In our digital world, disasters that affect our data and applications are a given. Whether it’s a deleted file, a ransomware attack, or a large scale natural disaster, there are constant threats to IT infrastructure and the businesses that depends on them. But you can minimize the impact of an outage by making a disaster recovery plan and business continuity plan.
How to Create a Disaster Recovery Plan for Your Business
The best disaster recovery plan will evaluate risks and set goals upfront. For help, you may want to start with a disaster recovery plan template. The scope of effective DR planning also includes a business continuity plan—you want critical business operations to continue for your users and customers while key players in IT address the disaster event. For your disaster recovery plan, start with a business impact and risk analysis and analysis. In your analysis, consider geographical and infrastructure risk factors, such as if you have a single site or multiple sites, if you use cloud backup, and if your IT employees would likely be able to access the data center in event of natural disaster.
For business continuity planning, make a list of mission-critical operations, and then determine what applications, data, user access, or equipment are necessary to support those functions. Understand the cost of downtime and then determine your Recovery Time Objective (RTO) for each function. An RTO defines the target amount of time an application or operation can be offline without an unacceptable business impact, and is usually measured in hours, minutes, or seconds. Next determine the Recovery Point Objective (RPO), defined as the point in time to which the application must be recovered. Another way to think of RPO is to understand how much data your business can afford to lose. Then, consider what Service Level Agreements (SLAs) have been promised to your executives, users, or other stakeholders. Knowing these risks and goals will speed up the planning process and ensure your disaster recovery plan and business continuity plan meets your organization’s needs.
What to Include in a Disaster Recovery Plan
Even if you begin with a disaster recovery plan template, you’ll want to be informed on best practices so you can be certain that your disaster recovery plan and business continuity plan is comprehensive. A disaster recovery plan should contain all of the information your organization and staff need to recover from a disaster. Include the risk analysis, RTOs, RPOs, and SLAs and a structured approach for meeting these objectives. Consider the different types of disasters and downtime, such as data loss, power outages, server failure, ransomware, flooding, site-wide outages, and natural disasters, and include step-by-step plans for how to address each cause.
Make a list of IT staff and their contact information, as well as information about roles and responsibilities in the event of outage, and walk your team through the disaster recovery plan ahead of time. Be sure that individual team members have the appropriate passwords and access levels to meet these responsibilities, and consider designating alternates in the event of natural disasters that may affect employees in their homes. For the business continuity plan portion of your DR strategy, include details about mission-critical applications and who is responsible for both ensuring operations are running and helping users troubleshoot any issues. If your business is using disaster recovery services or cloud backup services, include the name and contact information of the vendor as well as the list of employees authorized to declare a disaster or request support. You may also want to include in your disaster recovery plan and business continuity plan some best practices for communicating with the media. A media plan and designated public relations contact is especially useful if your organization is an enterprise or otherwise high profile business, or if you have many users who rely on 24/7 connectivity to your services, or if you are a healthcare, financial, educational, or government institution.
Disaster Recovery Plan for New Threats like Ransomware
Your organization’s risk analysis should include new and evolving types of disasters. One of the most rapidly growing and disruptive causes of downtime is ransomware. Recovering from ransomware may require different steps than getting back online after other types of outages. A thorough DR planning risk analysis will evaluate your organization’s susceptibility to a ransomware attack. Anti-virus solutions and employee training to avoid phising and other scams is must, but organizations must also consider their backup solution and be sure to avoid the nightmare of ransomware also infecting their backup files.
First, is your backup solution built on a commonly targeted and more susceptible foundation, like Windows-based backup software? Consider changing to a backup solution that uses secure, hardened Linux like Unitrends backup appliances. Secondly, does your backup solution use analytics to automatically detect and alert you to ransomware early on, so you can restore quickly? Your disaster recovery plan and business continuity plan should include steps on how your organization will respond to ransomware and what, if any, circumstances your business would consider attempting to pay a ransom to get your data back.
Proving Your Disaster Recovery Plan with Automated Testing
The only way to know for sure that you can rely on your disaster recovery plan and business continuity plan is through testing. But, as any IT administrator knows, testing a disaster recovery plan can be time-consuming and complex, putting a strain on already busy staff. When organizations rely on manual efforts, DR testing is often neglected or abandoned. An untested disaster recovery plan means a business likely won’t be able to recover like they hoped in the event of disaster, a situation which could incur lasting damage to your revenue and reputation. But, there is a better way to substantiate your disaster recovery plan and business continuity plan.
Automated testing makes it easy to validate your disaster recovery plan and business continuity plan before disaster strikes. Unitrends Recovery Assurance automates disaster recovery testing and recovery orchestration, saving you the headache of manual DR testing, and provides proof of your recovery objectives. Export and send the Recovery Assurance reports to your management team, or simply review for your own peace of mind. Available for local, off-site, and/or cloud, Recovery Assurance tests your DR strategy no matter where you plan to recover. Testing your disaster recovery plan via Unitrends Recovery Assurance means your DR planning won’t be a wasted effort or useless exercise in paperwork.
How a Disaster Recovery Plan Simplifies Compliance Requirements
Business continuity is no longer just the concern of the business or organization facing downtime. In our increasingly connected world, the availability of data and applications is critical for a variety of stakeholders. Healthcare patients, financial markets, government entities, and enterprise business users all rely the uptime and disaster recovery plan of key organizations. In the case of healthcare, business continuity plans can even be a matter of life or death. That’s why many industries have regulations, such as HIPAA and FINRA, that place requirements on disaster recovery plans and uptime in order for organizations to maintain these crucial certifications. But meeting such compliance requirements can be burdensome for IT staff, especially those constrained by limited budgets and resources (which, let’s face it, is most). Creating a disaster recovery plan kills two birds with one stone by addressing those compliance requirements and giving your organization a roadmap to avoid or minimize downtime.
Your business continuity plan may also uncover the need to add some more DR tools to your IT tool belt, such as using a disaster recovery services provider like Unitrends that can guarantee uptime. Unitrends also offers long-term data retention in the cloud, another common compliance requirement. Pairing long-term retention with DRaaS like with Unitrends Forever Cloud and Premium DRaaS maximizes what you get for your budget and simplifies your overall IT strategy.
When to Consider a Disaster Recovery Services Provider
An effective disaster recovery plan and business continuity plan will help organizations understand if they can meet their RPOs, RTOs, SLAs, and other recovery goals. It’s not uncommon for an IT team to realize that their organization’s recovery objectives will be difficult to meet when relying only on in-house staff, expertise, resources, or equipment. But don’t overlook the cost of downtime, or assume that your recovery objectives or SLAs have to be compromised. Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) providers can help. The right DRaaS solution for your business can meet or exceed your recovery goals without draining your budget.
Disaster recovery services help you recover rapidly by operating your business’s critical applications and servers from a secure cloud. This method of business continuity makes it possible for your users to continue business operations while the IT staff is eradicating a threat or rebuilding the primary sight. DRaaS can be especially vital for organizations who are bound by compliance requirements and uptime SLAs, or enterprises with a high demand for staying online. When business continuity is a must, look for a DRaaS provider like Unitrends that offers guaranteed recovery SLAs. The Unitrends Cloud team also provides DRaaS customers with a disaster recovery plan template and helps organizations complete their disaster recovery plan and business continuity plan.
Unitrends has been able to provide us with peace of mind that we will be able to restore data in case of emergency and enabled us to lower our RTO and RPO significantly. The appliances and services are stable and reliable. Our Unitrends appliance literally paid for itself after being able to restore the 2 million+ files affected by ransomware earlier this year.
Director of IT