How To Create An Effective IT Disaster Recovery Plan

Your business' reliance on technology is a double-edged sword. While computers, data networks and hosted voice systems have enabled companies to exponentially increase productivity, expand operations and enhance communications, these same technologies can grind entire operations to a halt in seconds if they fail.

What Is a Disaster Recovery Plan?

A disaster recovery plan is an IT policy that outlines procedures and tools required to recover services in the event of unplanned downtime, security breaches, or natural and human-induced disasters. Building redundancies into network operations allows your network to remain in service by providing alternative communications paths and backup equipment.

Why Do I Need A Disaster Recovery Plan?

Disasters do not discriminate based on the type of business, its size, age or location. Earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes; Mother Nature is an equal opportunity destroyer. Manmade emergencies like Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, accidental system outages and hardware failures may be more limited in geographic scope but can be equally devastating to affected businesses.

It disaster recovery plan

Disasters do not discriminate based on the type of business, its size, age or location. Earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes; Mother Nature is an equal opportunity destroyer. Manmade emergencies like Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, accidental system outages and hardware failures may be more limited in geographic scope but can be equally devastating to affected businesses.

Fortunately, hurricanes like Katrina and earthquakes along the San Andreas Fault are few and far between. This gives many businesses the false sense of security that a catastrophe will not affect their business. But it doesn't take a major disaster to knock out IT operations. It could be a burst pipe that floods an office space and shorts out the network, smoke damage from a fire in the business downstairs that renders the entire building uninhabitable, a power outage from a lightning strike hitting a transformer, a targeted cyberattack, or a server crash.

Whatever the cause, many businesses cannot survive an extended outage. Even small events that cause businesses to suspend operations for three days or more can trigger an exodus of customers that can be fatal. Research by the University of Texas has shown that only 6% of companies suffering from a catastrophic data loss survive; 43% never reopen and 51% fail within the ensuing two years.

Companies without an effective IT disaster recovery plan to guide the swift return to normal operations are at risk of losing more than revenues, data and emails during the actual outage period. They jeopardize future business from customers who defect to competitors to fulfill immediate needs and never return.

What Are The Elements Of An Effective Disaster Recovery Plan?

Being truly prepared for an emergency means putting an IT disaster recovery plan in place to minimize the:

  • Financial impact
  • Downtime
  • Speed to return to normal operations

An IT disaster recovery plan helps eliminate panic. It provides a roadmap of actionable steps written with a calm hand when things are beyond your control due an unexpected outage or data loss.

Being truly prepared for an emergency means putting an IT disaster recovery plan in place to minimize financial impact, reduce downtime and speed the return to normal operations after an outage regardless of cause. An IT disaster recovery plan helps eliminate panic. It provides a roadmap of actionable steps written with a calm hand when things are beyond your control due an unexpected outage or data loss.

At the minimum, an IT disaster recovery plan should include the following elements:

  • A Business Impact Analysis – a risk assessment exercise that identifies all time-sensitive and mission critical functions and processes.
  • The creation of an Emergency Response Team (ERT) of core employees.
  • A process for identifying the level of event severity – what qualifies as a disaster?
  • A prioritized list of the IT systems to be restored.
  • Defined roles and responsibilities for individuals and ERT members to conduct damage assessment and initiate repair/restart operations.
  • A process for transitioning back to normal operations after the crisis is resolved.
  • Testing, simulations and periodic updating to ensure the plan works.

The bottom line? Don't think it can't happen to you. There is no threshold for vulnerability when it comes to disasters. The best advice is don't wait because disasters are not a matter of if, but when.

If you'd like to learn more about planning for a disaster, download: The Road to IT Disaster Recovery Depends on the Path You Take.

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