made plans contain policies, tools and procedures that can save organizations from loss of revenue, brand damage, data loss, and disgruntled consumers by addressing and rectifying incidents in a timely manner.
Disaster recovery control measures are typically classified into three separate categories. The first is Preventative Measures that, as the name states, are meant for preventing a future incident from occurring. The second is Detective Measures which are used to detect or discover any unforeseen disruption. The third is Corrective Measures which lays out the steps needed to correct and restore any affected systems or software. There are various scenarios where these measures can be applied, here are a few common ones that require thorough DR plans.
Data loss is one of the most important scenarios to test and prepare for because it can cause substantial interruption and loss in a business. Disaster recovery plans should plan for either single file loss or entire service loss because either can prove costly for a business when not recovered quickly. When creating a plan, it is important it includes a business impact analysis, tests from file-level to full server level, included list of complete hardware/software inventory based on priority, clearly defines data loss procedures, includes well documented testing results, and establishes a recovery objective time. It is also important to consider how long the recovery will take, how much of the organization will be directly affected, and if there are any improvements that need to be made to speed up recovery time.
Failed backups are never a desired result but can be a common scenario, especially for organizations who rely on incremental backups. If a backup fails one of the first steps is to troubleshoot to see why the backup failed. Once the problem is identified, it is time to see if that backup can be restored or if you need to restore from another backup. To prepare for failed backups, disaster recovery plans should include example tests such as recovery from a cloud backup, backup virtualization, hypervisor restore, and iSCSI (Internet Small Computer Systems Interface) restore. These tests should be run regularly to ensure that they function properly.
Network outages can be incredibly disruptive to daily workloads and can lead to massive data-loss risks. While they can be inconvenient, if an organization’s IT managers work to resolve the issues quickly it can save an organization’s bottom line. To be prepared for network outages, IT teams should regularly test for unexpected surges, run mock tests, perform network health testing and readiness tests.
Physical Hardware Failure
No one plans for an organization’s hardware or systems to suddenly fail, and it can be costly when it does happen. Hardware failure is a common cause of data loss and operational disruptions that can have long-term effects on a business if not handled immediately. When creating a disaster recovery plan for hardware failure it is important to highlight the process of determining if hardware is salvageable or needs to be replaced and how fast these processes can happen. It is also crucial to business continuity to have vendor relationships that can ensure timely replacements of any physical hardware.
Cyber threats are growing in frequency, sophistication and can lead to disastrous results for a business. There are several types of cyber-attacks to prepare for such as malware, ransomware, DDoS attacks, spam, phishing, social engineering, third party software, hackers, business competitors, and even unhappy insiders. Protecting hardware, systems and data from internal and external threats are equally important and should both be handled aggressively. To help prepare for cyber threats, IT teams can be proactive and test their cyber security plans against simulated breaches or by conducting internal audits to expose strengths and weaknesses of their disaster recovery plans.
Natural and Man-Made Disasters
While natural disasters can be unpredictable, organizations can still create disaster recovery plans in case these events happen. Natural disasters can include an array of incidents such as floods, hurricanes, blizzards, and earthquakes. Physical disasters are more man-made disasters that can include terrorism, structural disasters, construction, transportation issues, on-site danger, and accidents at or surrounding the workplace. Whether physical or natural – these scenarios are still highly unpredictable and disaster recovery plans should be in place, just in case. You can prepare for natural disasters by practicing evacuation drills and have emergency procedures in place for a variety of scenarios regardless of how improbable they seem to be. It is also crucial for organizations to regularly check communication systems so employees can stay informed during prolonged disasters. A final way to help prepare for a disaster is testing IT systems for remote work and testing procedures that can help maintain core operations.
Human-error remains one of the most common, but unintentional, causes of business disasters. There is no way to come up with a single solution because human-error can range from saving a document improperly to incorrect data entry. Disaster recovery plans should highlight how to deal with simple human errors by combining proper user-training, updating software, and implementing backup solutions to help minimize any damage these errors can have. Proper training, equipment and procedures allows employees to recover documents and minimize mistakes without having to put in request to the IT department.
Crafting a Disaster Recovery Plan
Disaster Recovery Plans should include several things to help businesses stay ahead of any scenarios that could lead to data loss and organization down-time. Some important key takeaways from a good disaster recovery plan are minimizing risk, resuming operations quickly, maintaining industry compliance and addressing concerns of all employees, vendors, investors, and owners. At the very least disaster recovery plans need to follow procedures such as:
- Analyzing all potential threats
- Identifying vulnerabilities through regular risk assessments
- Determining immediate action plans depending on scenario and vulnerability
- Establishing plans for actions based on scenarios
- Developing plans for long-term actions
- Regularly testing software and systems
Beyond these procedures there are other factors to include in disaster recovery plans. Below we touched on seven basic factors that should be included in all disaster recovery plans regardless of the scenario that are created for.
- Goals – create a clear outline of organization goals during and after experiencing a disaster, be sure to include RTO and RPO.
- Personnel – every DR plan should include who or which department is responsible for implementing the plan.
- Inventory – a detailed list about hardware, software, cloud services and system assets that are necessary for an organization’s day-to-day operations. High priority assets should be listed first.
- Backup Procedures – where data backups are located and how they can be accessed should be detailed.
- Disaster Recovery Sites – these locations are typically off-site and hold all data and critical systems that can be accessed by the organization when needed.
- Disaster Recovery Procedures – these procedures detail how to respond to various emergencies with factors such as implementing backups, mitigation procedures and eradication of cyber threats.
- Restoration procedures – these simply are procedures that lay out how to recover from a loss of full systems operations. The goal of this is to detail how to get each aspect of the organization back to standard.
A well thought out Disaster Recovery Plan can make an enormous difference in how an organization bounces back from calamity. From dealing with scenarios as vast as data loss, human-error, and natural disaster, it is crucial for organizations to have DR plans in place for all of them, allowing a safety net to bounce back with minimal organizational downtime and overall loss.