Running a business without a comprehensive disaster recovery plan is like driving a car without insurance – sure, everything may run smoothly for a while, but you’ll be in quite the predicament when something breaks down. And if the past year has taught us nothing else, it’s that businesses have to be prepared for anything.
Having a well-organized disaster recovery plan is just one portion of an overarching operational security initiative known as incident response planning, and should be combined with business continuity plans, crisis management, and overall safety planning. These documents help business leaders minimize operational downtime and restore functionality by spelling out how disasters will be managed, who is required to take action, and what systems require the most attention.
Creating a successful disaster recovery plan requires three components: a detailed business impact analysis, an assessment of potential threats (often referred to as risk analysis) and an outline of recovery objectives.
Business Impact Analysis
The first step in creating a disaster recovery plan is to conduct a business impact analysis (BIA). This activity requires you to think critically about all of the things your business needs to function daily, map out what it would look like if each of those components were to become inaccessible due to a disaster, and then prioritize your recovery efforts.
Financial and operational disruptions should be considered when assessing each asset. Questions like “how long can our operations continue to run without X?”, and “what is the financial impact of losing Y for Z amount of time?” are great places to start when conducting your initial BIA. Engaging functional area managers and other staff that are knowledgeable about the ins and outs of the business will help paint a clear picture of the systems and applications your business cannot operate without.
Prioritizing which assets and business data are most important will vary depending on the nature of the organization. For example, customer service call centers may identify their phone system as the top priority for restoration efforts, while a medical office may classify their patient records repository as the top priority. The primary objective of a BIA is to document every aspect of your business.
Once you have a clear idea of the applications, data, and systems that your organization needs to function, you need to assess the potential issues that could negatively impact your key business initiatives. This process, known as risk analysis, helps organizations consider all of the potential adverse events that could take place due to natural disasters, unplanned accidents, and intentional disasters caused by threat actors.
In addition to simply identifying business risk, risk analysis helps businesses with the following:
- Assessing the likelihood and severity of each risk.
- Detailing the impact of each risk, should it come to fruition.
Creating contingency plans for unknown risks.
Identifying mitigation strategies to help reduce the risk.
Risks can be both qualitative and quantitative in nature. Qualitative risk focuses on the functional impact to the business, while quantitative risk focuses on the financial impact. Both of these risk types should be considered when developing your disaster recovery plan.
The final component in a disaster recovery plan is a detailed plan that outlines how your organization will restore operational functionality once the event has passed. In this phase of the process, you will need to establish two thresholds – Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO).
RPO quantifies the amount of data you are willing to lose in a disaster and sets a minimum backup point. This threshold will impact how often you back up data, how long you store it, and how quickly you access it in the event of a disaster.
RTO quantifies the length of time a critical application or system can be down before the business sustains irrevocable damage. This threshold will help prioritize which systems need to be brought up first by the disaster recovery team (DRT) once the threat has passed.
A recovery plan should be developed for all major systems, such as virtualization environments, network infrastructure, telephony networks, and power infrastructure.
Once your disaster recovery document is completed, it should be tested annually at a minimum to ensure the plans you’ve put to paper actually flow smoothly when enacted. Your DRP should be a living document that is reevaluated as the needs of your business change.
Is Your Business Prepared?
Having a comprehensive disaster recovery and business continuity plan can help your organization minimize downtime and avoid catastrophe in the event of a disaster.
Visit our disaster recovery and business continuity overview page to learn more about disaster recovery planning, or contact us today.