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What is Disaster Recovery?

Disaster recovery is the process by which an organization anticipates and addresses technology-related disasters. The process of preparing for and recovering from any event that prevents a workload or system from fulfilling its business objectives in its primary deployed location, such as power outages, natural events, or security issues. Disaster recovery targets are measured with Recovery Point Objectives (RPO) and Recovery Time Objectives (RTO). The failures handled by disaster recovery tend to be rarer than those covered by high availability and are larger scale disaster events. Disaster recovery includes an organization's procedures and policies to recover quickly from such events.

Why is disaster recovery important?

A disaster is an unexpected problem resulting in a slowdown, interruption, or network outage in an IT system. Outages come in many forms, including the following examples:

  • An earthquake or fire
  • Technology failures
  • System incompatibilities
  • Simple human error 
  • Intentional unauthorized access by third parties

These disasters disrupt business operations, cause customer service problems, and result in revenue loss. A disaster recovery plan helps organizations respond promptly to disruptive events and provides key benefits.

Ensures business continuity

When a disaster strikes, it can be detrimental to all aspects of the business and is often costly. It also interrupts normal business operations, as the team’s productivity is reduced due to limited access to tools they require to work. A disaster recovery plan prompts the quick restart of backup systems and data so that operations can continue as scheduled. 

Enhances system security

Integrating data protection, backup, and restoring processes into a disaster recovery plan limits the impact of ransomware, malware, or other security risks for business. For example, data backups to the cloud have numerous built-in security features to limit suspicious activity before it impacts the business. 

Improves customer retention

If a disaster occurs, customers question the reliability of an organization’s security practices and services. The longer a disaster impacts a business, the greater the customer frustration. A good disaster recovery plan mitigates this risk by training employees to handle customer inquiries. Customers gain confidence when they observe that the business is well-prepared to handle any disaster. 

Reduces recovery costs

Depending on its severity, a disaster causes both loss of income and productivity. A robust disaster recovery plan avoids unnecessary losses as systems return to normal soon after the incident. For example, cloud storage solutions are a cost-effective data backup method. You can manage, monitor, and maintain data while the business operates as usual. 

How does disaster recovery work?

Disaster recovery focuses on getting applications up and running within minutes of an outage. Organizations address the following three components.

To reduce the likelihood of a technology-related disaster, businesses need a plan to ensure that all key systems are as reliable and secure as possible. Because humans cannot control a natural disaster, prevention only applies to network problems, security risks, and human errors. You must set up the right tools and techniques to prevent disaster. For example, system-testing software that auto-checks all new configuration files before applying them can prevent configuration mistakes and failures. 


Anticipation includes predicting possible future disasters, knowing the consequences, and planning appropriate disaster recovery procedures. It is challenging to predict what can happen, but you can come up with a disaster recovery solution with knowledge from previous situations and analysis. For example, backing up all critical business data to the cloud in anticipation of future hardware failure of on-premises devices is a pragmatic approach to data management.

Mitigation is how a business responds after a disaster scenario. A mitigation strategy aims to reduce the negative impact on normal business procedures. All key stakeholders know what to do in the event of a disaster, including the following steps.

  • Updating documentation
  • Conducting regular disaster recovery testing
  • Identifying manual operating procedures in the event of an outage
  • Coordinating a disaster recovery strategy with corresponding personnel

disaster recovery plans examples

What are the key elements of a disaster recovery plan?

An effective disaster recovery plan includes the following key elements. 

Internal and external communication

The team responsible for creating, implementing, and managing the disaster recovery plan must communicate with each other about their roles and responsibilities. If a disaster happens, the team should know who is responsible for what and how to communicate with employees, customers, and each other. 

Recovery timeline

The disaster recovery team must decide on goals and time frames for when systems should be back to normal operations after a disaster. Some industries’ timelines may be longer than others, while others need to be back to normal in a matter of minutes. 

The timeline should address the following two objectives.

Recovery time objective 

The recovery time objective (RTO) is a metric that determines the maximum amount of time that passes before you complete disaster recovery. Your RTOs may vary depending on impacted IT infrastructure and systems.

Recovery point objective

A recovery point objective (RPO) is the maximum amount of time acceptable for data loss after a disaster. For example, if your RPO is minutes or hours, you will have to back up your data constantly to mirror sites instead of just once at the end of the day.

Data backups

The disaster recovery plan determines how you back up your data. Options include cloud storage, vendor-supported backups, and internal offsite data backups. To account for natural disaster events, backups should not be onsite. The team should determine who will back up the data, what information will be backed up, and how to implement the system.

Testing and optimization 

You must test your disaster recovery plan at least once or twice per year. You can document and fix any gaps that you identify in these tests. Similarly, you should update all security and data protection strategies frequently to prevent inadvertent unauthorized access.

How can you create a disaster recovery team?

A disaster recovery team includes a collaborative team of experts, such as IT specialists and individuals in leadership roles, who will be crucial to the team. You should have somebody on the team who takes care of the following key areas.

Crisis management

The individual in charge of crisis management implements the disaster recovery plan right away. They communicate with other team members and customers, and they coordinate the disaster recovery process. 

Business continuity

The business continuity manager ensures that the disaster recovery plan aligns with results from business impact analysis. They include business continuity planning in the disaster recovery strategy. 

Impact recovery and assessment

Impact assessment managers are experts in IT infrastructure and business applications. They assess and fix network infrastructure, servers, and databases. They also manage other disaster recovery tasks, such as the following examples.

  • Application integrations
  • Data consistency maintenance
  • Application settings and configuration

What are the best disaster recovery methods?

When disaster recovery planning, businesses implement one or several of the following methods.

Backing up data is one of the easiest methods of disaster recovery that all businesses implement. Backing up important data entails storing data offsite, in the cloud, or on a removable drive. You should back up data frequently to keep it up to date. For example, by backing up to AWS , businesses get a flexible and scalable infrastructure that protects all data types. 

Data center disaster recovery

In the event of certain types of natural disasters, appropriate equipment can protect your data center and contribute to rapid disaster recovery. For example, fire suppression tools help equipment and data survive through a blaze, and backup power sources support businesses’ continuity in case of power failure. Similarly, AWS data centers have innovative systems that protect them from human-made and natural risks.


Businesses back up their data and operations using offsite virtual machines (VMs) not affected by physical disasters. With virtualization as part of the disaster recovery plan, businesses automate some processes, recovering faster from a natural disaster. The continuous transfer of data and workloads to VMs like Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is essential for effective virtualization. 

Disaster recovery as a service

Disaster recovery services like AWS Elastic Disaster Recovery can move a company’s computer processing and critical business operations to its own cloud services in the event of a disaster. Therefore, normal operations can continue from the provider’s location, even if on-premises servers are down. Elastic Disaster Recovery also protects from Regions in the cloud going down. 

In the event of a natural disaster, a company moves its operations to another rarely used physical location, called a cold site. This way, employees have a place to work, and business functions can continue as normal. This type of disaster recovery does not protect or recover important data, so another disaster recovery method must be used alongside this one.    

How can AWS help with disaster recovery?

Elastic Disaster Recovery is a disaster recovery service that reduces downtime and data loss with the fast, reliable recovery of on-premises and cloud-based applications. It can decrease your RPO to seconds and RTO to just a few minutes. You can quickly recover operations after unexpected events, such as software issues or data center hardware failures. It is also a flexible solution, so you can add or remove replicating servers and test various applications without specialized skill sets.

Elastic Disaster Recovery includes the following benefits.

  • Reduces costs by removing idle recovery site resources, so you pay for the full disaster recovery site only when needed
  • Converts cloud-based applications to run natively on AWS
  • Restores applications within minutes, at their most up-to-date state, or from a previous point in time in case of security incidents

Get started with disaster recovery on AWS by creating an AWS account today. 

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Disaster Recovery Plan Templates

By Andy Marker | November 26, 2018

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In this article, you’ll find the most useful disaster plan templates, available for download in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF formats. Customize the free templates to fit your business needs so you can maintain productivity and operations in the event of a disaster.

Disaster Recovery Plan Template

Disaster Recovery Plan Template

Use this template to document and track all critical operations, personnel contact information, and key procedures to perform in the event of a disaster or business disruption. Use the designated space to record critical information, like the backup process, recovery sites, and restoration steps. This template is available for download in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and PDF formats.

Download Disaster Recovery Plan Template

Word | PowerPoint | PDF  | Smartsheet

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Disaster Risk Reduction Management Plan Template

Disaster Risk reduction Management Plan Template

Use this template to record the most essential information your organization needs in order to effectively gauge risks. Within the disaster risk reduction management plan, you’ll find space to detail risk severity and likelihood and outline it on a visual chart. Use this template to stay on top of risks and detail how to handle any disaster or disruption, no matter the severity.

Download Disaster Risk Reduction Management Plan Template

Excel  | PDF  | Smartsheet

IT Disaster Plan Template

IT Disaster Recovery Plan Template

This template outlines the specific steps for continuing business operations and recovery in the IT field. Space is included to document IT objectives, key IT personnel and all necessary contact information, recovery plan overview, and emergency response teams. Available in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and PDF formats, this template serves as a blueprint for recovering from all IT disruptions. .

Download IT Disaster Plan Template

Word | PowerPoint | PDF

Data Disaster Recovery Plan Template

Data Disaster Recovery Plan Template

Use this template to document the process for recovering key data after a disaster or disruption in business operations. With space to list a statement of intent, emergency response processes, financial and legal information, and recovery plan practice and implementation, this template will aid in the restoration of all critical business data.

Download Data Disaster Recovery Plan Template

Disaster Recovery Communication Plan Template

Disaster Recovery Communication Plan Template

This disaster recovery communication plan template will help you identify the core communications across team members in the event of a disaster. This template provides space to assign responsibilities, identify stakeholders, and set up a proper response plan. This template is available in both Microsoft Word and PDF formats.

Download Disaster Recovery Communication Plan Template

Payroll Disaster Recovery Plan Template

Payroll Disaster Recovery Plan Template

Plan, track, and manage a disaster that affects the payroll process of your organization and hinders normal HR operations. You can use this template to detail key contact information, disaster recovery teams, and emergency alert and activation measures dealing with a disaster that affects typical payroll operations. This customizable template is available in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and PDF formats.

Download Payroll Disaster Recovery Plan Template

School Disaster Management Plan Template

School Disaster Management Plan Template

In the event of a disaster or emergency situation at a school, use this template to plan the exact details involved in the response, mitigation, and recovery plan. Manage all risks that could potentially plague schools, such as site security or power outages. With space to document a full risk assessment, a preparedness plan, and response actions, your school will be fully prepared.

Download School Disaster Management Plan Template

Disaster Management Plan Template

Disaster Management Plan Template

Use this comprehensive template to detail the response and management plan of your organization after a disaster strikes. With space to include an outline of your overall disaster recovery plan, key contact information, disaster recovery procedures, and alternate recovery sites, this template enables you to manage any catastrophe that may affect your organization.

Download Disaster Management Plan Template

Simple Disaster Recovery Plan for Small Businesses

Simple Disaster Recovery Plan for Small Business Template

This template offers a simple yet comprehensive recovery plan for small businesses when a disaster or emergency situation interrupts typical activity. You’ll find space to outline everything from recovery plans to backup procedures, and even disaster site rebuilding and relocation plans. This template is available for download in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and PDF formats.

Download Simple Disaster Recovery Plan for Small Businesses

SaaS Disaster Recovery Plan Template

SAAS Disaster Recovery Plan Template

This template is specifically designed for SaaS organizations to plan, manage, and assess the damage after a disaster occurs. Outline key objectives, provide a detailed overview, and assign responsibilities across emergency and disaster response teams with this comprehensive template available in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and PDF formats.

Download SaaS Disaster Recovery Plan Template

Disaster Drill Evaluation Template

Disaster Drill Evaluation Template

Use this template during and after a disaster drill to evaluate the effectiveness of your organization’s plan. Record the type of disaster the drill is for, drill initiation and complete times, emergency response team accuracy, and lessons learned. Download and customize for your business needs, available in both Microsoft Word and PDF formats.

Download Disaster Drill Evaluation Template

Excel | Word | PDF

Disaster Call Tree Template

Disaster Call Tree Template

Streamline the process of phone communication when an emergency occurs. Use this template to detail the person responsible for starting the call tree, as well as all of the people who then contact others to effectively and quickly alert all team members of the disaster.

Download Disaster Call Tree Template

Excel | Word | PowerPoint | PDF

Manufacturing Disaster Recovery Plan Template

Manufacturing Disaster Recovery Plan Template

In the event of a disaster that affects the normal manufacturing operations, use this template to outline the critical details needed to restore manufacturing. With space to document critical personnel responsibilities, contingency operations, backup locations, and more, manufacturing teams can continue or relocate operations to maintain normal functions as quickly as possible.

Download Manufacturing Disaster Recovery Plan Template

Disaster Recovery Runbook

Disaster Recovery Runbook Template

Use this template to document the steps to recovery from a disaster. You can apply this template across a multitude of business functions or teams. Easily document key details like communication strategies, disaster declaration and response procedures, infrastructure overviews, and restoration details in one place. This template is available for download in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and PDF formats.

Download Disaster Recovery Runbook

Application Disaster Recovery Plan Template

Application Disaster Recovery Response Template

Use this template to document specific steps for recovering from a disaster or business disruption. There is space to include policy statements, contact information, and disaster and emergency response teams and procedures. This template is available to customize and download in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and PDF formats.

Download Application Disaster Recovery Plan Template

Law Firm Disaster Recovery Plan Template

Law Firm Disaster Recovery Plan Template

This template offers specific recovery procedures and processes associated specifically with law firms. Document disaster response steps, personnel losses, new employee training, and office space information to effectively tackle the aftermath of a disaster that plagues a law company. This template is available for download in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and PDF formats.

Download Law Firm Disaster Recovery Plan Template

What Is a Disaster Recovery Plan?

A disaster recovery plan (DRP) is a step-by-step procedure that outlines how a business or organization will recover from disrupted systems, operations, processes, or networks. The aim of a DRP is to identify critical systems or procedures, prioritize recovery time objectives (RTOs), document key personnel contact information, and outline any necessary policies to follow in the event of a disaster.

What Is the Purpose of a Disaster Recovery Plan?

A DRP is an essential document for any business or organization, as it ensures that all normal business processes, infrastructure, and applications continue to operate when a major disaster strikes. Usually, a disaster recovery plan is included as part of the overall business impact analysis .

Additionally, the plan provides details for responding to unplanned incidents, which can include cyber attacks, environmental or natural disasters (flood, earthquake, landslide, volcano, tornado, etc.), power disruptions, fires, employee errors, hardware or software failures, terrorism or sabotage, bomb or shooter threats, and more.

A DRP can also minimize the negative impacts of disasters by helping to ensure that all business locations are kept safe. In addition to all of these positive effects of having a DRP, it also helps with the following:

  • Ensure employees and team members can react rapidly and restore activity effectively, in light of an emergency or disaster.
  • Capture, summarize, and organize critical information needed to restore business operations.
  • Develop, test, and document a detailed, easy-to-understand plan.
  • Secure contingency plans, and ensure they are cost effective.
  • Build resilience within the business.
  • Identify responsibilities of each team member, and outline disaster practices to ensure effectiveness.
  • Prepare and respond to emergencies most likely to plague certain business, teams, or roles.
  • Ensure the overall prosperity and survival of the business.

Most businesses cannot afford to be non-profitable and lose critical operations for an extended period of time. DRPs help to ensure that all operations can be restored in a quick, responsive manner.

Steps For Creating a Disaster Recovery Plan

When you are writing your disaster recovery plan, start by conducting a thorough business impact analysis to identify your organization’s most essential parts or critical services and how a disaster might affect them. Assess the risk and impact associated with losing business functions in a disaster.

Look at historical or company background information to determine if any disasters have affected the organization in the past, and how they were consequently handled. Perform a gap analysis to compare what is currently being done to prevent or handle a disaster against what should be done, and see if there are missing components. Next, identify any existing preventive controls to mitigate disasters.

From there, you can start creating a disaster recovery plan by following these steps:

  • Develop recovery strategies.
  • Obtain management commitment and authorization to proceed with DRP creation.
  • Classify and prioritize business operations.
  • Set the scope of the DRP, either in covering a whole business, specific teams, or individual people.
  • Develop the cost estimate and scheduling of the plan to share with key stakeholders.
  • Determine supplies, equipment, and other infrastructure that must be maintained during a disaster.
  • Establish an emergency communication system, usually through a call tree, and include support services and assistance information.
  • Document emergency response actions and internal recovery strategies, and designate specific teams to carry them out, as well as dependent processes that must be handled in a particular order.
  • Determine data and records backup and data restoration times to ensure timely IT recovery.
  • Designate specific phases of your DRP, such as a response phase, resumption phase, and restoration phase.
  • Identify “hot” and “cold” sites, when necessary.
  • Plan an evacuation route.
  • Include detailed instructions and contact information in the case of a medical emergency.
  • Determine a comprehensive plan to rebuild a disaster site.
  • Determine a hazard assessment to minimize exposure to risks and dangers.
  • Create an emergency checklist to have on-hand when a disaster strikes.
  • Conduct tests and trainings of the DRP.
  • Perform an annual review of your DRP and document any necessary changes in the plan.

Who Are the Resources Involved in a Disaster Recovery Plan?

A DRP is comprised of many different human resources who are leveraged when a disaster or emergency strikes. These participants are usually grouped into teams to cover a variety of important responsibilities included in a DRP.

The plan development team helps craft the plan and assigns responsibilities to the other resources. The IT and application teams deal with disaster strategies that disrupt that portion of the business, and the emergency response team focuses on the overall emergency response process of the entire organization.

Within the emergency response team is a primary crisis manager and a company spokesperson who both focus on communicating and acting on emergency response procedures. An emergency contact helps in altering the rest of the business of the disaster, specifically to vendors or suppliers who may work remotely.

Tips For Creating a Disaster Recovery Plan

Because a DRP is an important document for any business or organization to have, creating the most accurate, clear, and actionable plan can be daunting. The following tips can help:

  • Establish clearly defined roles for each team member.
  • Get support and buy-in from senior management.
  • Keep the wording and process description simple.
  • Review results with business units.
  • Be flexible and accept suggestions regarding all parts of the DRP.
  • Plan for emergencies most likely to happen where you live, or according to your business.
  • Detail what to do in the event of lost communication, evacuation, and safety threats.
  • Make sure you have a strong communication plan across your organization.
  • Always plan and prepare for the worst case scenario.
  • Conduct extensive risk assessments to ensure you are covering all your bases.
  • Consider the specific needs or accommodations of all employees.
  • Organize your team and perform practice plans before a disaster actually strikes.

Once you have completed the plan, ask the following questions to ensure that your DRP is coherent, comprehensive, and easy to implement:

  • Are all employees able to execute the plan, and is everyone aware of their role?
  • Are backup procedures detailed, and are they accessible within a desired timeline?
  • Are there specific contingency operations in place if one of the primary procedures fails?
  • Is the recovery time objective and recovery point objective (RPO) practical for your business and all of your team members?
  • Can systems be restored before an excessive amount of revenue or data is lost?

Examples of Effective Disaster Recovery Plans and Additional Resources

For more direction in creating the most appropriate and actionable DRP for your business, refer to these recovery plan examples to gain familiarity and understanding of how to write and what to include in a DRP.

  • MIT Disaster Recovery Plan : MIT outlines all critical components of a DRP, including purpose of plan, disaster response, disaster detection, and business continuity teams.
  • IBM Disaster Recovery Plan : IBM clearly documents key details of their business to minimize the effect of a disaster, including recovery procedures, recovery sites, major goals, and plan testing.

To gain an even better idea of how to create the best disaster recovery plan, and detail why every business should have one, refer to these helpful resources and reports:

  • NIST Special Publication 800-34
  • EMC IT Downtime Report
  • Computer Security Resource Center
  • Guide to Test, Training, and Exercise Programs for IT Plans & Capabilities
  • Building an Information Technology Security Awareness & Training Program
  • FEMA: “Emergency Management Guide for Business and Industry”

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What is a Disaster Recovery Plan?

Disaster recovery (DR) is an organization’s ability to restore access and functionality to IT infrastructure after a disaster event, whether natural or caused by human action (or error). DR is considered a subset of business continuity, explicitly focusing on ensuring that the IT systems that support critical business functions are operational as soon as possible after a disruptive event occurs.

Today, disaster recovery planning is crucial for any business, especially those operating either partially or entirely in the cloud. Disasters that interrupt service and cause data loss can happen anytime without warning—your network could have an outage, a critical bug could get released, or your business might have to weather a natural disaster. Organizations with robust and well-tested disaster recovery strategies can minimize the impact of disruptions, achieve faster recovery times, and resume core operations rapidly when things go awry.   

Learn more about Google Cloud backup and disaster recovery features and products and how they can be used to build the right DR solution for your business.

IT disaster recovery defined

IT disaster recovery is a portfolio of policies, tools, and processes used to recover or continue operations of critical IT infrastructure, software, and systems after a natural or human-made disaster.

The first and foremost aspect of a disaster recovery plan is cloud. The cloud is considered the best solution for both business continuity and disaster recovery. The cloud eliminates the need to run a separate disaster recovery data center (or recovery site). 

What is a disaster recovery site? 

It’s a second, physical data center that’s costly to build and maintain—and with the cloud, made unnecessary.

What is considered a disaster?

Dr planning and strategies focus on responding to and recovering from disasters—events that disrupt or completely stop a business from operating..

While these events can be natural disasters like a hurricane, they can also be caused by a severe system failure, an intentional attack, or even human error. 

Types of disasters can include: 

  • Natural disasters (for example, earthquakes, floods, tornados, hurricanes, or wildfires)
  • Pandemics and epidemics
  • Cyber attacks (for example, malware, DDoS, and ransomware attacks)
  • Other intentional, human-caused threats such as terrorist or biochemical attacks
  • Technological hazards (for example, power outages, pipeline explosions, and transportation accidents)
  • Machine and hardware failure 

Importance of disaster recovery

Technology plays an increasingly important role in every aspect of business, with applications and services enabling companies to be more agile, available, and connected. This trend has contributed to the widespread adoption of cloud computing by organizations to drive growth, innovation, and exceptional customer experience. 

However, the migration to cloud environments—public, private, hybrid, or multicloud—and the rise of remote workforces are introducing more infrastructure complexity and potential risks. Disaster recovery for cloud-based systems is critical to an overall business continuity strategy. A system breakdown or unplanned downtime can have serious consequences for enterprises that rely heavily on cloud-based resources, applications, documents, and data storage to keep things running smoothly. 

In addition, data privacy laws and standards stipulate that most organizations are now required to have a disaster recovery strategy. Failure to follow DR plans can result in compliance violations and steep regulatory fines. 

Every business needs to be able to recover quickly from any event that stops day-to-day operations, no matter what industry or size. Without a disaster recovery plan, a company can suffer data loss, reduced productivity, out-of-budget expenses, and reputational damage that can lead to lost customers and revenue. 

How disaster recovery works

Disaster recovery relies on having a solid plan to get critical applications and infrastructure up and running after an outage—ideally within minutes..

An effective DR plan addresses three different elements for recovery: 

  • Preventive: Ensuring your systems are as secure and reliable as possible, using tools and techniques to prevent a disaster from occurring in the first place. This may include backing up critical data or continuously monitoring environments for configuration errors and compliance violations. 
  • Detective: For rapid recovery, you’ll need to know when a response is necessary. These measures focus on detecting or discovering unwanted events as they happen in real time. 
  • Corrective: These measures are aimed at planning for potential DR scenarios, ensuring backup operations to reduce impact, and putting recovery procedures into action to restore data and systems quickly when the time comes. 

Typically, disaster recovery involves securely replicating and backing up critical data and workloads to a secondary location or multiple locations—disaster recovery sites. A disaster recovery site can be used to recover data from the most recent backup or a previous point in time. Organizations can also switch to using a DR site if the primary location and its systems fail due to an unforeseen event until the primary one is restored.

Types of disaster recovery

The types of disaster recovery you’ll need will depend on your it infrastructure, the type of backup and recovery you use, and the assets you need to protect..

Here are some of the most common technologies and techniques used in disaster recovery: 

  • Backups: With backups, you back up data to an offsite system or ship an external drive to an offsite location. However, backups do not include any IT infrastructure, so they are not considered a full disaster recovery solution. 
  • Backup as a service (BaaS): Similar to remote data backups, BaaS solutions provide regular data backups offered by a third-party provider. 
  • Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS): Many cloud providers offer DRaaS, along with cloud service models like IaaS and PaaS . A DRaaS service model allows you to back up your data and IT infrastructure and host them on a third-party provider’s cloud infrastructure. During a crisis, the provider will implement and orchestrate your DR plan to help recover access and functionality with minimal interruption to operations.  
  • Point-in-time snapshots: Also known as point-in-time copies, snapshots replicate data, files, or even an entire database at a specific point in time. Snapshots can be used to restore data as long as the copy is stored in a location unaffected by the event. However, some data loss can occur depending on when the snapshot was made. 
  • Virtual DR: Virtual DR solutions allow you to back up operations and data or even create a complete replica of your IT infrastructure and run it on offsite virtual machines (VMs). In the event of a disaster, you can reload your backup and resume operation quickly. This solution requires frequent data and workload transfers to be effective. 
  • Disaster recovery sites: These are locations that organizations can temporarily use after a disaster event, which contain backups of data, systems, and other technology infrastructure.

Benefits of disaster recovery

Stronger business continuity.

Every second counts when your business goes offline, impacting productivity, customer experience, and your company’s reputation. Disaster recovery helps safeguard critical business operations by ensuring they can recover with minimal or no interruption. 

Enhanced security

DR plans use data backup and other procedures that strengthen your security posture and limit the impact of attacks and other security risks. For example, cloud-based disaster recovery solutions offer built-in security capabilities, such as advanced encryption, identity and access management, and organizational policy. 

Faster recovery

Disaster recovery solutions make restoring your data and workloads easier so you can get business operations back online quickly after a catastrophic event. DR plans leverage data replication and often rely on automated recovery to minimize downtime and data loss.

Reduced recovery costs

The monetary impacts of a disaster event can be significant, ranging from loss of business and productivity to data privacy penalties to ransoms. With disaster recovery, you can avoid, or at least minimize, some of these costs. Cloud DR processes can also reduce the operating costs of running and maintaining a secondary location.

High availability

Many cloud-based services come with high availability (HA) features that can support your DR strategy. HA capabilities help ensure an agreed level of performance and offer built-in redundancy and automatic failover, protecting data against equipment failure and other smaller-scale events that may impact data availability. 

Better compliance

DR planning supports compliance requirements by considering potential risks and defining a set of specific procedures and protections for your data and workloads in the event of a disaster. This usually includes strong data backup practices, DR sites, and regularly testing your DR plan to ensure that your organization is prepared. 

Planning a disaster recovery strategy

A comprehensive disaster recovery strategy should include detailed emergency response requirements, backup operations, and recovery procedures. DR strategies and plans often help form a broader business continuity strategy, which includes contingency plans to mitigate impact beyond IT infrastructure and systems, allowing all business areas to resume normal operations as soon as possible. 

When it comes to creating disaster recovery strategies, you should carefully consider the following key metrics: 

  • Recovery time objective (RTO): The maximum acceptable length of time that systems and applications can be down without causing significant damage to the business. For example, some applications can be offline for an hour, while others might need to recover in minutes.
  • Recovery point objective (RPO) : The maximum age of data you need to recover to resume operations after a major event. RPO helps to define the frequency of backups. 

These metrics are particularly useful when conducting risk assessments and business impact analysis (BIA) for potential disasters, from moderate to worst-case scenarios. Risk assessments and BIAs evaluate all functional areas of a business and the consequences of any risks, which can help define DR goals and the actions needed to achieve them before or after an event occurs. 

When creating your recovery strategy, it’s useful to consider your RTO and RPO values and pick a DR pattern that will enable you to meet those values and your overall goals. Typically, the smaller your values (or the faster your applications need to recover after an interruption), the higher the cost to run your application. 

Cloud disaster recovery can greatly reduce the costs of RTO and RPO when it comes to fulfilling on-premises requirements for capacity, security, network infrastructure, bandwidth, support, and facilities. A highly managed service on Google Cloud can help you avoid most, if not all, complicating factors and allow you to reduce many business costs significantly. 

For more guidance on using Google Cloud to address disaster recovery, you can read our Disaster recovery planning guide or contact your account manager for help with creating a DR plan.

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What is disaster recovery used for, ensure business resilience.

No matter what happens, a good DR plan can ensure that the business can return to full operations rapidly, without losing data or transactions.

Maintain competitiveness

When a business goes offline, customers are rarely loyal. They turn to competitors to get the goods or services they require. A DR plan prevents this.

Avoid regulatory risks

Many industries have regulations dictating where data can be stored and how it must be protected. Heavy fines result if these mandates are not met.

Avoid data loss

The longer a business’s systems are down, the greater the risk that data will be lost. A robust DR plan minimizes this risk.

Keep customers happy

Meeting customer service level agreements (SLAs) is always a priority. A well-executed DR plan can help businesses achieve SLAs despite challenges.

Maintain reputation

A business that has trouble resuming operations after an outage can suffer brand damage. For that reason, a solid DR plan is critical.

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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 .

  • Disaster Recovery

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IT Disaster Recovery Plan

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IT Recovery

Data backup.

Data Backup Plan

Businesses large and small create and manage large volumes of electronic information or data. Much of that data is important. Some data is vital to the survival and continued operation of the business. The impact of data loss or corruption from hardware failure, human error, hacking or malware could be significant. A plan for data backup and restoration of electronic information is essential.

An information technology disaster recovery plan (IT DRP) should be developed in conjunction with the business continuity plan . Priorities and recovery time objectives for information technology should be developed during the business impact analysis . Technology recovery strategies should be developed to restore hardware, applications and data in time to meet the needs of the business recovery.

Priorities for IT recovery should be consistent with the priorities for recovery of business functions and processes that were developed during the business impact analysis . IT resources required to support time-sensitive business functions and processes should also be identified. The recovery time for an IT resource should match the recovery time objective for the business function or process that depends on the IT resource.

Recovery strategies should be developed to anticipate the loss of one or more of the following system components:

  • Computer room environment (secure computer room with climate control, conditioned and backup power supply, etc.)
  • Hardware (networks, servers, desktop and laptop computers, wireless devices and peripherals)
  • Connectivity to a service provider (fiber, cable, wireless, etc.)
  • Software applications (electronic data interchange, electronic mail, enterprise resource management, office productivity, etc.)
  • Data and restoration

Developing an IT Disaster Recovery Plan

Businesses should develop an IT disaster recovery plan. It begins by compiling an inventory of hardware (e.g. servers, desktops, laptops and wireless devices), software applications and data. The plan should include a strategy to ensure that all critical information is backed up.

Identify critical software applications and data and the hardware required to run them. Using standardized hardware will help to replicate and reimage new hardware. Ensure that copies of program software are available to enable re-installation on replacement equipment. Prioritize hardware and software restoration.

Document the IT disaster recovery plan as part of the business continuity plan . Test the plan periodically to make sure that it works.

Businesses generate large amounts of data and data files are changing throughout the workday. Data can be lost, corrupted, compromised or stolen through hardware failure, human error, hacking and malware. Loss or corruption of data could result in significant business disruption.

Data backup and recovery should be an integral part of the business continuity plan and information technology disaster recovery plan. Developing a data backup strategy begins with identifying what data to backup, selecting and implementing hardware and software backup procedures, scheduling and conducting backups and periodically validating that data has been accurately backed up.

Developing the Data Backup Plan

Identify data on network servers, desktop computers, laptop computers and wireless devices that needs to be backed up, along with other hard copy records and information. The backup plan should include regularly scheduled backups from wireless devices, laptop computers and desktop computers to a network server. Data on the server then can be backed up. Backing up hard copy vital records can be accomplished by scanning paper records into digital formats and allowing them to be backed up along with other digital data.

Data should be backed up frequently. The business impact analysis should evaluate the potential for lost data and define the “recovery point objective.” Data restoration times should be confirmed and compared with the IT and business function recovery time objectives.

Resources for Information Technology Disaster Recovery Planning

  • Computer Security Resource Center - National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Computer Security Division Special Publications
  • Contingency Planning Guide for Federal Information Systems - NIST Special Publication 800-34 Rev. 1
  • Guide to Test, Training, and Exercise Programs for IT Plans and Capabilities – NIST Special Publication 800-84
  • Building An Information Technology Security Awareness and Training Program - NIST Special Publication 800-50

Last Updated: 09/07/2023

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Example: Disaster recovery plan

The objective of a disaster recovery plan is to ensure that you can respond to a disaster or other emergency that affects information systems and minimize the effect on the operation of the business. When you have prepared the information described in this topic collection, store your document in a safe, accessible location off site.

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Neal Weinberg

Business continuity and disaster recovery planning: The basics

Good business continuity plans will keep your company up and running through interruptions of any kind: power failures, IT system crashes, natural disasters, pandemics and more.

storm disaster recovery disruption rain umbrella tornado challenge weather

Editor’s note: This article, originally published on March 27, 2014, has been updated to more accurately reflect recent trends.

Wildfires in California. A snowstorm in Texas.  Windstorms across the Midwest. Floods in Hawaii. Hurricanes in Florida and Louisiana. Russian hackers and ransomware attacks. And let’s not forget the global pandemic.

If anyone still thinks that having a disaster recovery and business continuity plan isn’t a high priority, you haven’t been paying attention to recent events. As we begin to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations are shifting to a new normal that will certainly be more remote, more digital and more cloud-based. Disaster recovery plans will have to evolve to keep up with these changing business conditions.

On top of that, business requirements for disaster recovery have changed dramatically. There was a time when it was acceptable for recovery time to be measured in days or hours. Now it’s minutes. In some cases, business units are demanding zero down time in the event of an unplanned outage.

Here are the basics of a state-of-the-art disaster recovery/business continuity (DR/BC) plan for 2021 and beyond. (Without getting too hung up on definitions, let’s say that disaster recovery is getting the IT infrastructure back up and running, while business continuity is a broader discipline that gets the business back up and functioning once the lights are back on.) 

Integrate cybersecurity, intrusion detection/response, disaster recovery into a comprehensive data protection plan

For CISOs, the first goal of a disaster recovery plan is to avoid the disaster in the first place, which is becoming increasingly challenging. First, data is no longer safely tucked away in an on-premises data center. It’s distributed across on-premises environments, hyperscale clouds, the edge and SaaS applications. ESG Research Senior Analyst Christophe Bertrand points out that SaaS presents a serious data protection and recovery challenge because “now you have mission critical applications running as a service that you have no control over.”

Second, the pandemic drove millions of employees out of the secure confines of the corporate office to their home offices, where the Wi-Fi is less secure and where employees might be sharing sensitive data on collaboration applications.

Third, hackers took notice of these expanding attack vectors and launched a barrage of new and more targeted ransomware attacks. According to the Sophos State of Ransomware 2020 Report, hackers have moved from spray-and-pray desktop attacks to server-based attacks. “These are highly targeted, sophisticated attacks that take more effort to deploy. However, they are typically far more deadly due to the higher value of assets encrypted and can cripple organizations with multi-million dollar ransom requests,” according to the report .

In response to these changing conditions, CISOs should focus on beefing up endpoint security for remote workers, deploying VPNs and encryption, protecting data at rest no matter where it lives, and also making sure that collaboration tools don’t become a source of security vulnerabilities.

Conduct a business impact analysis (BIA)

Organizations need to conduct a thorough business impact analysis to identify and evaluate potential effects of disasters through the lenses of financial fallout, regulatory compliance, legal liability, and employee safety. Gartner estimates that 70% of organizations are making disaster recovery decisions without any business-aligned data points or based on an outdated BIA. “Without the fact base the BIA provides, teams can only guess at the appropriate level of DR and what risks are tolerable. This results in overspend or unmet expectations,” according to Gartner.

Remember, you don’t need to protect everything. Organizations that conduct these exercises are often surprised to discover servers that do nothing but run a routine back-end business process once a month, or even once a year.

Organizations need to prioritize applications by their criticality to the business, and to identify all the dependencies associated with a business process, particularly applications that may have been virtualized across multiple physical servers, might be running in containers in the cloud, or in serverless cloud environments.

Classify data

Along the same lines, you don’t need to protect all data, just the data that you need to keep the business running. You do need to go through the process of locating, identifying, and classifying data. Be sure to protect data that falls under regulatory requirements, customer data, patient data, credit card data, intellectual property, private communications, etc. The good news is that tools can automate data identification and classification.

Consider disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS)

DRaaS is an increasingly popular option for CISOs at small- to mid-sized organizations who want to cost-effectively improve IT resilience, meet compliance or regulatory requirements, and address resource deficiencies. The DRaaS market is expected to grow at a rate of 12% a year over the next five years, according to Mordor Intelligence . DRaaS services cover the full gamut of disaster recovery and business continuity, providing flexibility and agility to enterprises, according to the Mordor report.

Gartner adds that as the DRaaS market has matured and vendor offerings have become more industrialized, the size and scope of DRaaS implementations have increased significantly, compared with a few years ago.

Develop a solid communication plan

Simply getting servers back up and running is essentially meaningless unless everyone knows their roles and responsibilities. Do people have the appropriate cell phone numbers and email addresses to share information? Do the relevant stakeholders have a playbook that spells out how to respond to a crisis in terms of contacting law enforcement, outside legal teams, utility companies, key technology and supply chain partners, senior leadership, the broader employee base, external PR teams, etc.?

Depending on the nature of the disaster, networking groups might need to establish new lines of connectivity for remote workers and reconfigure traffic flows; maintenance teams might need to perform remote troubleshooting, security teams might need to re-set firewalls, change access policies, extend security protection to new devices or to cloud-based resources. The biggest problem in a disaster isn’t related to data backups, it’s not having the right people in place and understanding all the steps required for the business to recover, says Bertrand.

Automate testing

To test disaster preparedness, companies traditionally conduct tabletop exercises in which key players physically come together to play out DR scenarios. However, only one-third of organizations perceive the exercises as “highly effective,”  according to a July study  by Osterman Research in association with Immersive Labs, a company that develops human-readiness skills in cybersecurity. The research also found that organizations don’t perform tabletop exercises often enough to keep up with evolving threats and that these exercises cost an average of $30,000. During the pandemic, it’s fair to assume that tabletop exercises fell by the wayside.

Doug Matthews, vice-president of enterprise data protection at Veritas, says there’s a better way. New tools can automatically test backup and recovery procedures on an ongoing basis and identify potential issues that need to be addressed. Modern testing solutions are also able to use sandboxing technology to create safe environments in which companies can test the recoverability of applications without impacting production networks.

Create immutable data backups

Ransomware attackers are targeting backup repositories, particularly in the cloud. They are also targeting SaaS applications. In response, organizations should keep one copy of data that can’t be altered. “Be sure that you have an immutable copy of backup data that nobody can touch,” advises Matthews, who says companies should have three copies of data at all times, not just two.

Companies should also investigate isolated recovery environments, such as air gapping, in which one copy of the data lives in an environment not connected to the production environment.

Consider data re-use

“Business is the data and data is the business,” says Bertrand. Once organizations have a copy of their important data sitting in a safe backup environment, why not think about ways to reuse it to advance the company’s digital transformation efforts.

The idea is for organizations to “understand what you have, where it is, how to protect it, store it and optimize it.”  Ultimately, Bertrand predicts that organizations will evolve an intelligent data strategy that encompasses regulatory compliance, disaster recovery/business continuity and data analytics.

Perform continuous updates

CISOs updating their DR/BC plans should take their cue from DevOps. It’s not about one-and-done, it’s about continuous improvement. DR planners need to be plugged into any changes at the company that might affect recoverability, including employees working from home permanently, stores or remote offices opening or closing, applications being replaced by SaaS, data moving to the edge, or DevOps moving to the cloud. Also, the technology is constantly improving, so be on the lookout for new tools that can help automate DR/BC processes. The plan should not be sitting on the shelf collecting dust. It should be updated on a regular basis.

Do long-term planning

In light of everything that has happened over the past 12 months, it’s a good time to shift thinking about DR/BC from reactive to proactive. Unfortunately, between public health emergencies, climate change and the increase in cyberattacks, disasters seem to be occurring more often and are certainly more devastating. DR/BC plans need to get ahead of the threats, not simply respond to them.

For example, if your company is in California, your DR/BC plan has to assume that there will be power outages from next season’s wildfires. Companies concerned about losing power when the next natural disaster hits might want to think about generating their own power from alternative sources.

A successful DR/BC plan requires that companies perform the basics, but it is also an opportunity for companies to find creative and innovative ways to keep the business running when disaster hits.

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Neal Weinberg

Neal Weinberg is a freelance technology writer and editor. He can be reached at [email protected] .

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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.

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Blog > Data Availability > Disaster Recovery Plan Examples for 3 Real-World Scenarios

Review three disaster recovery plan examples in reaction to real-world scenarios: a DDoS attack, data center destruction and data sabotage

Disaster Recovery Plan Examples for 3 Real-World Scenarios

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In this article, we look at disaster recovery plan examples in reaction to three real-world scenarios: a DDoS attack, data center destruction and data sabotage.

Disaster recovery is one of those things that is easy to explain in the abstract, and harder to understand at the real-world, implementational level.

That is why it may be worth your time to study some disaster recovery plan examples that help illustrate the steps required to prepare for disaster recovery, as well as the process involved in a successful recovery from disaster.

Disaster recovery plan examples for real-world scenarios

We’ll focus especially on situations involving the restoration of data availability, but the lessons below apply generally to any type of disaster recovery scenario.

Example 1: A DDoS attack

In this disaster recovery scenario, imagine that a group of malicious hackers executes a Distributed-Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack against your company. The DDoS attack focuses on overwhelming your network with illegitimate requests so that legitimate data cannot get through.

As a result, your business can no longer connect to databases that it accesses via the network – which, in today’s age of cloud-native everything, means most databases. It’s rare nowadays to have a database that does not require a working network connection to do its job.

In this scenario, disaster recovery means being able to restore data availability even as the DDoS attack is underway. (Ending the DDoS attack would be helpful, too, but anti-DDoS strategies are beyond the scope of this article; moreover, the reality is that your ability to stop DDoS attacks once they are in progress is often limited .) Having backup copies of your data would be critical in this situation. That’s obvious.

What may be less obvious, however, is the importance of having a plan in place for making the backup data available by bringing new servers online to host it. You could do this by simply keeping backup data servers running all the time, ready to switch into production mode at a moment’s notice. But that would be costly, because it would mean keeping backup servers running at full capacity all the time.

A more efficient approach would be to keep backup data server images on hand, then spin up new virtual servers in the cloud based on those images when you need them. This process would not be instantaneous, but it should not take more than a few minutes, provided that you have the images and data already in place and ready to spin up.

Read our Whitepaper

The One Essential Guide to Disaster Recovery: How to Ensure IT and Business Continuity

This whitepaper will help you ensure business continuity and survival by leading you through three essential steps—from understanding the concepts of disaster recovery and high availability to calculating the business impact of downtime.

Example 2: Data center destruction

One of the worst-case scenarios that a modern business can face is a disaster that destroys part or all of its data center – and all of the servers and disks inside it.

While such a situation is rare, it can happen, and not only as a result of a major natural disaster like an earthquake or hurricane. Issues such as electrical surges and even ill-fated squirrels can cause permanent data center damage.

The best way to prepare your business for recovery from this type of disaster is to ensure that you have offsite copies of your data. If your production data lives on-premise in one of your data centers, this would mean keeping backups of the data at another data center site or in the cloud. If your data is hosted in the cloud, you could back it up to local storage, to another cloud or a different region of the same cloud.

You will also want to make sure that you have a way of restoring the backup data to new infrastructure quickly. Moving large amounts of data from one site to another over the Internet can take a long time, so it’s not always a wise strategy within the context of disaster recovery. In some cases, it might be faster to move physical copies of disks from one site to another. Alternatively, it might prove quicker and easier to stand up new servers in the data center where your backup data lives, then connect them to the backup data and turn them into your production servers.

The bottom line: Restoring data after data center destruction requires having offsite copies of the data available, as well as a plan for moving that data quickly to wherever it needs to go following the disaster in order to keep your business running.

Example 3: Data sabotage

A third type of data disaster that might befall your business is one in which someone – such as a disgruntled employee – deliberately sabotages data. The employee might insert inaccurate or bogus data into your databases, for example, in order to lower data quality and make the data unusable for your business. He or she might even insert malicious code into your data in an effort to spread malware to your systems.

The critical step in preparing for this type of disaster is to ensure that you have backup copies of your data that go back far enough in time to allow you to recover using a version of the data that you know to be safe. If the only copy of your data that you have available was taken a day ago, but the damage occurred three days ago, the backup won’t help in this situation.

This is why it’s a good idea, when possible, to have multiple backups of your data on-hand, each taken at a different time increment. Instead of deleting the last data backup when you make a new one, keep older backups on hand so that you can use them for disaster recovery if you need. If you make a backup daily, and keep seven backups on hand, then you know that you can restore data from as long as a week ago if newer backups contain damaged information.

The trade-off for using an older backup for disaster recovery, of course, is that any data that was added or modified since the backup was taken will be lost. In certain disaster recovery situations, however, this is the price you have to pay.

Keep in mind, too, that if you can identify which parts of your data was sabotaged, you can leave that data intact, and recover only the damaged data, in order to minimize data loss.

Read our whitepaper The One Essential Guide to Disaster Recovery to learn how you can ensure business continuity and survival through three essential steps.

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Learn how to ensure business continuity and survival through three essential steps.

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Top 7 Disaster Recovery Plan Templates with Samples and Examples

Top 7 Disaster Recovery Plan Templates with Samples and Examples

Simran Shekhawat


No business or organization can withstand any disaster, be it natural or man-made. Disruptions result in lost sales, harm to the brand, and disgruntled consumers; The longer the recovery period, the more negative the impact on the company's bottom line. 

What business can control is ensuring that they have robust, disaster recovery plans in place to tide over the negative impact as quickly as possible. 

A disaster recovery plan a detailed, written, planned strategy that explicitly highlights actions needed to reduce the risk of avoidable disaster. SlideTeam's disaster recovery templates are designed with a proper scientific structure to facilitate quick, cost-effective recovery.  

These presentation templates are 100% customizable and editable to assist you in regularly testing your organization's goals against all sorts of risks and help you get immunity against disasters. 

The end-aim is to make an efficient plan that will keep your business operating smoothly even during the most challenging circumstances with our templates' help. 

Download these now, without second-guessing. For more detailed descriptions that are a must-have for IT, please click here . 

Template 1 - Disaster Recovery Plan IT PowerPoint Presentation Slides 

It is critical that irrespective of the size of your business, every organization must be ready to resume normal operations promptly after any incident. Without a disaster recovery plan, a business tends to lose data, face decreased productivity, incur unplanned costs, and reputational damage, which can result in lost clients and revenue. 

While considering threats or risks, SlideTeam has come up with their IT disaster recovery plan templates to safeguard their operations, encourage recovery, and enable corrective measures.

Disaster Recovery Plan (IT)

Download Now!

Template 2 - Disaster Recovery Planning PowerPoint Presentation slides 

This is a content-ready disaster recovery template that allows you to identify the types of risks and discover disaster recovery phases while evaluating the mechanism. Use this presentation template to determine the effects of the disaster that will further assist you in knowing the immediate steps that need to be taken in an emergency. Build your company's risk assessment capabilities. Design your own disaster recovery committee with a download, and get some peace of mind.

Disaster Recovery Planning

Template 3 - Current Situation of the Client Company IT Disaster Recovery Plan PPT Infographics

This presentation template allows you to jot down the sources of risk and highlight who are breaching the privacy, infrastructures, and policies of the company. With the help of our carefully constructed templates, learn more about this initial yet critical disaster recovery planning stage. Use this to answer the two critical questions of who is behind the breach, and what tactics are used.   

Current Situation of the Client Company

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Template 4 – Disaster Recovery Planning in Healthcare Organizations DRP PowerPoint Presentation Files Slides.

Protect your healthcare organization with this disaster recovery template to prevent data loss. With this presentation template, you can document the five major uses that stolen data is used for, including illegal access and modification of health records. 

It encourages you to learn about the risks / threats and prepare and plan on how to recover healthcare department from disasters while assisting you in presenting the data in detail.

Disaster Recovery Planning in Healthcare Organizations

Template 5 - Disaster Recovery Plan IT Preparation of Risk Assessment 

This template ensures a proper preparation of the risk assessment to highlight the risk probability and severity levels that are prepared as part of the risk assessment process. Use it as a conversation and navigational tool for risk assessment preparation. 

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Template 6 - Disaster Recovery Plan Measures

It is crucial to identify the preventive measures that need to be adopted to avert the occurrences of any threats in the future. This IT disaster recovery plan template depicts the concept of preventive measures that used to be regarded as antispam software or local system security patching. It incorporates the list of detective measures for preventing disastrous events, while also suggesting corrective measures to recover from the mishap. Get this template here. 

Disaster Recovery Plan Measures

Template 7 - Disaster Recovery Plan Status of Business 

This template features strategies comprised of actions to lessen the consequences of a disaster so that the business can carry on with operations or swiftly restart mission-critical tasks. The presentation template allows you to frequently conduct a business impact analysis and a risks/threats analysis and develop recovery targets before creating a detailed strategy. It discovers issues and gaps in systems, services staff, suppliers, and sites while working to find solutions. 

Disaster Recovery Plan Status of Business

Minimize your risks to Maximize your business efficiency.

The main objective of this Disaster Recovery plan template is to allow you to minimize the adverse effects of any threats or risks that are bound to impact the business or IT/ non-IT departments and maximize the efficiency of the organization using this duly built easy to handle disaster recovery templates. With these templates, you are not just writing the plans, but understanding their scopes and their extents. Use these templates to create a risk analysis and a business impact study which might help decide where to spend resources in the disaster recovery process. 

FAQs on Disaster Recovery Plans

What are the four components of a disaster recovery plan.

A disaster recovery plan is a systematic plan designed to carry out the process of normalizing or bringing the business back to its stable position while reconstructing the essential aspects of the company in terms of its record. 

  The following are typical components of a disaster recovery plan:

Create your Disaster

Recovery Team

A DRP should list the team members, describe their duties, and include their contact information. Employees are needed to be aware of the disaster recovery plans, understand them, and know what to do during a crisis.

  Design the scope of your plan. 

It is mandatory to define the scope of the disaster recovery plan, as multiple threats or risks are bound to affect the business or organization. 

Monitor the metrics

The disaster recovery plan should focus on monitoring the metric. Teams must prioritize and monitor metrics relevant to that situation, such as application response time, concurrent connections, or bandwidth allocations. Then, having a back-up plan is the next step.  

What are the five phases of a disaster recovery plan?

Phase 1 - Disaster Assessment and Risk Analysis 

This phase includes the part of assessing the damage that threats will cause, while predicting the future causes and the extent of the damage. The disaster recovery plan team is further responsible for assessing, identifying, and notifying the origin of the problem, areas that have been affected, things that need to be replaced or should undergo recovery, etc.

Phase 2 - Activation and Planning of Disaster Recovery Plans. 

This phase of activation and planning involves putting together a team that will be responsible for planning, participating, and is accountable for the execution process of disaster recovery solutions. The role and responsibility of each member is specified once the team is together, and the recovery action is carried out to tackle the situation and restore normalcy in the IT or non-IT departments.

Phase 3 - Execution of Disaster Recovery Plans

This phase is the actual implementation or implementation phase.

Phase 4 - The Restoration 

Here, businesses track issues and perform troubleshooting and perform regular restoration updates, while also including the issues raised status of both IT and non-IT departments.

Phase 5 - Recovery 

After all five phases of a disaster recovery plan have been completed and it is time to return to restoring normalcy. This recovery phase, which persists for a few weeks once the recovery plan's execution and testing are finished, starts.

What are the steps of a disaster recovery plan?

 Some of the steps of a successful disaster recovery plan are,

  • Design your disaster recovery planning team. You'll need a decent balance here, so consider selecting individuals who can contribute various viewpoints on the company's shortcomings.
  • Determine a whole chain of command. A transparent chain of power and authority must be established well in advance.  
  • Scrutinizing your risk assessment preparation is critical. At the same time, develop your disaster recovery plan. Consider as many disaster scenarios as possible.
  • Protect your DATA Your firm may suffer significantly because of data loss. Keeping up with data security and recovery is essential to all disaster recovery planning; Thus, doing so will improve business continuity.  
  • Keep your Plan 'B' ready. When you create your "Plan B," you consider what would happen if your initial disaster recovery strategy could not be implemented.  

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Disaster Preparedness and Recovery for Older Adults

On this page:

Evaluate and plan

Stock an emergency kit, consider your medical needs, plan for an efficient evacuation, learn about recovery assistance.

damage to trees and structures after a hurricane.

While everyone is at risk during a natural weather-related disaster or similar emergency, older adults can be especially vulnerable during these challenging times. Being prepared in advance can literally mean the difference between survival and death, particularly for those who may have special medical or mobility needs. Read on to learn more about safety planning steps to consider now, whether you plan to remain at home or be evacuated in the event of an emergency.

NIA-funded research on older adults and disasters

Weather and climate disasters are on the rise. In 2021, there were 20 extreme weather and climate events in the United States, triple the average number of events 15 years earlier. These extreme events include droughts, heat waves, wildfires, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Research suggests that older adults are particularly vulnerable to the health effects of these disasters. As a part of a broader NIH-wide initiative , NIA supports research that explores the effects of extreme weather and natural disasters on older adults, with the ultimate aim of improving the well-being of people who experience these events. Learn more in Protecting older adults from the effects of natural disasters and extreme weather.

The first step is to learn about what kinds of disasters are most likely to affect you and your family based on where you live. For example, while flooding can happen anywhere, communities near water may be more likely to experience floods. And people who live close to a forest may be more likely to experience wildfires. Thinking about what your community is most likely to encounter will help you understand what you might need to include in your plan. For more information on preparing for various disasters and emergency situations, visit www.ready.gov/be-informed .

Next, develop a plan that includes possible evacuation routes and locations of shelters. State, county, and local governments will often set up emergency shelters or evacuation centers for people affected by disasters. These may include air-conditioned facilities for extreme heat waves or shelters at higher ground in the event of flooding. Search for open shelters in your area by texting SHELTER and your ZIP code to 43362 or by visiting www.ready.gov/shelter or www.disasterassistance.gov .

Discuss your plan and needs with friends, family, caregivers, and neighbors. Identify specific people you trust and who would be willing to help in a crisis. Fill out an emergency communications plan . Include backup communication measures for how to keep in touch, and have a fallback plan in the likely event of power and internet outages. Be sure to keep cell phones and similar electronics charged regularly.

Another part of planning is protecting important documents and records. These include:

  • Identification, Social Security cards, passports, birth certificates
  • Health and dental insurance
  • Medical records
  • Property insurance policies
  • Family or other emergency contact information

For a full list of documents to consider, visit Safeguard Critical Documents and Valuables from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Store important documents in a fireproof and waterproof container and save a digital copy. Also consider reviewing and updating your home insurance policy, if needed. For example, many insurance policies do not include flood coverage.

Know the weather, stay informed

To stay updated on the latest weather information and forecasts, download the FEMA app , which includes real-time weather alerts as well as information for use before, during, and after a disaster. Alternatively, consider purchasing a NOAA weather radio or downloading the NOAA weather app . The USGS Earthquake Notification Service is a free service that can send earthquake alerts by email or text. These sources can provide weather emergency information even in the event of outages that can affect television stations, power grids, and cellular phone networks.

10 Emergency Kit Essentials infographic, click to open webpage.

A good emergency kit should contain the essentials you need for three to seven days, including supplies and backup options if you lose basic services, such as water and electricity. You will need an emergency kit whether you stay home during a disaster, also known as “sheltering in place,” or evacuate. Some people also opt to keep a smaller portable emergency kit, such as a packed duffel bag or backpack, in their car or at their workplace in case they encounter an emergency while away from home.

Emergency kits should contain:

  • Water (one gallon per person per day for several days, for both drinking and sanitation)
  • Food (at least a several-day supply of nonperishable food) and a manual can opener
  • Battery-powered or hand-cranked radio for weather and evacuation information
  • Flashlight or headlamp with extra batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Dust masks, plastic sheeting, and duct tape to help filter contaminated air
  • Soap, hand sanitizer, personal hygiene, and sanitation supplies
  • Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities) and multitool for general use
  • Sleeping bags or warm blankets
  • Whistle (to signal for help)
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
  • Change of clothing and sturdy shoes
  • Eyeglasses, hearing aids, and backup hearing aid batteries
  • Over-the-counter and prescription medications
  • Essential health information/important family documents

Older woman holding her dog lovingly after a disaster.

Planning for pets and service or support animals

Have a plan and supplies for your furry friends, too. Many emergency shelters will only accept service animals, so consider your pets’ needs and backup options with friends, family, and neighbors. Check out guidance on how to prepare your pets for disasters from Ready.gov and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .

As you make a plan and assemble supplies, consider special needs related to medical conditions or disabilities. For example, those with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia may require extra assistance during disasters and additional help to lessen agitation during a stressful event. Include comfort items like a favorite pillow or blanket in your emergency kit, as well as favorite snacks and high-nutrient drinks. Additional tips for individuals with medical conditions or disabilities are available at Ready.gov .

If you or a loved one require durable medical equipment — which can include low-tech devices such as canes and walkers, or more complex ones that require electricity, such as a hospital beds, oxygen machines, or electric wheelchairs — take those into consideration in your plan. Many types of durable medical equipment can be challenging to replace during disruptions to the health care system and supply chain during a disaster.

Research has shown that just 25% of older adults who use essential medical equipment requiring electricity have a backup power source for it. Talk to your doctor or medical supply provider about alternate or backup equipment options, such as a manual wheelchair or an oxygen tank that does not require electricity. Many communities have set up programs for “Citizens at Risk,” and older adults and others with medical conditions should check with their local governments about available resources.

For medical treatments such as dialysis, discuss alternate plans and backup treatment options with your doctors in case your regular facility is affected by a disaster. If you take a medication that requires refrigeration, consider alternative power sources and storage options in case of a power outage , and perhaps even a substitute drug. Discuss options with your doctor as part of your overall emergency plan.

In some weather disasters or similar emergency situations, local officials will advise people to leave the area. Evacuation alerts may be issued through TV and radio stations, social media and cell phone alerts, and sometimes even in person door-to-door.

sign pointing toward evacuation route

If evacuation isn’t mandatory, you should be realistic about your desired comfort and safety level, personal mobility, and how much help you may need, and then factor all of those considerations into a decision whether to shelter in place or leave. Above all, it’s important to prepare and communicate so you are ready to evacuate, if and when the time comes.

Tips for efficient evacuations include:

  • Keep your emergency kit updated, stocked, and easily accessible.
  • Take time to practice your evacuation plan with family and neighbors so you are prepared for different scenarios.
  • Learn and practice how to safely leave your home, including knowing how to turn off the water and natural gas.
  • Anticipate road closures, traffic jams, and public transportation delays.
  • Know how to access local emergency shelters.
  • If you no longer drive, arrange in advance for a friend, neighbor, or family member to pick you up.
  • In addition to paper copies, learn how to store emergency contact information in your cell phone and keep your phone charged.
  • Be sure to communicate with neighbors, friends, and family on your plans and check in once you are safe.
  • If you know you are physically unable to evacuate in certain situations, notify your local government, which may have a system in place for tracking those who may need rescuing after disaster strikes.

After the storm comes the challenge of recovery. Serious disasters can have traumatic consequences, including damage to your home and belongings and even death of loved ones. You may need to leave your home for a time or find a new home entirely. Older adults who are displaced by a disaster are especially at risk of social isolation and loneliness . Many local, state, and federal agencies, along with nonprofit organizations, can assist with post-disaster needs. Explore these resources to learn more:

  • Recovering from Disaster (Ready.gov)
  • Get Assistance After a Disaster (FEMA) or call 800-621-3362
  • Disaster Distress Helpline (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) or call 800-985-5990
  • Disaster Assistance for Older Adults (National Council on Aging)

Staying safe during a disaster starts with preparation. Making a good plan and discussing it in advance with your family, community, and other support networks can go a long way in helping to protect your health, safety, and property during an emergency.

You may also be interested in

  • Reviewing  10 essentials for your emergency kit
  • Reading more about cold weather safety for older adults
  • Learning more about hot weather safety for older adults

Sign up for e-alerts about healthy aging

For more information about disaster preparedness.

Ready.gov 800-621-3362 800-462-7585 (TTY) www.ready.gov/seniors  www.ready.gov/collection/are-you-ready www.ready.gov/disability

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 800-232-4636 www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/older-adult-emergency.html

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) 800-621-3362 www.fema.gov

American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) 888-687-2277 AARP Disaster Resistance Tool Kit

American Red Cross 800-733-2767  www.redcross.org

This content is provided by the NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA). NIA scientists and other experts review this content to ensure it is accurate and up to date.

Content reviewed: November 25, 2022


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A group sits around a conference table discussing disaster recovery plans, and a woman gestures as she describes an incident

Disaster Recovery Tabletop Exercises Prepare You to Bounce Back

Even a company like Coca-Cola, which leads many disaster response efforts, can face gaps in its plan. A disaster recovery tabletop exercise can help.

Thumbnail view of the Tabletop Exercise Template cover page

  • Bottling Resilience With Coca-Cola
  • Tabletop Exercise Video
  • 1. Design Your Exercise
  • 2. Run Your Tabletop Exercise
  • 3. Reflect on Your TTX

The rule of threes is a survival fundamental. A human can endure three minutes without breathable air, three days without water, and three weeks without food. That’s why, when disaster strikes, Coca-Cola is ready to provide one of the three: safe drinking water for communities recovering from disasters. However, even the companies that assist in emergency response and recovery can encounter gaps in their preparedness.

“We were thrown a curveball with Hurricane Michael because we did not prepare for the telephone infrastructure, and cell service was severely damaged.” Gianetta Jones Vice President and Chief People Officer, Coca-Cola Bottling

When Hurricane Michael struck in 2018, Coca-Cola Bottling Company faced a significant setback in its disaster recovery efforts. Cell phone service was down, and they had no means of communication. The company had to adapt quickly, investing in expensive satellite phones to reestablish communication lines. They learned about a critical gap in their disaster recovery plan the hard way, and it might have been avoidable if they had conducted a disaster recovery tabletop exercise.

Coca-Cola Pivots During a Natural Disaster

The period following a disaster can be as risky and demanding as the storm. Additional crisis management challenges can emerge that you still need to consider. Plans that seemed well-written during the prep phase may not be practical for real-world situations, leading to recovery delays.

When Gianetta Jones , Vice President and Chief People Officer at Coca-Cola Bottling, had to contend with the strongest storm to hit the Florida panhandle on record, Hurricane Michael, the company had dozens of plans in place. They were well-prepared to support an estimated 3,000 employees across 14 affected locations in the Gulf. Then, the unexpected intensity of the hurricane took out the cell phone infrastructure on which they relied for communication.

Red Coca Cola Truck

It was a stark reminder that incident management goes beyond initial planning. Even the most comprehensive business continuity strategies can face unexpected setbacks. “You can never underestimate a storm,” said Gianetta. “We were thrown a curveball with Hurricane Michael because we did not prepare for the telephone infrastructure and cell service was severely damaged. We had to pivot and purchase several expensive satellite phones for our local operators to communicate with us at the corporate office.” Their situation underscored the importance of continuous adaptability and readiness throughout the recovery phase.

The team was able to pivot that quickly because they’re seasoned at dealing with disaster recovery and implementing incident response plans . However, companies without experienced team members in place would struggle. The only way to improve is through practice, but in the middle of a natural disaster, active shooter event, cybersecurity breach, or pandemic is not the time to do so. Instead, you can prepare now with a tabletop exercise for disaster recovery preparedness.

Test Your Plan With a Disaster Recovery Tabletop Exercise

A tabletop exercise allows you to test out your disaster recovery plans and identify gaps. You don’t have to test every part of a business continuity plan or disaster response at once. You can test in segments.

A disaster recovery tabletop exercise helps you assess your recovery capabilities in the context of an emergency management plan for a natural disaster, cyberattack, infrastructure failure, or other crisis. Every disaster has two distinct phases: the disaster itself and the recovery period that follows. While the immediate disaster may cause the greatest damage, the long-term effects on critical infrastructure are often more challenging to address. Your tabletop exercise is a discussion-based opportunity to test your risk management strategy during that latter phase.

In this video, Alert Media’s Senior VP of Safety Solutions, Peter Steinfeld, explores different types of exercises and tabletop exercise scenarios you can adapt for your organization.

This video will walk you through everything you need to know to run effective tabletop exercises.


A tabletop exercise involves three broad steps you can adapt to test your disaster recovery readiness.

Step #1: Designing Your Disaster Recovery Exercise

To prepare for your disaster recovery tabletop exercise, determine your goals, your participants, and your scenario script. Specifically, you need to test your existing plan with the individuals who will be directly responsible for implementing it in a realistic scenario.

Setting SMART exercise objectives for your TTX

As you’re testing your disaster recovery plan, you’ll want to build goals around it. These goals should be SMART, which stands for specific , measurable , achievable , relevant , and time-bound .

Smart exercise objectives for your disaster recovery might center on your IT systems and the networks needed to run your business. You might focus on metrics related to your systems and services’ recovery time and recovery point objectives.

You may also set goals around how long it takes to get critical infrastructure up and running or how well your emergency communication plan works. This will help you identify clear success metrics you can aim for as you refine your plan and help your team members improve their individual responses.

For more guidance on setting goals and planning your tabletop exercise, download our helpful tabletop exercise template .

Preparing your disaster response team members

Brief everyone involved on the exercise goals and their roles, and provide copies of the exercise plan.

There are four key parties in a tabletop exercise:

Everyone who falls into one of these roles should have a clear outline of all their responsibilities for disaster recovery. This ensures each individual understands their specific tasks, knows how to execute them effectively, and can contribute to the overall success of the recovery plan.

These outlined responsibilities help maintain organization and coordination during tabletop exercises and, more importantly, in real disaster scenarios, where a well-prepared team is essential for a swift and effective response.

Setting up your tabletop exercise scenarios

Your disaster scenario doesn’t have to be as detailed as the most recent Hollywood blockbuster, but it should be clear and realistic. The script should center on the aftermath of a specific disaster, such as a hurricane or earthquake. A common scenario might look like this:

A Category 3 hurricane has struck the coastal region, causing widespread power outages and road blockages. Your organization’s main data center, located in the affected area, has lost power, and the roads leading to the center are impassable due to fallen trees and debris. Current estimates from utility providers say power will be restored in the next few days, and cleanup crews are working to clear the roads in the coming week. Your goal is to mitigate disruptions in your service from the data center outage until power is restored.

Present the scenario, along with a brief, the disaster recovery plan, and a copy of the goals to your participants, observers, and evaluators. With this information in hand, you’re ready to start your exercise.

Step #2: Run Your Tabletop Exercise

The facilitator begins the tabletop exercise with a brief. They provide a disaster scenario to all the participants, observers, and evaluators, outlining the exercise objectives, responsibilities, and resources. They should read this information aloud and go over any questions in detail.

Once the initial introduction is complete, the facilitator guides a walkthrough of the emergency response plan. To stimulate active engagement, they use direct questions such as, “In facility four, the power is out. What’s the initial response?” This prompts a discussion on the emergency response plan where participants can request further information. For instance, a participant might respond with, “The facilities manager will activate the building’s generator.” The facilitator should then delve deeper by posing follow-up questions such as:

  • What’s the process for activating the generator?
  • Who is responsible for coordinating with the facilities manager?
  • What happens if the facilities manager is unavailable? Who is the alternate authorized to act?
  • What resources will be needed to continue running the generator?
  • How will those resources be accessed?
  • Are there any other stakeholders who will be affected?

Each question is an opportunity to deepen the participants’ answers and help them think about potential gaps in their emergency preparedness. By probing for additional details and exploring different aspects of the response, the facilitator ensures that the exercise thoroughly tests the organization’s readiness and identifies areas for improvement in the disaster recovery plan. This constructive dialogue during the exercise fosters better preparation and a more effective response in real-life scenarios.

The facilitator should also include “injects” to keep the participants thinking. Injects are a functional exercise that tests the adaptability of the group by introducing new information. They’re scenarios that complicate the emergency situation, which is common in disaster recovery.

For example, you could introduce a scenario like the failure of cell phone infrastructure due to high winds and flooding, as seen in the case of Coca-Cola in Panama City during Hurricane Michael. These injects test the adaptability of the recovery plan and help participants think on their feet.

Finally, as you’re running the exercise, be sure to document any new information that comes up. For example, you may have discovered there was no alternative assigned for your facility’s manager’s role of turning on the generator. You would document this and then establish an alternate to fill that gap and revisit it during the review stage.

Step #3: Reflect on Your TTX With an After-Action Report

The final stage of every tabletop exercise is to complete an after-action review . The AAR allows you to examine your response and identify gaps in your plan so you can improve. Specifically, during the AAR, you answer four questions:

  • What was the goal and our plan to reach it?
  • Did we reach it?
  • Why did we achieve those results?
  • How can we improve?

When you capture the answers in an after-action report , you can reflect and improve. You can share the highlights of that report with your team and encourage everyone to enhance their preparedness. You can also take this information into your full-scale exercise to test your plan from beginning to end and involve even more stakeholders in the recovery test.

Preparing to Face the Unknown

A disaster recovery tabletop exercise is an interactive opportunity to practice your response. Even the best-prepared organizations can face unexpected setbacks, like when Coca-Cola Bottling discovered a communications gap during a Category 5 hurricane. A tabletop exercise ensures you don’t discover these gaps when emotions are high and resources are low. Instead, you’re prepared well in advance for any unexpected challenges.

More Articles You May Be Interested In

Tabletop Exercise Guide: How-To and Sample Scenarios

Tabletop Exercise Template

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