An illustrated file folder that is half open and showing the written disaster recovery plan.

Your Guide to Creating a Disaster Recovery Plan in 2023

While it’s challenging for leaders to consider every potentially disastrous situation that could bring down their MSPs, failing to plan for when disaster strikes could be detrimental to your company.

Natural disasters, hardware failure, and data breaches damage your reputation, cost business, and cause you to lose irreplaceable data. Putting disaster recovery plans in place helps it become a slight bump by getting operations up and running as quickly as possible.

Here is your guide to disaster recovery planning, including what is a disaster recovery plan, why it is essential to your organization, and disaster recovery best practices to minimize damage to your business operations.

What is the purpose of a disaster recovery plan?

An IT disaster recovery plan is a strategic and systematic document that businesses use to recover from any type of IT disaster, whether accidental, natural, or malicious. It includes a step-by-step process for getting back online and recovery strategies for business continuity planning.

There are many disasters your network could face: a natural disaster, power outage, cyberattack, or human error could seriously disrupt business operations. Disaster recovery is your plan to maintain or restore your IT operations in the event of a disaster.

Why does disaster recovery planning matter?

For most companies, disaster occurs at some point: 2 out of 3 midsize businesses experienced a Ransomware attack in the past 18 months and 96% suffered an outage over a 3-year period. Downtime, outages, and recovery are costly and detrimental for companies. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), about 25% of businesses never reopen after being struck by a disaster. Having a recovery plan in place is essential to account for these situations.

An IT disaster recovery plan is essential to secure your information technology systems in the case of an emergency and limit the damage to your business continuation. It prevents unnecessary financial loss and improves the productivity of your team members when they need it most.

One of the most significant benefits of disaster recovery is maintaining client trust with your MSP. Customers expect MSPs to be reliable and when they are not, they move on to another. It seriously tarnishes your MSPs reputation and continue to haunt it even when you are back to normal operations.

A well-planned disaster recovery plan is essential for ensuring that your business faces a temporary setback instead of a disastrous shutdown that impacts you for years to come.

What are the benefits of a disaster recovery plan?

No business can afford to be offline for days in today’s digital-first environment. Even traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores would suffer if their power went out, data was breached, or software went out for days.

The advantages of a disaster recovery process extend beyond emergencies, though. It’s beneficial for daily business operations and improves your understanding of your business. Some of the key benefits include:

Managing inventory, software, and IT networks

Planning forces for your MSP and with your clients to take genuine stock of everything critical to operations. You can decide whether what you have is necessary and get rid of potentially costly subscriptions, software, or hardware that no longer serves your business.

Instituting task redundancy

Too much operational knowledge concentrated in one person is dangerous. If they suddenly quit or become unavailable during an emergency, your business could be in serious trouble.

Creating a plan and assigning tasks for emergencies is a critical chance to train two people per task. It not only allows you to have a backup at all times but relieves the pressure for your employees to be available for emergency services when they’re off the clock.

Establish documenting processes

When businesses are growing, documenting processes easily fall by the wayside. However, documentation is critical for business performance operational agility because it enables your IT team to optimize core processes.

Creating an IT disaster recovery plan is the perfect time to document and analyze processes to ensure they are as effective as possible.

Identify innovative solutions

Planning a disaster recovery requires identifying and using technology, such as cloud-based data storage and backups. These types of technologies not only enhance backups but are also more scalable and flexible for business objectives.

Recovery planning requires thorough research and comparison of all technologies and possibilities, which improves business operations as a whole.

Identify bottlenecks

Because disaster planning requires a thorough knowledge of processes, it also helps leaders identify and reduce bottlenecks. It ensures that everything is up and running quickly after an emergency and saves time and money in daily operations too.

Key Elements when Developing a Reliable Disaster Recovery Plan

The right recovery plan requires preparation, planning, and verification to ensure that it works right when you need it to.

Preparation before developing your disaster recovery plan

Some of the ways to prepare for your IT disaster recovery plan include:

Identify the risks. Not all clients face the same potential disasters. A tornado isn’t likely on the West coast, while few places in the Midwest face potential earthquakes. A risk analysis could help you identify potential disasters.

Your disaster recovery plan should include all of the possible emergencies you’ll business might face and decide which ones are most likely.

Audit your IT resources. Your MSP disaster recovery plan will include essential systems, software, and hardware, so you need to have a thorough knowledge of all of your resources.

Analyze not only what resources you have, but who has access to them. It will help you discuss how critical systems are with employees that regularly access them.

Decide what data is critical to business. Most often, MSPs process and store more data than they realize. You will likely come across redundant data when auditing your systems and creating technology recovery strategies. It is a great time for data filtering to reduce any that are unnecessary.

8 Steps to Create a Robust Disaster Recovery Plan

1. List out your mission critical IT inventory

Work with your clients to list the IT resources that are critical to run business processes in your MSPs disaster recovery plans. This should include all of the systems, hardware, and software that your company depends on regularly.

Ask your employees how their work would be impacted if they could not access systems or networks. It will help you identify your business applications for your IT systems. Take extra measures to protect these mission critical applications and software.

You might want to include different disaster scenarios to understand which critical applications would be impacted. For example, include a power outage, data breach, flood, or earthquake and a business impact analysis for each.

2. Regular data backups and verification

As your business changes and grows, you need to regularly need to back up your data to reflect these transformation and shifts.

Consider a backup in a different geographical location than your primary business site. If your region is subject to a natural disaster, say a flood or hurricane, keeping all of your data in one physical location is a significant risk. An alternate site could keep it safe.

While you may try to avoid physical data center entirely by moving to cloud services, keep in mind that both physical and cloud backups come with risks. If you decide to migrate, a cloud disaster recovery plan is essential.

Once you have a safe location for your data protection, test it regularly to ensure that it works and will not fail you mid-emergency.

3. Create a recovery timeline

Two metrics that are critical to a recovery plan are recovery time objectives and recovery point objectives:

  • Recovery time objective (RTO) is the greatest amount of time IT can take to get operations running again before business continuity is in jeopardy.
  • Recovery point objective (RPO) is how much data loss your business can afford and is the parameter that will help determine how fast emergency planning has to start.

There are a number of factors that will go into your recovery time objective and recovery point objective. For example, healthcare businesses often have only minutes of business disruption before disaster, while brick-and-mortar retail companies may have a longer timeline for their IT infrastructure.

Learn more with the Axcient RTO Calculator.

4. Delegate responsibility

Your disaster recovery plan needs to give your disaster recovery team direction for which operations will likely be affected, how that could impact business, and who is responsible for resolving issues.

You should also plan for how team members communicate with each other and clients if there is a power or internet outage. A clear plan that has buy-in from critical stakeholders ensures that everyone understands their job in the event of any emergence.

5. Respond to physical damage

A natural disaster could result in physical damage to your IT equipment. A recovery plan should include a response to physical damage to IT resources. For some businesses, this can somewhat be mitigated by moving operations to the cloud or away from your geographical location. However, you should plan how to account for everything from servers to devices.

6. Account for insider threats

Humans, whether malicious or unintentional, are often the source of IT disasters: 82% of data breaches involve human error. To help combat this, employees and vendors should have restricted access to your IT systems, so they only access the things that they need. Proper training can also keep employees from unwittingly putting your business functions at risk. Give your employees best practices for setting passwords, keep them updated on the latest cybersecurity threats, and safe remote work practices.

Regularly remind and keep employees informed in multiple formats. Employees may learn through different mediums, so keep that in mind in training. For example, you may want to provide an easy checklist along with a meeting so that employees have the chance to both hear and read the information.

7. Look into insurance

Having disaster recovery procedures in place is essential, but planning for a way to account for the costs of disaster is just as important. If covering the costs of an incident concerns you, look into an insurance policy that covers cyber incidents and natural disasters. Include these details into your disaster recovery plan so that they are easy to access.

8. Validate and update your plan

Ensure that your disaster recovery plan continues to cover you by testing them regularly. You should aim to test them at least once, but more preferably twice, a year.

Actively maintain your plan over time. Data streams, equipment, and IT practices change regularly, so you should ensure that your plan continues to cover you in the case of any emergency. Include new procedures, equipment, and software in your plan to keep your business covered.

If your staff changes, update the plan to include these changes and ensure everyone is assigned a role.

Backup and Data Recovery for Modern Business

Axcient is a disaster recovery platform designed for today’s always-on business. Our platform replaces cumbersome legacy backup, business continuity, and disaster recovery software and hardware.

Whether you need to replace expensive copy data or need standard on-premise and hybrid options, Axcient has the trusted platform to eliminate data loss, keep applications running, and ensure your IT infrastructure never goes down.

To see how Axient can help you prepare for any disaster, sign up for a free 14-day trial today (no credit card required).

FAQs

What is DNS hijacking?

Domain Name Server (or DNS) hijacking is cyber attacks where bad actors manipulate DNS queries to redirect users to malicious sites. It is accomplished by a variety of means, such as installing malware, taking over routers, or hacking DNS communication.

Hijacking is used for pharming, or displaying unwanted ads to generate revenue, or phishing, where fake versions of a site allow hackers to steal sensitive data. It is a common cybersecurity breach that needs to be addressed in your disaster recovery plan.

Are data replication and backup the same thing?

While these two terms are similar, backups and data replication are different in how they are made.

Backups make a copy of the data and store them elsewhere, such as in an off-site physical location or cloud-based solution. It provides businesses with a snapshot of their data at a certain point in time. They are ideal for lost data because they provide a complete, usable copy of the data.

Data replication is when data is copied and sent to another platform or drive. While backups are historical versions of data, replicated copies are exact, code-for-code copies that replicate changes to data in real-time. That means that if your original data is erased, your replicated data will be as well.

If the replicated data isn’t corrupted, it can drastically reduce the RTO and RPO of a company because it offers instant access to a data file.

What is the difference between archives and backups?

Data archives hold data that need to be stored long-term, such as for decades. Because long-term data retention typically does not need to be accessed urgently, it does not take the place of a data backup, which enables you to access vital data much faster.

What is the difference between risk management assessment and mitigation?

Although risk management assessments and risk mitigation are related, they are separate terms. Risk assessment identifies the risks to processes and assets. Risk mitigation takes this information to come up with a plan for lessening or preventing them from happening.

A disaster recovery plan requires both assessment and mitigation planning to help business continuity planning in the case of an emergency.

About the Author: Carissa Johnson // Product Marketing Manager, Axcient

Carissa Kohn Johnson AxcientCarissa Kohn-Johnson has a background in healthcare technology and information technology, and is now the Product Marketing Manager for Axcient. She has a lot of MSP Channel experience from planning and attending hundreds of conferences and tradeshows, and found her passion in IT. Carissa is also an elected official in Cary NC, a town chock full of technology-forward people. Connect with her on LinkedIn – perhaps you can contribute to the Axcient blog?

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