Imagine walking a tightrope 100 feet in the air – terrifying, right? Now imagine doing it without a safety net or lifeline (err, no thanks). What about cycling down a mountain without a crash helmet? Not very smart either.

Funny then isn’t it, that when it comes to our IT infrastructure, many of us aren’t as aware of, or prepared for, the traps and pitfalls. And we are much less likely to invest in the appropriate safety nets and crash helmets (well their IT equivalents at least!) to avoid data loss and speed up the process of regaining access.

A disaster recovery strategy is there to ensure business continuity when an unexpected disruptive event happens — whether that’s cyber attack, equipment failure, a simple power outage resulting in a failure to critical systems or a full blown natural disaster. Make no mistake, effective disaster recovery planning and good crisis management can make a big difference to how quickly you can regain key business function.

But what’s the difference between disaster recovery and business continuity?

First of all, disaster recovery isn’t the same as business continuity. But they do work together to make sure your business can keep going in the event of a disaster, like a power outage.

An IT business continuity plan looks at how to get your day-to-day operations back up and running quickly in the event of a disaster. Think of it like your cycling proficiency course. You’re more prepared, so if you fall, you know how to hop back on and keep pedalling.

An IT disaster recovery plan sets out steps to restore and preserve your data in the event of a disaster, as well as reduce recovery time. Because, without your data, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to continue your usual business operations.

They really do go hand in hand. So, you should be creating a business continuity plan alongside a disaster recovery plan.

The goals of IT disaster recovery planning

Prevention, this includes having systems in place to reduce the risks and limit the potential for human error. For example, proper backup systems for your data storage and generators to power them in the case of a power cut.

Detection, so you’re aware of any potential risks and threats and have a plan to respond if they develop.

Correction, in other words, fixing whatever went wrong. This can include having proper insurance policies in place and having a meeting to get to the bottom of the issue.

I don’t need a disaster recovery plan

Well, OK, but that means you don’t have a crash helmet or a safety net. If things go wrong, it could be extremely painful for your business processes.

Downtime, of any type, can be very damaging for a business’s operations, costing revenue and reputation.

A disaster recovery plan helps mitigate this risk.

Benefits of having a disaster recovery plan

Potential for cost saving – By constantly analysing and reviewing your hardware and software, in case of disaster, there is ample opportunity to update the way things are done. So you know you’re using the most innovative and up to date resources to keep your business protected.

Increased employee productivity – By having a disaster recovery plan you should know exactly which key personnel are responsible for doing what in the event of a disaster or breach. With these clearly defined responsibilities, effectiveness and productivity should increase. Having the right team handling the recovery process can minimise any confusion, prevent lost data and limit lost revenue.

Greater customer retention – customers have ever increasing expectations when it comes to reliability and connectivity. If you have a good IT recovery plan in place, downtime will be greatly reduced, meaning customers are less likely to become frustrated and leave.

The key features of an IT disaster recovery plan

Who does what? – The plan should include the individual responsibilities of each team member along with their contact information. The plan itself should be made available to all employees.

Risk assess – Your plan should include risk analysis and identification throughout the organisation so that you’re prepared for all possible emergencies such as cyber attack and natural disasters. Testing the plan is also very important. This will allow the team to identify the recovery strategies  and the resources you need.

Prioritise – It’s vital to determine the critical applications and resources within your organisation.  Start by looking at the resources you need to keep your business surviving in the short term. And then look at the processes you’d like to start back up after you’ve taken care of the mission critical functions like data protection.

Backup procedures – Define your data backup and off-site storage procedures. Then decide what to back up, who should back it up, how to back it up, where your backup sites are, and how often you should back it up.

Once you’ve agreed on a data backup plan, you need to test and maintain it. It’s a continual process of assessing risks and updating strategies in case of an emergency. And it’s good practice to routinely check and update your plan.

To keep your business operations running smoothly, you need a disaster recovery plan. It will help reduce customer frustration in an emergency, and minimise any downtime. This all limits the loss of revenue and any damage to your reputation

Get in touch if you'd like help with your IT Disaster Recovery Plan