Disaster recovery is a concept that every business, organization or company should keep in mind at all times. We all hear about terms such as ‘backup’, ‘data protection’, ‘high availability’ or ‘cloud computing’, but what do they really refer to, in the big disaster recovery picture? Our Disaster Recovery 101: How to Prepare and What to Expect guide will walk you through every necessary step involved in the disaster recovery process. Not only will we provide a complete definition of what disaster recovery is, but we will also go through the importance of sticking to these plans through testing and training. We’ll go through what a disaster recovery plan sample or template should look like, as well as the ways in which you can save software, information and other essential IT aspects.
Learn how to protect the critical technology and data that companies strive to build up in our full disaster recovery manual below.
Types of Disasters
Before we get into detail about disaster recovery examples, templates or practices, we need to cover potential scenarios. When referring to both businesses and communities, disasters can be identified in two main ways:
- Natural disasters
- Avalanches etc.
- Man-made disasters
- Criminal actions
- Terrorist attacks
- Industrial hazards
- Rioting, stampedes
- Radioactive materials
- IT attacks
As you can see, the example list of disasters is extensive. However, we must be aware that any one of these disasters can take place at any time, even in the center of the largest company or city. Even though you can’t avoid a natural disaster altogether, you can take all the necessary precautions to reduce the damage and general impact of the disaster.
From a business point of view, these natural and man-made disasters can affect the entire evolution of a company. A server can be destroyed, an e-commerce site can be permanently shut down, and every last fundamental document in the office can be damaged beyond repair. A thriving business can die out even after a small incident if discover recovery planning wasn’t carried out beforehand. We can’t stress enough how significant disaster recovery preparation is for a company; this is why we’ll describe a few reasons why you should focus on it below.
Why Focus on Disaster Recovery
Strategy is critical to any company, no matter its size or niche. Nowadays, almost all companies rely on computer technology for data management and business growth. As a result, a business strategy should always contain disaster recovery solutions and planning techniques to prepare for the worst. Unfortunately, quite a few businesses tend to overlook this aspect and end up with irreparable damage after a disaster like the ones we described above. Nevertheless, why is it so important for companies to focus on disaster recovery?
- Save money – Multiple studies show that preparing for a disaster accordingly will help the company with the disaster recovery costs. Even though it might require an investment in advance, it will save a company much more in case a disaster takes place.
- Save staff – More importantly than any form of software or business data are the lives that can be affected as a result of a disaster. If a company sets up reliable disaster recovery strategies, the risk of harming staff is considerably reduced.
- Save the company – In the end, a disaster can lead to the complete termination of a company. No matter how successful the business is prior to the disaster, a lack of preparation will ultimately result in one less company on the market.
Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity
In business, the terms ‘disaster recovery’ and ‘business continuity’ generally go hand in hand. Even though the topics are often discussed separately or even as the same concept, disaster recovery is actually a part of business continuity. The former refers to protecting and managing data, systems and other information technology components, while the latter is about saving the entire company in case of a disaster. In a nutshell, a business continuity plan is basically not complete without disaster recovery options. In numerous cases, the terms are referred to side by side to highlight both the IT essentials of disaster recovery and the general procedure for keeping the company going.
As opposed to disaster recovery, business continuity contains multiple additional aspects, such as:
- Policy and program
- Business Continuity / Business Continuity Management plan & planning
In turn, business continuity is part of a greater topic, that of risk management. Risk management, on the other hand, falls under the main category of business administration. Even though the description for each of these concepts varies, they all come down to protecting a business in worst case scenarios. Even though disaster recovery may seem like just a tiny slice of the big pie, it is a vital aspect to a company’s well-being that should never be overlooked.
Disaster Recovery Planning for Business
As we have explained, planning for disaster recovery is crucial for maintaining business continuity. The main aspect of disaster recovery planning is having a trustworthy disaster recovery plan put together. While the general plan will be created once, it is imperative that it receives regular updates as the business grows. For example, if a new division is set up, new jobs are created, or a new set of services is launched, the disaster recovery plan needs to be modified accordingly. Even though it may seem pretty simple at first, a disaster recovery strategy contains several factors that need to be considered before you begin the process.
To properly identify what your disaster recovery plan should aim for, you need to see what information systems need to be protected. To do so, a complex risk assessment is required. As a company owner or manager, you can reach out to RA service providers or a specialist from an independent institute for your risk assessment. The final report will contain the most important pieces of equipment and technology that need to be regarded for the disaster recovery plan.
RTO vs RPO
Two major terms that always come up when speaking about disaster recovery are RTO (Recovery Time Objectives) and RPO (Recovery Point Objectives). The difference between RTO and RPO is that one refers to the time of disaster recovery, while the other refers to the crucial data involved. To briefly explain, Recovery Time Objectives can appear as a number of hours in which your company can still continue without functioning systems. On the other hand, Recovery Point Objectives can be your company’s fundamental database, such as the time it can continue without a particular set of PDF files.
Prior to creating the best disaster recovery plan for your business, you will also have to outline your core strategies for such situations. Disaster recovery strategies should include answers to questions like:
- What is the most significant data stored on my company’s servers?
- Do we only use an internal network or do we depend on external services for our data?
- How can we move our data to cloud computing services to prevent loss after a disaster?
Disaster Recovery Plan Tips
After consulting risk management specialists, doing an idea exchange with the key management professionals of your company and outlining the main strategies you are prepared to implement, it is your job to define, create and test your disaster recovery plan. You can find plenty of free templates online, but you should always know that a disaster recovery plan should be tailored to your company. There are quite a few factors that can affect a disaster recovery plan:
- Data storage options
- Data protection
- Choice of software
- Networking technology
When preparing to outline your disaster recovery plan, the following structure can be considered
- Introduction or Policy Statement
- Recovery Strategy, Responsibilities
- Plan Development
- Incident Response
- Plan Testing
- History of Documents
- Inventories and Appendixes
Always make sure that you include a few essential elements about how your workforce can act in case of a disaster. For instance, how to get windows open, how to evacuate the office, how to get to the closest hospital etc.
Solutions for Disaster Recovery
As you can clearly see, preparation is key to any disaster recovery plan. In order to allow your business to continue living after a disaster, you can look into hi-tech solutions and be ready for any type of tragic scenario. As far as information technology is concerned, here are some of the best ways to protect your company’s vital data.
There’s a lot of talk going around in recent years about cloud computing, but not everyone knows how it actually works. To put this in a nutshell too, cloud computing means managing data through internet servers instead of relying on a personal server or computer to store information. To help you get a better idea of it, a local server can crash and undergo irreparable damage at any time, while cloud computing solutions keep your data online.
Preventing cyber attacks is just as important as protecting any of your company’s data through traditional methods. Hacking is becoming more and more of a common problem for small and large companies alike, and one of the only ways to prevent it is by developing a powerful cyber security system. You should always test an information protection system like this beforehand, to see if it can withstand cyber attacks.
How to Recover from Disasters: General Advice & Checklist
Even though disaster recovery refers to businesses that need IT and data protection, we also wanted to include a segment about how individuals can generally prepare and act during disasters. This information not only can be applied by employees of a company, but by anyone who is undergoing a similar situation.
- Prepare – if you know that the area you live in is prone to certain natural disasters, make sure that you are always prepared accordingly. Stock up on food, water sources and other essential aspects that you will need in case of a disaster.
- Stay safe – in case of natural disasters, staying safe is of the essence. Make sure that you take cover from windows and try to remain in a sheltered environment. If your home or the building you are in has a basement, seek refuge there.
- Stay calm – it’s very easy for any situation to get out of hand if a natural disaster is involved. It’s super important that you stay calm at all times and go through the steps you had previously planned. Try to keep any panic at a minimum and act rationally.
- Evacuation – if the disaster you are experiencing requires you to immediately evacuate the building, consult the evacuation plans you have and proceed with finding the closest exit.
As far as checklists and supplies kits are concerned, you should have access to the following:
- Food (preferably canned)
- First aid kit
- Emergency mobile phone
You can download the official Emergency Supplies List issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security here.
List of Organizations for Disaster Relief
There are multiple organizations that can aid individuals seeking disaster relief. First and foremost, Red Cross branches can be found all across the United States and are a primary source of help in disastrous situations. To find the closest Red Cross branch in your area, use their online chapter locator.
A complete list of disaster relief organizations includes solutions for:
- medical attention
- food and water
- bedding etc.
You can find links to disaster relief agencies all over the United States here.
Regardless if you’re preparing for a home or office disaster, it is without a doubt that you need to prepare. Make sure that you have a well-defined plan that is known by all individuals in the location and that you can get organized fast and safely. As for businesses and disaster recovery, investing time and resources into a solid plan can save the future of your company.