At some point or another in your life, you’ve probably looked forward and planned for the future. Whether that was starting a savings account, choosing a college to attend, or purchasing an insurance plan, you started preparing for something down the road – good or bad. Unfortunately, that focus on planning for the uncertainty of the future in our personal lives doesn’t always carry over to our professional one. Yep, we’re talking disaster recovery plans.
By creating a disaster recovery plan, businesses can prepare for a number of unexpected events and get back up and running much more quickly than otherwise. But many companies don’t invest the time or resources in creating this type of plan. In the blog, we’re going to talk about why disaster recovery is important and give you some tips for creating your own strategy.
What is a Disaster Recovery Plan?
When we’re looking at disaster recovery from an IT perspective, it’s really about planning. It’s setting up secondary technology, plans, procedures, and trained personnel to respond to any potential work-stopping events. These events could include many types of disasters, including:
- Internet outages
- Hardware failure
- Software corruption
- Ransomware/cyber attack
- Power outages
- Natural disaster
We hope that none of these events ever happen to us, but they could. And it’s better to be prepared for a disaster that never happens than the reverse. So, let’s go through a few tips that will help you create a disaster recovery for your business.
1. Be Proactive
The number one tip for creating a disaster recovery plan is to be proactive. If you have a server that hasn’t had any trouble in a few years, it’s easy to think it’s in perfect working condition. However, that’s the wrong way to look at it.
Instead, you should be continually checking and updating your equipment. Just because something is working now does not mean it always will. The best way to support longevity in your equipment is to replace older components that might eventually fail. By taking this approach, you can reduce the chances of unexpected failures or outages.
Being proactive and putting preventive measures in place is always the first step in a disaster recovery plan. There might be some costs associated — purchasing new parts and equipment or recovery solutions. However, think of it as an insurance policy. These types of efforts can help your business avoid a disaster in the first place, which will save money in the long run.
2. Figure Out What is Mission Critical
Next on our list of top tips for disaster recovery, is to figure out what is mission critical for your organization. What are the most important systems that your business could not operate without? By understanding these items, you are giving yourself the perfect place to start crafting your own disaster recovery plan. Because there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to DR. Your strategy will be based on your business needs.
So, to narrow down your business to its most essential aspects, we recommend starting by listing out every piece of your business in general. Write down every single system you and your staff use. This includes workstations, email, and software like Quickbooks or others.
After making this list, you should be able to scan down to find which systems are critical. It’s even a good idea to sort them into mission critical, urgent, important, and last priorities. This will give you a sense of where you should be focusing first.
3. Understand Your Recovery Time Objective and Recovery Point Objective
As we stated above, every organization’s disaster recovery plan will look slightly different. And this is especially true when it comes to recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO). So, let’s talk about RTO and RPO for a little bit.
Firstly, let’s define these two terms. RTO is the duration of time a business must be up and running again to avoid significant losses due to a break in business continuity. RTO can be extremely different depending on the company. One business may be able to be down for two weeks before extreme losses, while for another, it may be only thirty minutes.
RPO is the age of the data your business will need to continue operations effectively. Again, this can be vastly different from business to business. If you lost all of your current data, would you be able to get by with recovered data from a month ago, or would you need yesterday’s or even the last hour’s data?
By understanding your organization’s unique RTO and RPO, you can better create an all-encompassing, cost-effective disaster recovery strategy. It will often be more expensive the shorter your objectives are, but by having the proper plans in place, you’ll be able to meet these objectives and keep your business running.
4. Ensure Redundancy
We’re sure you’ve all heard about the importance of backups in a DR plan by now, and it’s true. You can recover from just about anything with a good backup. But we also want to stress how essential redundancy is. There are two types of backups we recommend every business has to fulfill this need for redundancy. These are local backups and cloud backups.
Starting with a local backup, you’ll want to have this in place for speed. Recovering your data from a local hard drive is often much quicker than recovering from the cloud. However, there are challenges because local backups are susceptible to certain types of disasters like floods, theft, or fires. That’s why we encourage a cloud backup as well.
By having all of your data replicated in the cloud, you’ll still have a backup if your hard drive gets taken out. And, because cloud backups are off-site and often extremely secure, they are much more protected from theft or cyber attacks like ransomware. Cloud backups also give you the possibility for versions. If your latest version gets corrupted, you can use the previous version.
We always say, when it comes to backups, there is never enough redundancy. Use local backups for speed, and cloud backups for redundancy and off-site backup.
5. Test, Test, Test!
Last but not least, don’t just create a DR plan and then let it sit there. You need to continually test it to make sure it works. Things change over time, and that can affect the success of your strategy. Maybe you changed servers. Or you started using new software. By testing your disaster recovery plan, you’ll be able to find any holes and fix them before an actual disaster strikes.
We recommend testing quarterly. Take your three or four most common files and ensure that they can be restored. Testing may mean your business experiences an hour of downtime. But we promise it’s worth it! By testing your plan, you’ll know that everything works like it is supposed to and that everyone is trained and knows what to do.
You can’t underestimate the power a disaster recovery plan could have for your business down the line. You never know what’s going to happen. Companies across the United States have experienced a number of disasters in the last years, from the fires to hurricanes to ransomware. By preparing your organization ahead of time, you will ensure that you can get back to business quickly and efficiently. Also, don’t forget to check out our webinar on disaster recovery for even more valuable information!