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Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Disaster Recovery Plan

At a time when less-than-great news has become the norm, it’s hard to act surprised when a crisis looms. Although we continue to hope for the best, we’ve all come to expect the worst—which is where having a disaster recovery plan ready to roll is crucial.

A comprehensive recovery plan will minimize the effect of a natural disaster on business continuity, compliance, and data loss. A good plan also helps speed up recovery from cyberattacks, such as those recently reported by Japanese game developer Capcom , Italian beverage maker Campari , and toy giant Mattel .

If your organization’s disaster recovery plan is out of date, insufficient, or, worse, nonexistent, let these events motivate you to review, revise, or create a recovery strategy now, before you need it. 

Here are eight steps to creating a disaster recovery plan that will help prevent data loss, facilitate business continuity, and ensure your regulated data and SLAs remain in compliance.

Step 1: Create a Disaster Response Team and Document Responsibilities

Your disaster response team will spearhead recovery efforts and disseminate information to employees, customers, and stakeholders during a crisis. 

Assign each team member specific tasks during the response and document them so everyone knows who is in charge of what. You will also need backup staff for key team members in case a designated lead isn’t available during a crisis.

Step 2: Set Clear RTOs and RPOs

Recovery time objective (RTO) is the length of time an application can be down before the business is negatively impacted. RTO varies widely among applications because some can be down for only a few seconds before the business, customers, or users are impacted, whereas others can be down for hours, days, or even weeks. 

RTOs are calculated based on application importance:

  • RTO near zero: Mission-critical applications that must failover 
  • RTO of four hours: Less critical, so there is time for on-site recovery from bare metal
  • RTO of eight or more hours: Nonessential applications that can be down indefinitely

Recovery point objective (RPO) is the most data that can be lost before the business is significantly harmed (i.e., how much buffer you need between an outage and the most recent working backup). 

RPO is based on how much you are willing to spend to backup a particular application, because it can get expensive quickly:

  • RPO of near zero: Use continuous replication (mission-critical data)
  • RPO of four hours: Use scheduled snapshot replication
  • RPO of 8-24 hours: Use existing backup solution (data that can potentially be recreated from other repositories)

Step 3: Make a Blueprint of the Network Infrastructure

Creating detailed documentation of your entire network infrastructure will make it much easier to rebuild the system after a disaster, especially if the network was corrupted by a cyberattack. 

Different components of the system have different levels of importance to business continuity, so be sure to indicate the priority of each service as mission-critical, essential, or nonessential so they can be restored in the appropriate order. Don’t forget to include system dependencies in your blueprint, because they may impact how you prioritize recovery.

Step 4: Select a Disaster Recovery Solution

Storage capacity, recovery timeline, and configuration complexity will affect the cost of a disaster recovery solution. In many cases, you are choosing between a solution that offers quick recovery times but may lose days of data and a solution that maintains system availability but kills you with high complexity and costs.

Look for a disaster recovery solution like Arcserve UDP Cloud Direct that affordably protects your systems and applications from data loss. Arcserve also minimizes complexity by letting you manage backup and disaster recovery and restore service-level agreements from a single web-based UI.

Step 5: Create a Checklist of Criteria for Initiating the Disaster Response Plan

Not every incident warrants a full-fledged deployment of your disaster response plan. Creating a checklist of criteria to identify what constitutes a disaster helps your recovery team know when it’s time to jump into action without wasting resources or money by overreacting to a minor threat.

For example, a temporary power outage and a direct hit from a category 4 hurricane require very different responses.

Step 6: Document the Disaster Recovery Process

To ensure data and operations are restored quickly after a disaster, create step-by-step instructions in plain language so your team can start the disaster recovery effort as soon as it’s safe to do so. 

Store a copy of the disaster recovery plan away from the network—preferably in the cloud—to protect it from corruption during a ransomware attack or physical loss from a natural disaster.

Step 7: Test Your Disaster Recovery Plan

Conduct regular tests of your disaster recovery plan to ensure it will work when you need it to. Run a partial recovery test twice a year and a full recovery simulation annually.

Additionally, it doesn’t hurt to periodically spring surprise drills on the company so you can get an accurate assessment of how well the processes will work in the event of a real emergency. 

Step 8: Review and Update Your Disaster Recovery Plan Regularly

Post-COVID-19, there will be a lot of movement within companies. Changes may include employees leaving or joining the company, policies being modified to meet new regulations or standards, or business units being consolidated. 

Your disaster recovery plan needs to be reviewed and updated regularly to reflect these changes and how they impact the recovery process. For more details on protecting and restoring your organization’s data and applications before, during, and after a crisis, download How to Build a Disaster Recovery Plan .

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10 Steps To Include In Your IT Disaster Recovery Plan

By: Lisa Carroll on July 23, 2022

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10 Steps To Include In Your IT Disaster Recovery Plan

Business Continuity | Disaster Recovery

Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2019, but has been updated to include the latest, most comprehensive information.

Most business leaders don’t relish the idea of the possibility that disaster will strike their organization. Whether it’s a natural or man-made disaster, the ramifications can be equally damaging. At a minimum, disasters of either kind can cause downtime, damage to your reputation, and financial loss . 

Like many business owners, you may simply brush aside the topic of business continuity and disaster recovery, assuming that since you haven’t been affected yet you won’t be a victim of such devastation in the future.

Or, you may think that you don’t have the financial and staffing resources necessary to prepare for a future event that may or may not happen. 

At Kelser Corporation, businesses often come to us for services after suffering a damaging event. We are not writing this article to sell Kelser’s services, but rather to provide the information that business leaders like you need to protect your organization . 

You see, we believe firmly that it’s better to prepare for an event than struggle to recover from one. We’ve seen the damage that can be caused and we want to help businesses avoid falling victim. 

In this article, I’ll outline a 10-step IT disaster recovery plan you can implement with or without external help . I’ll explain the critical elements and what you can do now to prepare . 

What Is An IT Disaster Recovery Plan? 

An IT disaster recovery plan is a well-thought-out, strategic, systematic document that companies can use to recover from a disaster (natural or otherwise). 

It involves a step-by-step process for restarting work after an unplanned (and sometimes devastating) event. 

While having an overall disaster recovery plan for the entire organization is important, there should be a separate IT disaster recovery plan that focuses on the IT infrastructure. 

Disaster recovery plans are only effective if they are in place long before a disaster ever happens . 

Why Is An IT Disaster Recovery Plan Important? 

Most companies would be hard-pressed to operate without their IT infrastructure. Everything from customer orders to scheduling to employee communication would grind to a halt without IT. 

A quick internet search shows that between 25 and 40 percent of businesses never recover from a natural disaster. 

In addition, the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers estimates that 60 percent of small businesses are unable to withstand the six months following a cyber-attack due to the massive costs of recovery including damaged reputation, loss of data and revenue, instability, and reduced employee productivity. 

The good news is that there are steps you can take to lessen the risks during and after a disaster. 

10 Things Every IT Disaster Recovery Plan Must Include

Creating an IT disaster recovery plan will ensure that you can focus more on the other things on your plate. Here are 10 topics every IT disaster recovery plan should cover: 

1. IT Inventory

Make sure you have a list of exactly which IT resources —systems, hardware, and software— are used to run the business . 

Ask employees how their work would be impacted if certain systems or networks were unavailable for a period of time . Identify which applications and data are critical to your business. Take extra measures to protect them.  

It can also be helpful to add different scenarios to your IT disaster recovery plan so that you understand which systems would be affected in the event of a flood, hurricane, fire, power outage, or another disaste r on your premises.

2. Data Backup & Verification 

If you don’t have one already, develop a way to regularly back up your essential data off-site . (Data that is static and unchanging may not need to be backed up more than once.) You may decide to use a physical data center located in a different geographical region or the cloud, for example. 

Many organizations don’t consider the risk of maintaining backups physically on-premises in the event of a natural disaster .

Once you establish a regular backup procedure and schedule , test it often to make sure that it works. The last thing you need to realize mid-emergency is that your backups haven’t been working. 

Both physical and cloud backups have risks. Figure out which makes the most sense for your organization. 

If are considering migrating your data to the cloud, read this article for answers: Cloud Migration: What It Means, How It Works (6 Questions To Ask)

3.  Recovery Timeline

Outline acceptable recovery goals and timeframes by which certain IT systems need to be back in operation. Industries such as healthcare may have a recovery timeline of mere minutes, while other industries may be able to tolerate longer timelines.

Be sure your IT disaster recovery plan includes a well-defined Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO) .

The RTO outlines the maximum amount of time that should pass before your IT systems recover. The RPO defines the maximum amount of time permissible since the most recent data backup.  

Use this downtime cost calculator tool to evaluate your RTO and RPO and get an estimated cost of downtime for your organization. 

4.  Detailed Responsibility 

Get buy-in from key stakeholders . 

Be sure the team understands which IT operations could be affected, how that could affect different business functions, what would happen next, and who would be responsible for resolving the issues. 

Be sure to include a plan for communicating with employees in the event of a power or internet outage.

5.  Physical Damage

Physical damage to your plant could affect your on-site IT equipment as well. Everything from servers to devices could be affected. Some of these damages can be mitigated by moving your operations to the cloud, but anticipate how you will respond to physical damage that may impact IT resources . 

6.  Insider Threats

Humans can also be a source of disaster, whether malicious or unintentional.

One way to lower your risk is to lock down administrative rights on your IT systems. 

Employees and third-party vendors should only have access permissions to the systems and data they need. 

There are countless stories of companies that have been breached by third-party vendors that were given inappropriate access to vulnerable systems. And, your internal salespeople don’t need access to the payroll and benefits information of other employees. 

Another way to reduce risk is to provide employee security awareness training on a regular basis, This training will keep your staff abreast of the latest cyber threats. Experts agree that 80-90 percent of cyber attacks are caused by human error.

Effective employee security awareness training can reduce your risk.  

Questions? Read this article: Employee Security Awareness Training: An Honest Cost-Benefit Analysis .

Wondering what security awareness training should include? We spell it out in this article: 3 Topics Every Cybersecurity Awareness Training Must Include .

7.  Insurance

If you are concerned about the costs of recovery, there are insurance policies out there that cover natural disasters and cyber incidents . This coverage can include the cost of replacing IT equipment, and compensating for broader losses that result from a disaster . 

If you invest in these types of plans, be sure the details are included in your IT disaster recovery plan for easy access. 

8.  Validation

IT disaster recovery plans should be tested at least once (or preferably twice) per year . One of our clients didn’t test their plan for several years, only to find out that when they did a test all of their drives failed when trying to restore them.

If this had occurred during a real disaster, the data would have been lost forever.

Gaps identified during these tests should be documented extensively so that you can start fixing them .

9.  Business Continuity

Business continuity (BC) refers to the organization’s strategy for maintaining essential business operations as much as possible during and after a catastrophe . Create and test a full BC plan in order to be confident that you can meet any unexpected event head-on. 

This plan, which goes hand-in-hand with the IT and organizational disaster recovery plans, should also be tested and kept current. It is an essential part of the organization’s overall BCDR efforts. 

10. Updates

Disaster recovery isn’t something that you can set and forget; it needs to be actively maintained over time . Update your IT disaster recovery plan with new procedures, technologies, and equipment.

Business needs and staff changes, make sure to update and communicate the relevant changes to everyone involved in executing the plan. 

Are You Ready To Implement Your IT Disaster Recovery Plan? 

Building a strong, resilient disaster recovery plan is essential. After reading this article, you know the topics to include in your plan: IT inventory, data backup & verification, recovery timeline, detailed responsibility, physical damage, insider threats, insurance, validation, business continuity plan, and updates. 

Honestly evaluate your ability to implement the steps outlined in this article . Maybe you can do all or some of them on your own. Organizations with a full complement of IT professionals on staff can likely implement this 10-Step IT Disaster Recovery plan on their own.

Organizations with a small IT staff (or IT staff), may need help from an outside IT provider. 

If you decide that working with an outside provider is the best solution, be sure to compare a number of providers so that you get the best fit. Here is a list of questions to consider asking IT providers you are considering. 

While we know Kelser isn’t the right fit for everyone, we encourage you to check out our managed IT support , which includes business continuity and disaster recovery services. 

Or read this article: What Is Managed IT? What’s Included? What Does It Cost?

No matter how you choose to proceed, it’s imperative that you move forward to protect your organization from disaster before you are affected.

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About Lisa Carroll

Lisa is Kelser's VP of Revenue who works at the intersection of business and technology to help Kelser’s clients jump on growth opportunities.

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Disaster Recovery Plan

Disaster recovery plan definition.

What is a disaster recovery plan? A disaster recovery plan (DRP), disaster recovery implementation plan, or IT disaster recovery plan is a recorded policy and/or process that is designed to assist an organization in executing recovery processes in response to a disaster to protect business IT infrastructure and more generally promote recovery.

The purpose of a disaster recovery plan is to comprehensively explain the consistent actions that must be taken before, during, and after a natural or man-made disaster so that the entire team can take those actions. A disaster recovery plan should address both man-made disasters that are intentional, such as fallout from terrorism or hacking, or accidental, such as an equipment failure.

What is a disaster recovery plan ?

Organizations of all sizes generate and manage massive amounts of data, much of it mission critical. The impact of corruption or data loss from human error, hardware failure, malware, or hacking can be substantial. Therefore, it is essential to create a disaster recovery plan for the restoration of business data from a data backup image.

It is most effective to develop an information technology (IT) disaster recovery plan in conjunction with the business continuity plan (BCP). A business continuity plan is a complete organizational plan that consists of five components:

1. Business resumption plan 2. Occupant emergency plan 3. Continuity of operations plan 4. Incident management plan (IMP) 5. Disaster recovery plan

Generally, components one through three do not touch upon IT infrastructure at all. The incident management plan typically establishes procedures and a structure to address cyber attacks against IT systems during normal times, so it does not deal with the IT infrastructure during disaster recovery. For this reason, the disaster recovery plan is the only component of the BCP of interest to IT.

Among the first steps in developing such adisaster recovery strategy is business impact analysis, during which the team should develop IT priorities and recovery time objectives. The team should time technology recovery strategies for restoring applications, hardware, and data to meet business recovery needs.

Every situation is unique and there is no single correct way to develop a disaster recovery plan. However, there are three principal goals of disaster recovery that form the core of most DRPs:

  • prevention, including proper backups, generators, and surge protectors
  • detection of new potential threats, a natural byproduct of routine inspections
  • correction, which might include holding a “lessons learned” brainstorming session and securing proper insurance policies

What should a disaster recovery plan include?

Although specific disaster recovery plan formats may vary, the structure of a disaster recovery plan should include several features:

Goals A statement of goals will outline what the organization wants to achieve during or after a disaster, including the recovery time objective (RTO) and the recovery point objective (RPO). The recovery point objective refers to how much data (in terms of the most recent changes) the company is willing to lose after a disaster occurs. For example, an RPO might be to lose no more than one hour of data, which means data backups must occur at least every hour to meet this objective.

Recovery time objective or RTO refers to the acceptable downtime after an outage before business processes and systems must be restored to operation. For example, the business must be able to return to operations within 4 hours in order to avoid unacceptable impacts to business continuity.

Personnel Every disaster recovery plan must detail the personnel who are responsible for the execution of the DR plan, and make provisions for individual people becoming unavailable.

IT inventory An updated IT inventory must list the details about all hardware and software assets, as well as any cloud services necessary for the company’s operation, including whether or not they are business critical, and whether they are owned, leased, or used as a service.

Backup procedures The DRP must set forth how each data resource is backed up – exactly where, on which devices and in which folders, and how the team should recover each resource from backup.

Disaster recovery procedures These specific procedures, distinct from backup procedures, should detail all emergency responses, including last-minute backups, mitigation procedures, limitation of damages, and eradication of cybersecurity threats.

Disaster recovery sites Any robust disaster recovery plan should designate a hot disaster recovery site. Located remotely, all data can be frequently backed up to or replicated at a hot disaster recovery site — an alternative data center holding all critical systems. This way, when disaster strikes, operations can be instantly switched over to the hot site.

Restoration procedures Finally, follow best practices to ensure a disaster recovery plan includes detailed restoration procedures for recovering from a loss of full systems operations. In other words, every detail to get each aspect of the business back online should be in the plan, even if you start with a disaster recovery plan template. Here are some procedures to consider at each step.

Include not just objectives such as the results of risk analysis and RPOs, RTOs, and SLAs, but also a structured approach for meeting these goals. The DRP must address each type of downtime and disaster with a step-by-step plan, including data loss, flooding, natural disasters, power outages, ransomware, server failure, site-wide outages, and other issues. Be sure to enrich any IT disaster recovery plan template with these critical details.

Create a list of IT staff including contact information, roles, and responsibilities. Ensure each team member is familiar with the company disaster recovery plan before it is needed so that individual team members have the necessary access levels and passwords to meet their responsibilities. Always designate alternates for any emergency, even if you think your team can’t be affected.

Address business continuity planning and disaster recovery by providing details about mission-critical applications in your DRP. Include accountable parties for both troubleshooting any issues and ensuring operations are running smoothly. If your organization will use cloud backup services or disaster recovery services, vendor name and contact information, and a list of authorized employees who can request support during a disaster should be in the plan; ideally the vendor and organizational contacts should know of each other.

Media communication best practices are also part of a robust disaster recovery and business continuity plan. A designated public relations contact and media plan are particularly useful to high profile organizations, enterprises, and users who need 24/7 availability, such as government agencies or healthcare providers. Look for disaster recovery plan examples in your industry or vertical for specific best practices and language.

Benefits of a disaster recovery plan

Obviously, a disaster recovery plan details scenarios for reducing interruptions and resuming operations rapidly in the aftermath of a disaster. It is a central piece of the business continuity plan and should be designed to prevent data loss and enable sufficient IT recovery.

Beyond the clear benefit of improved business continuity under any circumstances, having a company disaster recovery plan can help an organization in several other important ways.

Cost-efficiency Disaster recovery plans include various components that improve cost-efficiency. The most important elements include prevention, detection, and correction, as discussed above. Preventative measures reduce the risks from man-made disasters. Detection measures are designed to quickly identify problems when they do happen, and corrective measures restore lost data and enable a rapid resumption of operations.

Achieving cost-efficiency goals demands regular maintenance of IT systems in their optimal condition, high-level analysis of potential threats, and implementation of innovative cybersecurity solutions. Keeping software updated and systems optimally maintained saves time and is more cost-effective. Adopting cloud-based data management as a part of disaster recovery planning can further reduce the costs of backups and maintenance.

Increased productivity Designating specific roles and responsibilities along with accountability as a disaster recovery plan demands increases effectiveness and productivity in your team. It also ensures redundancies in personnel for key tasks, improving sick day productivity, and reducing the costs of turnover.

Improved customer retention Customers do not easily forgive failures or downtime, especially if they result in loss of sensitive data. Disaster recovery planning helps organizations meet and maintain a higher quality of service in every situation. Reducing the risks your customers face from data loss and downtime ensures they receive better service from you during and after a disaster, shoring up their loyalty.

Compliance Enterprise business users, financial markets, healthcare patients, and government entities, all rely on availability, uptime, and the disaster recovery plans of important organizations. These organizations in turn rely on their DRPs to stay compliant with industry regulations such as HIPAA and FINRA.

Scalability Planning disaster recovery allows businesses to identify innovative solutions to reduce the costs of archive maintenance, backups, and recovery. Cloud-based data storage and related technologies enhance and simplify the process and add flexibility and scalability.

The disaster recovery planning process can reduce the risk of human error, eliminate superfluous hardware, and streamline the entire IT process. In this way, the planning process itself becomes one of the advantages of disaster recovery planning, streamlining the business, and rendering it more profitable and resilient before anything ever goes wrong.

Ways to develop a disaster recovery plan

There are several steps in the development of a disaster recovery plan. Although these may vary somewhat based on the organization, here are the basic disaster recovery plan steps:

Risk assessment First, perform a risk assessment and business impact analysis (BIA) that addresses many potential disasters. Analyze each functional area of the organization to determine possible consequences from middle of the road scenarios to “worst-case” situations, such as total loss of the main building. Robust disaster recovery plans set goals by evaluating risks up front, as part of the larger business continuity plan, to allow critical business operations to continue for customers and users as IT addresses the event and its fallout.

Consider infrastructure and geographical risk factors in your risk analysis. For example, the ability of employees to access the data center in case of a natural disaster, whether or not you use cloud backup, and whether you have a single site or multiple sites are all relevant here. Be sure to include this information, even if you’re working from a sample disaster recovery plan.

Evaluate critical needs Next, establish priorities for operations and processing by evaluating the critical needs of each department. Prepare written agreements for selected alternatives, and include details specifying all special security procedures, availability, cost, duration, guarantee of compatibility, hours of operation, what constitutes an emergency, non-mainframe resource requirements, system testing, termination conditions, a procedure notifying users of system changes, personnel requirements, specs on required processing hardware and other equipment, a service extension negotiation process, and other contractual issues.

Set disaster recovery plan objectives Create a list of mission-critical operations to plan for business continuity, and then determine which data, applications, equipment, or user accesses are necessary to support those functions. Based on the cost of downtime, determine each function’s recovery time objective (RTO). This is the target amount of time in hours, minutes, or seconds an operation or application can be offline without an unacceptable business impact.

Determine the recovery point objective (RPO), or the point in time back to which you must recover the application. This is essentially the amount of data the organization can afford to lose.

Assess any service level agreements (SLAs) that your organization has promised to users, executives, or other stakeholders.

Collect data and create the written document Collect data for your plan using pre-formatted forms as needed. Data to collect in this stage may include:

  • lists (critical contact information list, backup employee position listing, master vendor list, master call list, notification checklist)
  • inventories (communications equipment, data center computer hardware, documentation, forms, insurance policies, microcomputer hardware and software, office equipment, off-site storage location equipment, workgroup hardware, etc.)
  • schedules for software and data files backup/retention
  • procedures for system restore/recovery
  • temporary disaster recovery locations
  • other documentation, inventories, lists, and materials

Organize and use the collected data in your written, documented plan.

Test and revise Next, develop criteria and procedures for testing the plan. This is essential to ensure the organization has adopted compatible, feasible backup procedures and facilities, and to identify areas that should be modified. It also allows the team to be trained, and proves the value of the DRP and ability of the organization to withstand disasters.

Finally, test the plan based on the criteria and procedures. Conduct an initial dry run or structured walk-through test and correct any problems, ideally outside normal operational hours. Types of business disaster recovery plan tests include: disaster recovery plan checklist tests, full interruption tests, parallel tests, and simulation tests.

The recovery point objective, or RPO, refers to how much data (in terms of the most recent changes) the company is willing to lose after a disaster occurs. For example, an RPO might be to lose no more than one hour of data, which means data backups must occur at least every hour to meet this objective.

The RPO answers this question: “How much data could be lost without significantly impacting the business?”

Example: If the RPO for a business is 20 hours and the last available good copy of data after an outage is 18 hours old, we are still within the RPO’s parameters.

In other words, the RTO answers the question: “How much time after notification of business process disruption should it take to recover?”

To compare RPO and RTO , consider that RPO means a variable amount of data that would need to be re-entered after a loss or would be lost altogether during network downtime. In contrast, RTO refers to how much real time can elapse before the disruption unacceptably impedes normal business operations.

It is important to expose the gap between actuals and objectives set forth in the disaster recovery plan. Only business disruption and disaster rehearsals can expose actuals—specifically Recovery Point Actual (RPA) and Recovery Time Actual (RTA). Refining these differences brings the plan up to speed.

Strategies and tools for a disaster recovery plan

The right strategies and tools help implement a disaster recovery plan.

Traditional on-premises recovery strategies The IT team should develop disaster recovery strategies for IT applications, systems, and data. This includes desktops, data, networks, connectivity, servers, wireless devices, and laptops. Identify IT resources that support time-sensitive business processes and functions so their recovery times match.

Information technology systems require connectivity, data, hardware, and software. The entire system may fail due to a single component, so recovery strategies should anticipate the loss of one or more of these system components:

  • Secure, climate-controlled computer room environment with backup power supply
  • Connectivity to a service provider
  • Hardware such as desktop and laptop computers, networks, wireless devices and peripherals, and servers
  • Software applications such as electronic mail, electronic data interchange, enterprise resource management, and office productivity

Data and restoration For business applications that cannot tolerate downtime, actual parallel computing, data mirroring, or multiple data center synchronization is possible yet costly. Other solutions for mission critical business applications and sensitive data include cloud backup and cloud-native disaster recovery, which reduce the need for expensive hardware and IT infrastructure.

Internal recovery strategies Some enterprises store data at multiple facilities and configure hardware to run similar applications from data center to data center when needed. Assuming off-site data backup or data mirroring are taking place, processing can continue and data can be restored at an alternate site under these circumstances. However, this is a costly solution, and one that demands an internal solution that is itself infallible.

Cloud-based disaster recovery strategies Cloud-based vendors offer Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS), which are essentially “hot sites” for IT disaster recovery hosted in the cloud. DRaaS leverages the cloud to provide fully configured recovery sites that mirror the applications in the local data center. This allows users a more immediate response, allowing them the ability to recover critical applications in the cloud, keeping them ready for use at the time of a disaster.

Vendors can host and manage applications, data security services, and data streams, enabling access to information via web browser at the primary business site or other sites. These vendors can typically enhance cybersecurity because their ongoing monitoring for outages offers data filtering and detection of malware threats. If the vendor detects an outage at the client site, they hold all client data automatically until the system is restored. In this sense, the cloud is essential to security planning and disaster recovery.

Does Druva offer a cloud disaster recovery plan ?

With Druva’s cloud-native disaster recovery plan, workloads on-premises or in the cloud back up directly to the Druva Cloud Platform, built on AWS. This eliminates recovery complexities by enabling automated runbook execution and one-click disaster recovery. Druva’s cloud-native disaster recovery includes failover and failback, either back to on-premises systems or to any AWS region or account without hardware, a managed DR site, or excessive administration.

Watch the video below for a demo, and discover Druva's innovative one-click solutions for on-premises and cloud workloads on the disaster recovery page of the website .

Related Terms

Now that you’ve learned about the disaster recovery plan, brush up on these related terms with Druva’s glossary:

  • What is cyber resilience?
  • What is an RPO?
  • What is an RTO?

11 Steps for Designing a Foolproof Disaster Recovery Plan

disaster recovery planning steps

Natural disasters and cyber threats can wreak havoc on your business. But what about theft, equipment failure or prolonged power outages? 

There’s no end to the events that could cause extended downtime and significant revenue losses. Having a foolproof disaster recovery plan helps mitigate business disruptions and gets you back up and running faster.

You can’t afford not to have a disaster recovery plan. However, creating one can be a real pain. Today we’ll break down the steps you need to take to design a foolproof disaster recovery plan that could save your business — and help you sleep better. 

What Is a Disaster Recovery Plan?

A disaster recovery plan, or DRP, is a set of policies and instructions that helps your business recover quickly from a disruptive event. DRPs are designed to prevent downtime, resume business operations quickly and avoid significant revenue or data losses in an emergency. A disaster recovery plan isn’t just an insurance policy but a plan of action.

There are four stages of the disaster management cycle: 

  • Prevention: proactively taking security steps to prevent disruption 
  • Preparation: putting safety guidelines in place
  • Mitigation: minimizing loss when incidents occur
  • Recovery: returning to normal operations

While a DRP can encompass a broad range of processes and tools, today we’ll focus on its impact on information technology (IT) applications. 

What are the essential elements of a typical disaster recovery plan? While DRPs can quickly become unwieldy, here are 11 disaster recovery plan steps that will get you well on the road to a workable plan.

Step 1: Conduct a risk analysis

Step 2: Assess your vulnerabilities

Step 3: Identify critical business processes and applications

Step 4: Set recovery objectives 

Step 5: Determine your backup and data recovery methods

Step 6: Establish activation protocol

Step 7: Create a notification process

Step 8: Form a response team and train your employees

Step 9: Test, revise and test again

Step 10: Document your disaster recovery plan

Step 11: Keep your DRP updated

Step 1: Conduct a Risk Analysis

It’s crucial to be aware of a “single point of failure” risk, like data loss. Has your business already been a target of a cyberattack, or is your geographic location prone to natural disasters? Record known and potential risks and rank their priority.

Step 2: Assess Your Vulnerabilities

Using old hardware and software is a common vulnerability. Legacy IT systems can expose you to security risks, especially if they’re improperly maintained. Consider upgrading your outdated infrastructure to improve safety and efficiency.

Step 3. Identify Critical Business Processes and Applications

What business processes and applications are vital to your operations? If you had to prioritize restoration efforts, what would you do first? Performing a business impact analysis (BIA) predicts the consequences of business disruption and gathers the data you need to develop a recovery strategy. 

Step 4. Set Recovery Objectives 

Should a disaster occur, to what level will you set your recovery objectives? How much can you afford to lose? The following metrics are generally used to determine recovery objectives in a DRP:

  • Recovery Point Objective (RPO) : RPO is a look backward. RPO is a recovery to the last restorable data backup. You will likely lose any data generated between the event and the RPO.
  • Recovery Time (RTO): RTO is a look forward. RTO is the time between the event and recovery, during which your system(s) will be non-functioning. 
  • Maximum Tolerable Downtime (MTD): Use MTD to determine both your RPO and RTO and minimize operational downtime and allowable data loss.

Step 5. Determine Your Backup and Data Recovery Methods

Did you know that over 140,000 hard drives fail every week in the U.S.? Yet few businesses regularly — or properly — back up their data. When disaster strikes, restoring your data, critical applications and servers is crucial to your businesses’ survival.

Combining on-premise hardware, local backups and cloud storage ensures recovery from minor and major data loss incidents. Many businesses utilize managed services providers to handle their backup and recovery systems to protect their data and critical assets.

Step 6. Establish Activation Protocol

Who determines what actions are taken and when? What is the chain of command for enacting recovery steps? Identify specific disaster situations in which disaster recovery protocols will be activated and by whom.

Step 7. Create a Notification Process

Make sure you have current contact information for recovery personnel. After you set the DRP in motion, prioritize notifying management and key stakeholders.

Step 8. Form a Response Team and Train Your Employees

Will you call your entire IT department into action or a specific subset of personnel? How many responders is appropriate will vary from business to business. 

Remember the P5 rule: Prior preparation prevents poor performance. Establishing procedures and then training responsible “strike team” personnel is a must.

Step 9. Test, Revise and Test Again

The most effective disaster recovery plans are continually tested, reviewed and updated for best results. Your DRP should evolve along with your business needs and processes, requiring periodic testing to ensure proper execution of revised recovery strategies.

In addition, testing gives employees a chance to practice enacting the plan, minimizing errors and improving their confidence in activating the emergency plan.

Step 10. Document Your Disaster Recovery Plan

Once you finalize your disaster recovery plan, create a distribution plan and ensure that all personnel and stakeholders can access copies as needed.

Step 11. Keep Your DRP Updated

Having a foolproof disaster recovery plan is not a “one and done” process. As personnel, systems and technology change, so should your DRP. Effectively maintaining a disaster recovery plan entails documenting changes as they occur to keep it accurate and relevant.

What Are the Benefits of Having a Disaster Recovery Plan in Place?

Limits downtime.

Extended downtime can be a business killer. Having a tested disaster recovery plan gets your business back on its feet faster.

Mitigates Data Loss 

Swift action lessens data loss when you activate your DRP. The longer a disaster situation goes unchecked, the more sensitive data (and revenue) you stand to lose.

Preserves Your Reputation

A business that’s been subject to any disastrous loss can become press targets, raising concerns about compromised customer information. Data breaches create opportunities for competitors who are only too happy to jump in and take advantage of catastrophic situations. 

More importantly, the swift resolution of security catastrophes reassures your customers that their sensitive information is safe. Customer trust is priceless. While customer retention may be expensive, lost trust can be permanent.

Saves Money 

The more data you lose, the more it costs to replace it — if it’s replaceable at all. When personnel work overtime to restore systems and information, costs can quickly skyrocket. 

Improves Inventory Management

Creating an effective disaster recovery plan often forces businesses to take a long-overdue physical count of their assets — and that’s a good thing! Maintaining accurate records of hardware and software comes in handy, especially in the case of irreversible physical damage or theft.

Keeps Your Business Compliant

If your business is subject to regulatory compliance standards, it is incumbent upon you to maintain proper security measures. Your business may incur fines and penalties for failing to comply with these requirements.

Common compliance measures include: 

  • HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) 
  • SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley Act) 
  • BASEL II (New Basel Capital Accord) 
  • Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Services Modernization Act 
  • Patriot Act 

Gives You Peace of Mind

Not having a current disaster recovery plan for your business can (and should!) keep you awake at night. Why risk catastrophic or irreversible loss when investing in a DRP has so many benefits? 

Disaster Prevention: The Best Defense Is a Good Offense

You know what they say about an ounce of prevention, right? Preventing disasters is a critical piece of disaster recovery, lessening the severity of events when they happen. 

Here are some common disaster prevention steps you should have in place:

  • Installing antivirus, anti-malware and ransomware prevention software
  • Scheduling regular patch management  
  • Installing firewalls to block dangerous network traffic
  • Creating effective mobile device policies as needed 
  • Restricting access to sensitive files
  • Requiring strong passwords
  • Maintaining or replacing old hardware
  • Establishing remote work security policies
  • Educating your employees on how to avoid phishing scams

Recover from Disaster Faster with Helixstorm

Does the thought of crafting your own disaster recovery plan make you nervous? You’re not alone. Creating and maintaining a DRP is often too complicated and expensive for most small and medium-sized companies to manage independently. 

Being proactive with your disaster recovery plan doesn’t mean it all has to fall on your shoulders. Partnering with a managed IT services provider to build your DRP could provide the help you need to create a workable solution that ensures long-term security… and fewer sleepless nights.

Don’t put off creating your DRP another day. Contact Helixstorm today to learn how you can recover from disaster faster.

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What is a disaster recovery plan (DRP) and how to create one?


Disasters that affect your IT capabilities happen more often than you think, but only 6% are caused by a natural disaster. The vast majority of disasters that cause significant IT downtime are human error, hardware and software failure, and cyberattacks. There are even stories circulating that talk of how a newly hired IT technician inadvertently deleted all company data on his first day!

During the past three years, 93% of businesses have been hit by a natural or human-made disaster – and many of these organizations could not recover.  

Whether your organization is large or small, the only way to prepare for a disaster is to develop and exercise a disaster recovery plan.

What is a disaster recovery plan (DRP)?

An IT disaster recovery plan (DRP ) is a written document that spells out the policies, step-by-step procedures, and responsibilities to recover an organization's IT systems and data and get IT operations back up and running when a disaster happens. This plan is a sub-component of the organization's  Business Continuity Plan (BCP) .

Once developed, the DR plan must be tested (or exercised) to ensure that the IT team can fully recover the organization's IT systems regardless of the type of disaster. 

Disasters arrive unannounced, so it is essential to get an IT DR plan in place as soon as possible. A fully operational plan will help minimize risk exposure, reduce disruption, and ensure economic stability. It will also reduce insurance premiums and potential liability, and ensure your organization complies with regulatory requirements. Most importantly, a well-executed plan can save your organization thousands – even hundreds of thousands – of dollars in the event of a disaster.

Data is a valuable asset: Customer data; financial, human resource, and R&D documents; and emails are irreplaceable. Each document represents hours of work, and the ability to retrieve it is essential. To determine how much a disaster can cost your organization, consider the cost of system downtime – the impact on employee productivity, the loss of billable hours, missed sales from a down e-commerce website, and penalties for failure to meet regulatory compliance obligations.

In a worst-case scenario, your DR plan may save your company.  


What are the different Types of Disaster Recovery Plans?

There are four types of disaster recovery plans.

Virtualized Disaster Recovery Plan

With a virtual DR plan, your IT organization replicates the entire IT infrastructure and stores it on an  offsite Virtual Machine (VM) . Since VMs are hardware independent, you do not need the same hardware as the primary site, so you can quickly  back up your systems  and data to dissimilar hardware. When a disaster happens, you can failover IT operations to the offsite VM and recover from a disaster in just a few minutes. 

Network Disaster Recovery Plan

A disaster recovery plan helps your IT team respond to an unplanned interruption of network services during a disaster, including voice, data, internet, etc. The plan must include procedures for recovering an organization's network operations, including local area networks (LANs), wide-area networks (WANs), and wireless networks.

An unplanned interruption of network services can range from performance degradation to a complete outage.

Cloud Disaster Recovery Plan

With this type of plan, your systems and data are backed up to a public cloud located at least 150 miles from the primary site. When a disaster happens, IT can easily failover their operations to the disaster recovery site and fail back to the same or new hardware – even if that hardware is dissimilar - to resume normal operations. Public  cloud DR services  are available pay-as-you-go and can be accessed from anywhere.

Data Center Disaster Recovery Plan

This type of plan requires your organization to set up a separate facility only used when a disaster happens. There are three primary types of disaster recovery data centers - cold, warm, and hot.

  • A cold DR site is an office or data center located away from the primary site with power, heat, air conditioning, etc. but no running IT systems. Depending on the length of the disaster, an organization may install the necessary systems after the disaster hits.
  • A warm DR site offers office space and a technology infrastructure used when a disaster hits the primary site. A warm site has power, heat, air conditioning, network connectivity, and redundant hardware/software already up and running.  Backups  from the primary to the warm site are performed daily or weekly, which can result in some data loss. 
  • A hot site offers office space and a complete replica of the primary site's IT infrastructure, systems, applications, and up-to-date data. A hot site enables rapid recovery of all business processes. It is most expensive to maintain compared to other data center types, but, for many businesses, it's the most optimal solution.

The disaster recovery process

Every business needs a disaster recovery plan unique to its data requirements. To define the best approach for your business, you must weigh the value of your data, systems, and applications against the risk your organization can afford to assume. When creating disaster recovery plans, be sure to include the following steps:  

  • Establish a planning group.
  • Perform a risk assessment and define an acceptable  Recovery Point Objective (RPO)  and Recovery Time Objective (RTO).
  • Prepare an inventory of IT assets.
  • Identify dependencies and establish priorities.
  • Develop recovery strategies.
  • Develop a communication plan.
  • Develop documentation, verification criteria, procedures, and responsibilities.
  • Test, test, test the plan.
  • Implement the plan.
  • Maintain the IT infrastructure.

What are the five major elements of a disaster recovery plan?

We've outlined the basic steps in disaster recovery planning. Now, let's explore the five primary elements of a DR plan below.

Assign it recovery management team

A dedicated disaster recovery plan requires proper development, updates, and testing. It's best to form a dedicated disaster recovery team to cover all of those. Ideally, the team should include managers and employees from all branches of your organization.

The team's ultimate purpose is to design, develop, implement, test, and upgrade the DR plan to ensure you can recover core business services as quickly as possible following a disaster.

Moreover, the DR team should assign specific roles for each team member and their contact details in the DR plan document. The plan should also identify the first contact point (a responsible individual) in the event of a disaster.

Lastly, all company staff must have access to the detailed disaster recovery plan, know the disaster recovery processes, and understand their specific roles to cut down recovery time and quickly resume key operations after a disaster occurs.

Identify potential disaster risks

Organizations must identify potential data risks - human-made, due to natural disaster or cyber-attacks. Restoring important systems and business operations in a disaster can reduce downtime and minimize financial and reputational loss, which is critical to your company's success.

Once you've identified the potential risks applicable to your company, you can calculate the Recovery point objective (RPO) and Recovery time objectives (RTOs). Having a precise RPO and RTO lets you manage disaster recovery systems easier, thus leading to a smooth and rapid restoration.

Classify critical data, apps, and resources

The next step comprises your company's critical systems - apps, data, documents, and resources. (buildings, machinery, onsite IT infrastructure, human and intellectual resources, etc.)

The DRP should focus on successful contingency planning - how to continue revenue generation and ensure cash flow as a short-term goal. In the mid-and-long term, the DRP must define how to get your entire system back up and running to resume normal operations.

Outline and specify backup and offsite disaster recovery procedures

You can rely on a  Disaster-recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS)  to manage onsite and offsite coordination or use a robust disaster recovery solution to manage the process individually.

In both cases, you should aim to present the disaster recovery plan strategies to all data-processing personnel, assign critical business operations, outline backup operations procedures, and determine internal recovery strategies for your primary business site and emergency response procedures for your offsite disaster recovery sites.

(if you rely on a fully-equipped secondary site, you should also create an alternate hot site plan; if you rely on a mobile data center, you should implement a mobile site setup plan)

Test and polish the plan

As your company grows, your DR risks and needs will also evolve. For example, if your company opens a new data center, it should be reflected in your DRP as soon as possible.

If you have more than one alternate site, it's best to use full resiliency program management. Bringing all of your information services backup procedures under one umbrella will let you design an appropriate emergency response for your data processing operations, mitigate business continuity risks, and, ultimately, enable rapid recovery to resume normal operations in the event of power outages and natural disasters.

Moreover, you will benefit from disaster recovery automation, which simplifies testing all technology recovery strategies. A tested disaster recovery plan ensures continuous innovation in line with the increased risk to your company data. Be it during power outages, natural disasters, or cyber-attacks, your organization will be prepared to restore even complex business operations rapidly.

What should you avoid during disaster recovery planning?

A disaster can cause chaos and create an environment where your DR team members make mistakes. To overcome this challenge, build your list of do's and don'ts for plan development and use it before, during, and after the crisis.

Here is a quick synopsis of some of the most important “dos and don'ts.”

What not to do:

  • Do not discount the importance of an IT disaster recovery plan because you have backups or have implemented high availability. You need such a plan no matter what!
  • Do not consider DR an expense. It's an investment.
  • Do not apply a single data protection strategy to all applications.
  • Do not assume that your network can handle the traffic during an emergency. Identify alternative forms of communication if you cannot use the network.
  • Do not create a DR plan just for the sake of having one or to simply satisfy executive management and your auditors.
  • Do not simplify disaster recovery process milestones. It may speed up the planning phase but will rarely be optimal in the long run.

What to do:

  • Be sure to get sponsorship for the DR plan from the executive team.
  • Look for disaster recovery plan examples to use as a template to speed the development and improve the accuracy of your plan.
  • Include key contact members from various departments in your planning committee. Include decision-makers from multiple departments - financial associates, customer service representatives, and IT personnel.
  • Safeguard data not stored centrally, including data stored on desktops, laptops, and mobile devices. Also, consider the following:
  • Virtual environments
  • Application-specific agents
  • Snapshot storage requirements
  • Server activation and documentation
  • Create a disaster recovery plan checklist to use as a quick reference when developing the DR plan and during an actual disaster. A list helps your team work quickly and perform tasks accurately.
  • Perform end-user acceptance testing.
  • Be sure to test a broad range of disaster scenarios regularly.
  • Update and test your disaster recovery plan regularly.
  • Choose a DR location that is not too close to your production site and can be remotely activated in the event of an emergency.
  • Plan frequent meetings to ensure that resources are still available during a disaster.

How are DR and business continuity plans different?

DR addresses the recovery of IT infrastructure during or following disruptive events. DR relies on data security services to restore critical systems and complement your business continuity planning (BCP).

A good disaster recovery plan ensures you can always access essential company data. Focusing on the bigger picture, BCP encompasses all necessary precautions to safeguard your data and employees to ensure continuous business operations.

BCP focuses on optimizing your data processing system, disaster site rebuilding, enterprise resource management, and more to ensure no unforeseen event will disrupt your business processes.

Your BCP team must examine all disaster recovery plan examples created by your DR team, consult on the best one, and implement it to fortify your backup system, minimize your Recovery Time Objective, and turn the perceived disaster recovery complexity into an understandable, easy-to-follow guideline for all responsible employees.

Disaster recovery plan templates

If you are a small- to medium-sized business (SMB), consider using an IT disaster recovery plan template to help guide you and your team through the plan development process.

There are many DR and business recovery plan templates available on the internet, including templates offered by Solutions Review, Smartsheet, and template.net. You can also find IT disaster recovery templates for small businesses at SupremusGroup. 

If this is the first time your organization is developing a plan, using a DR plan template ensures you do not miss important steps in the process and eliminates the costs associated with engaging a consultant. 

Testing your DR plan

You must test your disaster recovery plan and ensure you have all the elements in place for a successful test. This includes having a detailed script of test activities, ensuring that all IT components are in place and ready to use, documenting what happens during the test, and preparing a post-DR-test, after-action review.

Finding the right DRP solution

Implementing your DR plan means you'll need to find a DR solution that fits your IT requirements and is realistic about managing and testing. Many SMBs now work with managed service providers (MSPs) who deliver and administer their IT needs – outsourcing the expense of that mission-critical expertise. Many of those MSPs offer managed DR services that are built on Acronis'  disaster recovery solution . That's because, with Acronis, an MSP can add disaster recovery to your backup in a matter of minutes – so not only will you have backups that protect your data, applications, and systems, but when disaster strikes, you can spin up your IT systems in the cloud to keep your organization running. After the disaster passes, you'll be able to easily recover to the same, new, or dissimilar hardware.

How to Develop a Disaster Recovery Plan for Your IT Systems

About Acronis

Acronis is a Swiss company, founded in Singapore. Celebrating two decades of innovation, Acronis has more than 2,000 employees in 45 locations. Acronis Cyber Protect solution is available in 26 languages in over 150 countries and is used by 20,000 service providers to protect over 750,000 businesses.

How the New Acronis #CyberFit Academy Empowers Partners asdasd…

As the novel coronavirus/COVID-19 continues to spread, impacting individuals, organizations, and communities across the globe, we want to share how Acronis is responding to the pandemic.

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Working from home has become a critical part of containing the virus, but for small to mid-size businesses tackling remote work for the first time, there are security considerations to keep in mind.

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Looking Forward to Better Days

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The complete guide to disaster recovery planning (DRP)

A disaster recovery plan, or DRP, is a documented process that lays out specific procedures to follow when an organization experiences a disaster (often involving data-loss). It’s designed to minimize data loss and business disruption and, most importantly, to get an organization back on itsfeet as quickly as possible.

An IT disaster recovery plan is an important component of a larger business continuity plan (BCP). In this article, we’ll define what a disaster recovery plan is, why it’s important, and what elements it should encompass. Even if you already have some policies and procedures in place, it’s essential to regularly revisit your risk analysis, make sure you have a trained disaster recovery team in place, test run scenarios, and ensure your plan covers all your bases. With ever-changing technology, evolving cyber risks, and employee turnover, developing and maintaining a DRP must never be a “set it and forget it” exercise.

Importance of a Disaster Recovery Plan

Photo of a street sign almost completely submerged in floodwater

Imagine yourself in these scenarios:

  • You’re ankle-deep in water with a hurricane bearing down on you, jeopardizing your own safety while you wonder if you’ll need to try to haul computers out to your car before evacuating; loss of the critical data on those machines could spell the end of your small business.
  • You’re responsible for a database of personal identification data, including biometric data and bank account numbers. A hacker slips in through a vulnerability in the API; they sell access to your customers’ data on WhatsApp.
  • An unscrupulous employee copies and encrypts the guest reservation database of your multinational hotel chain; you’re fined £18.4 million by the Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK.

All of these examples are true stories of data disaster, and all could have been mitigated by a thorough disaster recovery plan.

7 key objectives for a disaster recovery plan

A successful disaster recovery plan will help you:

  • Keep employees, facilities, and equipment safe
  • Minimize disruptions to business operations
  • Limit data loss and exposure of private information
  • Cap liability
  • Preserve your organization’s reputation
  • Reduce financial losses
  • Recover lost data

Types of IT Disaster Events

types of disasters-square

Let’s review some of the most common types of disasters you’ll want to cover in your disaster recovery plan.

Natural disasters

Natural disasters can include highly localized events like a lightning strike causing a fire in your data center, larger disasters like city-wide blackouts caused by storms, or widespread catastrophes like hurricanes or wildfires.

Make sure when you develop your DRP, you’re thinking about the full range of natural disasters from the smallest to the largest, what systems they could affect, and what resources may or may not be available to you during a time of crisis.

Also keep in mind that when we think of the word “disaster”, what often comes to mind is a natural disaster. While you should diligently prepare for natural disasters, your disaster recovery plan should also encompass man-made disasters.

Hackers and cyber attacks

Cybercrime is on the rise. Until 2022, human error was the largest cause of data loss but now for the first time, cyberattacks have become the greatest source of data loss ( source ). Here are some common attack vectors that can give access to hackers and lead to data loss:

  • Misconfigurations in applications or servers
  • Software vulnerabilities
  • SQL injection attacks
  • Insider threats
  • DNS tunneling
  • Zero-day exploits
  • Credential theft

When malicious parties gain access to your data using these and other tactics, they can do any combination of the following:

  • Install malware on your system
  • Steal your data
  • Release your data to the public
  • Sell your data to the highest bidder
  • Demand a ransom for return of your data

Hardware failure

Hardware failure is one of the top causes of data loss and it can create a huge disruption when you least expect it. Endpoints, on-site servers, and external drives are all potential points of hardware failure. Hard drives are among the most fragile parts of computers and there are numerous ways they can be damaged or simply fail. And even cloud storage solutions with multiple layers of protection aren’t completely immune from hardware failure.

Any organization is vulnerable to data loss due to hardware failure, but small businesses are especially likely to suffer from this as they typically house servers on-premises rather than in a managed data center, and they’re less likely to back up their files regularly (and test those backups).

Human error

Let’s face it, nobody’s perfect and anyone who’s ever forgotten to click the save icon on a regular basis knows that unique feeling of terror right after your application crashes. As frustrating as it is to lose an afternoon’s worth of work on a big presentation, the consequences of human error are not limited to data on a single device. According to a study by Stanford University, around 88% of all data breaches are caused by employee error.

Having clear policies, keeping current on employee training, and automating as many processes as possible are all ways to help cut down on the probability of human error.

Some examples of human error include:

  • Misconfiguring cloud services
  • Falling for phishing scams
  • Lost or stolen, or damaged devices
  • Accidental deletions or overwrites
  • Password mishandling

Stages of a Disaster Recovery Plan

There are many different ways to slice and dice the stages of a disaster recovery plan. Here, we’ll break it down into five stages: Preparation, Assessment, Restoration, Recovery, and Lessons Learned.

1. Preparation

Conduct a risk analysis. Preparing for a natural disaster will look different based on your geographical location. Maybe you’re located somewhere that tends to get hit with rolling blackouts, like California during fire season. Or you could have facilities in the path of hurricanes on the Atlantic coast, or along a fault line. When it comes to human-caused disasters, the likelihood of various incidents are potentially dependent on your industry and your user profile. For example, if you work in the manufacturing or healthcare industries, you should be aware that they’re the top two industries to be targeted by ransomware . And if your users are less tech-savvy, they’re more prone to become a victim of a phishing attack .

Determine potential points of failure. Assess your current state. Are your authentication protocols up to date? Are your physical failovers – like backup power generators or alternate networking equipment – in good working order? Are your files actively being backed up and have you recently tested restoring them? Are your partners staying up to date on their security certifications?

Identify a response team. Different types of disasters will require different disaster response team members. Make sure each person you’ve identified knows their role and be sure to designate a backup in case there’s employee turnover or someone’s on vacation when disaster strikes.

Document everything. And be sure everyone on the team knows where to find the documentation. In addition to documenting your disaster recovery processes themselves, also document things like technical specs, insurance policies, emergency contact information, and relevant government or community resources.

Practice, practice, practice. Disasters are a matter of when, not if. Think how horrified you’d be if a whitewater rafting guide brought you down a new river without doing a test run. It’s the same with disaster planning. With practice, you’ll find hidden obstacles ahead of time, and be able to respond quickly and competently when the time comes.

2. Assessment

Declare the event. The first step in assessing a disaster is to declare the event and notify leadership and your response team. Determine your chain of command based on the type of incident and the team you’ve previously identified. Share necessary information with employees, customers, and any relevant authorities. Keep in mind that how you communicate is just as important as what you communicate. As a team, decide upon necessary audiences (customers, prospects, employees, authorities) and draft communications to be sent as rapidly as possible. Calm, clear, correct communication can be the difference between successful containment and a PR calamity.

Assess current state. Is the disaster ongoing? What can be done now to mitigate further loss, and what is currently out of your control? When dealing with a natural disaster, physical safety should be your true North.

Take inventory . What’s good, what’s lost, what’s potentially recoverable, and what’s destroyed? Take stock of your physical assets like facilities, servers, and products, as well as your digital ones like customer-facing websites, financial databases, and files on users’ computers.

3. Restoration

Get back up and running. Here’s where all your preparation pays off. At this point, you know what you need to do and can immediately begin executing your plan. At this stage of your plan,time is of the essence. ITIC’s Global Server Hardware Security Survey in 2022 found that the average hourly cost of downtime is more than $300,000 – and 44% of medium and large businesses report that an hour of downtime could cost their businesses over $1 million.

Activate your failovers. Depending on your needs and your restore point objectives and restore time objectives (more on RPO and RTO below), you may have full redundancy in some of your systems, or you may have to spin up alternate hardware or set up alternate physical sites.

Keep lines of communication open. Make sure to keep updating your customers, clients, employees, and/or authorities as you work to restore services. In your initial communication with stakeholders, define an update frequency and stick to that cadence even if just to say “we’re still working on it.”

4. Recovery

Confirm everything is working. Now that the crisis has passed, you’ll want to methodically check all your systems to make sure everything is working properly. This is where you can rely on the documentation you had at the outset.

Recover lost data, if possible. Once your operations are restored, attempt to recover any lost data not already addressed. Depending on your data retention policies and RPO decisions you may lose varying amounts of data. If you’ve utilized a 3-2-1 backup strategy you should have at least one other copy of data from which to restore, even if a large-scale disaster (or terrible coincidence) were to take out more than one copy of your important dataat the same time.

5. Lessons Learned

Conduct a debrief. Get together with your disaster recovery team and discuss what went well, what went wrong, and/or what unexpected issues you encountered. Identify gaps in initial preparation AND execution of your plan. It is important at this point to conduct this exercise in the model of a blameless post-mortem. Things broke. Mistakes were made. Assigning blame to team-members is unhelpful to future success.

Integrate learnings into your disaster recovery plan. There will inevitably be something you wished you’d thought of earlier. This is your chance to document everything you’ve learned and update your DRP so you can improve your disaster response next time around.

Benefits of a Disaster Recovery Plan

Photo of two men talking and looking at a computer in a data center

Like the Scouts’ motto goes: “Be Prepared.” In so many areas of life, preparation is key to both peace of mind and avoiding or minimizing bad outcomes. Disaster preparedness that safeguards your essential business data is no different. We briefly outlined some of the major benefits already, but let’s dive into a few in more depth.

Improved recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO)

As a refresher, recovery time objective (RTO) in the context of data loss refers to how quickly data must be made available after an outage without significantly impacting the organization. A short RTO is essential for operations that are business-critical or timely – like customer-facing websites, or files that were being used by employees at the time of the outage. You can increase your recovery time objective for things that are less critical, which allows you to turn your immediate focus and resources towards the most urgent operations.

Recovery point objective (RPO) , on the other hand, refers to the maximum allowable amount of data that an organization believes it can lose without crippling the business. Defining an RPO necessitates that the organization accept two facts:

  • It is not possible to protect all organizational data from disaster For the data that it is unacceptable to lose there is a period of time from the last version which is acceptable
  • You need to know how long of a gap in data is acceptable for your organization and what data within your business would be tolerable to theoretically lose completely. This helps you define your RPO which will define the rest of your data integrity and security strategy.

The first step in defining an RPO is to classify your data and understand where it’s stored and whether it’s being backed up. From there, you can negotiate as a business over costs, risks, and impact.

Once we get down to the brass-tacks for example, if you’re running tape backups of an important transactional database once a day, you would lose up to a day’s worth of data when the primary system experiences an outage. Is that acceptable? Is there an opportunity to add additional online redundancy to that system and is it worth the cost (in time, money or both) to mitigate that risk? All of those considerations must be taken into account for business data at every level of your classification schema.

As you construct your plan, you’ll likely need to make tradeoffs on RTO, as you may not have the resources to have layers of redundancy and continuous backups on everything. Therefore, thinking strategically ahead of time will ensure that the business is aware of its exposure in the event of an incident and that makes it much easier to recover in a timely manner.

Having a clear understanding and alignment on your organization’s risk tolerance is a critical foundation to disaster recovery planning. Once you have your RTO and RPOs defined, you’ll use your disaster recovery plan to identify concrete tactics to meet your recovery point and recovery time objectives. A good disaster recovery plan can even uncover ways to exceed those objectives and further minimize risk.

Protecting your organization’s reputation

There are countless examples of customers jumping ship and stock prices plummeting after a data breach. It can take years to repair a brand’s tarnished reputation. According to a 2019 survey by PingIdentity, 81% of people would stop engaging with a brand online following a breach, and only 14% of respondents would readily sign up for and use an application or service following a breach.

The good news is that your disaster recovery plan can mitigate these dismal outcomes. By demonstrating and communicating to your customers and the public that you’re on top of the situation, your organization retains trust with your market. When faced with a data disaster, this can mean the difference between a public relations nightmare and simply a bad day.

During the Preparation stage of your disaster recovery plan, you can define ways to build a foundation of trust with your customers and the public. Some of these may include:

  • Identify applicable privacy regulations, like CAN-SPAM laws, CCPA and GDPR regulations and put policies in place to follow them.
  • Obtain any security certifications that are applicable to your organization, such as NIST, ISO2700 and SOC2.
  • Work with your marketing and web teams to post information about your security protocols on your website. Proactively show that you’re following best practices and that you value keeping your customer’s information safe.
  • Educate your customers on how to use your product or service in a way that protects their security and privacy – for example, prompt users to choose secure passwords or set up multi-factor authentication.

You can also include protocols that help to preserve trust during the Restoration stage of your DRP:

  • Plan for how you will explain in a timely and transparent way what has happened, who is impacted, and what steps you’re taking to address it.
  • Work with your PR and/or social media team to craft a strategy for how to demonstrate calm, transparency and responsiveness through communications channels (press, social, and customer communications) social media during and following a disaster.

Implementing initiatives to gain and keep customers’ trust is an important and sometimes overlooked part of a DRP, and will benefit your organization by helping to preserve your organization’s reputation.This leads to better customer retention and fewer financial losses when there’s a crisis. At this point, in the eyes of external stakeholders, it is often less about whether an organization deals with a data-loss incident and more about how it responds when it does. Having a plan in place beforehand will help ensure your organization rises to the challenge.

Minimizing legal liability

In a well-known case of a mishandled data breach, the CSO of a popular ride sharing app covered up a data breach and instead paid a $100,000 ransom to restore the stolen data. Not only did this executive’s action result in their termination, but they were also later convicted of obstruction of justice for the attempt to cover up the incident. This is not a good outcome for anyone.

Legal liability isn’t just limited to individuals. If a company is found negligent in its handling of customer data, it will find itself vulnerable to lawsuits and/or regulatory penalties. Using a disaster recovery plan, you can do your due diligence and show that when data loss does occur, it’s not due to negligence and there is a plan in place to minimize the impact and address shortcomings. This will save your organization time and headaches..

Because this section talks about legal liability we want to make it clear that none of this amounts to official legal advice. Laws and regulations vary by industry and situation. There are people who have devoted their entire professional careers to this pursuit. Consult with a lawyer if you want more specifics on how to protect yourself and your business from potential liability.

Putting an IT Disaster Recovery Plan Into Place

One last thing we should say about disaster recovery planning: it doesn’t have to be overly complicated to still be worth doing. In fact, if after reading this you feel intimidated, we have unfortunately done you a disservice.

If you do nothing else after reading this article, take some time to review what policies you currently have in place. Do they make sense? Do you know where all your data lives? Is it backed up? Do the relevant stakeholders understand their roles? Shore up what you currently have and then make a plan to expand. If disaster befalls you, you’ll be glad you were better prepared.

And, to learn more about cloud backup solutions that fit perfectly into your disaster recovery plan, take a look at CrashPlan for Enterprise or CrashPlan for Small Business.

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Disaster recovery plan

3 Key Stages of a Disaster Recovery Plan

Network data loss or disaster can occur without warning, leading to serious consequences for many businesses, that haven’t taken sufficient precautions. A network data interruption is any incident that disrupts an organization’s usual network operations, including its infrastructure, systems, and services. Such disruptions can be caused by various factors like hardware failures, software glitches, cyberattacks, natural disasters, power outages, or even human error or errors. These incidents can result in significant financial losses, damage to reputation, data integrity breaches, and operational standstills. Crafting a network disaster recovery plan for your small business is crucial to mitigate risks. Your virtualized disaster recovery plan should involve three key stages including recognizing impending threats, understanding their potential impacts, and devising a tailored response strategy. Having a network disaster recovery plan in place will ensure operational continuity during an unexpected network failure or disruption.

Recognizing Impending Threats

Companies who are proactive in taking preventative measures can mitigate risks of outside threats and recover quickly if a disaster occurs. Here are some key steps and strategies for recognizing impending threats.

Key Steps and Strategies:

1.      Continuous Monitoring: Implement a robust monitoring data protection system to constantly scan your network for unusual activities, vulnerabilities, and potential breaches.

2.      Threat Intelligence: Stay informed about the latest threats and vulnerabilities by subscribing to threat intelligence feeds and collaborating with industry groups. This information can help you identify potential threats that might be targeting your organization’s specific industry or technology.

3.      Penetration Testing: Regularly conduct penetration testing to simulate real-world attacks on your own network infrastructure. This helps you identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities that attackers might exploit.

4.      Vulnerability Assessment: Regularly scan your network and systems for vulnerabilities and apply patches and updates promptly to prevent potential threats from exploiting known vulnerabilities.

5.      Social Engineering Awareness: Educate employees about social engineering techniques, such as phishing and pretexting, so they can recognize and report suspicious communication.

6.      Network Segmentation: Divide your network into segments with restricted access between them. This helps contain threats to network devices and data centers and prevent lateral movement by attackers.

7.      Behavioral Analysis: Monitor user and system behavior to detect unusual or unauthorized actions, such as unusual data transfers, logins from desktop or laptop computers used in unusual locations, or unauthorized changes to system configurations.

8.      Real-time Alerts: Set up automated alerts on wireless devices that notify the appropriate personnel when suspicious activities are detected. This allows for rapid response and mitigation.

9.      Incident Response Plan: Develop a comprehensive incident response plan that outlines the steps to take when a threat is identified. This plan should involve both technical and non-technical actions, including communication strategies and coordination with law enforcement if necessary.

10.   Machine Learning and AI: Utilize advanced technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze vast amounts of data and identify patterns indicative of threats.

Impacts of Network Disruptions

Network disruptions can lead to substantial financial losses, harm your reputation, breach data integrity, and halt normal operations elsewhere. But the impacts of these disruptions can extend beyond immediate financial losses and operational interruptions. Organizations may also face legal and regulatory consequences due to compromised data security and breaches of privacy. Customer trust and loyalty can be severely damaged, resulting in long-term reputational harm and decreased market share. The inability to deliver products or services on time can lead to dissatisfied customers and missed business opportunities, further compounding the negative effects.

Furthermore, network disruptions can expose vulnerabilities in an organization’s disaster recovery strategies and business continuity plans. Inadequate preparedness for such events can lead to prolonged downtime, difficulty in restoring systems, and a higher cost of the disaster recovery process. Employee productivity can take a hit as they struggle to work around the disruptions, leading to frustration and potentially impacting overall morale.

In today’s interconnected world, where data processing, digital transactions, data backup and communication are integral to daily operations, network disruptions can also have ripple effects on partner organizations, suppliers, and customers downstream in the supply chain. This interconnectedness amplifies the potential for widespread disruption and underscores the importance of robust cybersecurity measures.

Constructing a Network Disaster Recovery Plan

If you experience hardware failure or a breach to your network environment, a well-devised recovery plan is essential for a quick and successful recovery. Your network disaster recovery plan is a roadmap that guides your response to any disruption. Here are the necessary components you should include in your Recovery Plan:

Incident Identification and Notification

Clearly define how you will identify breaches or incidents within your data center or other network resources. Establish protocols for immediate notification to the appropriate personnel or teams responsible for managing the recovery process.

Disaster Recovery Team and Roles

Identify and assign roles to team members responsible for managing the disaster recovery planning process. This might include IT staff, cybersecurity experts, legal representatives, communication specialists, and management representatives.

Communication Plan

Outline how you will communicate both internally and externally during and after the breach. This includes informing employees, customers, partners, stakeholders, and the media if necessary. Having a consistent and transparent communication strategy is vital to maintain trust.

Containment and Mitigation

Describe the steps to isolate and contain the breach to prevent further damage. This might involve isolating affected systems, doing network recovery, disabling compromised accounts network services, and patching vulnerabilities.

Investigation and Root Cause Analysis

Detail how you will investigate the breach to understand how it occurred. This involves analyzing logs, examining compromised systems, and identifying the vulnerabilities that were exploited. Determine the root cause to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Disaster Recovery Strategy and Restoration

Define the process for restoring lost or corrFoupted data from backups. Ensure that your data backup strategy and recovery plans is comprehensive and up-to-date. Test the restoration process regularly to verify its effectiveness.

Legal and Regulatory Considerations

Address any legal or regulatory requirements related to data breaches. Understand your obligations for reporting the breach to authorities, affected individuals, and regulatory bodies. Consider involving legal experts to navigate potential legal repercussions.

Post-Recovery Review and Improvement

After the breach is resolved, conduct a thorough review of the incident and your response. Identify areas for improvement and update your recovery plan accordingly. Continuous learning from incidents is essential for enhancing your cybersecurity posture.

Training and Awareness

Emphasize the importance of ongoing training and awareness for all employees. Regularly educate your team about cybersecurity best practices, potential threats, and how to respond in case of a serious lost data breach.

Testing and Drills

Regularly test and update your disaster recovery plans and plan through simulated breach scenarios or tabletop exercises. This helps ensure that your response procedures are effective and that your team is well-prepared.

Vendor and Third-Party Relationships

If your breach involves third-party vendors, outline how you will collaborate with them during the recovery process. Define expectations, communication channels, and responsibilities.


Maintain detailed documentation of the breach, response actions, and lessons learned. This information will be invaluable for post-incident analysis and for improving your recovery plan over the recovery time thereafter.

Remember that a recovery plan is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Tailor your business continuity plan to your organization’s specific needs, resources, and risks, and ensure that it is regularly updated to address evolving cybersecurity threats.

Final Thought…

The potential impact of network disruptions on businesses underscores the critical need for proactive preparation and strategic planning. Without adequate precautions, organizations can find themselves vulnerable to a wide range of threats that can disrupt their own business processes and operations, and lead to far-reaching consequences.

Crafting a comprehensive data backup and recovery plan for IT infrastructure is a fundamental step in mitigating these risks. Such a plan not only facilitates disaster recovery but also ensures the continuation of operations during unforeseen disruptions.

Visual Edge IT, Inc. (VEIT) specializes in managed IT services and security, cloud computing, and print/copy solutions for businesses across the U.S. including remote office locations. We offer a full line of office technology and services, including 24/7 remote monitoring and administration of networks, service desk, and data backup and restore to improve business processes across various industries. Plus, Visual Edge IT™ represents the industry’s leading manufacturers of office technology allowing businesses to get equipment, supplies and services from a single source. Backed by more than 20 years of technology service and a national network of expert engineers, VEIT is uniquely positioned to support business technology needs. The company is headquartered in North Canton, OH, USA.  Request  your no-obligation assessment today and get a free dark web analysis.

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