A disaster recovery plan is essential for business continuity. No matter whether you are a start-up, small business or a multi-national corporation, an IT disaster recovery plan should be designed to minimise downtime, mitigate the impact of disruptions, and ensure the continuity of essential business functions.
Creating a solid disaster recovery plan for your IT infrastructure involves a series of predefined steps, processes, and policies that enable your business to resume normal operations as quickly and efficiently as possible.
But before we get into what a disaster recovery plan should include, let’s take a brief look at the type of disasters you should be planning for and the consequences of not having a disaster recovery plan in place.
What types of disasters should be included in a disaster recovery plan?
- Natural disaster (fire, hurricane, flood)
- Human error
- Personal injury claims against you
- Intellectual property claims against you (copyright, plagiarising)
- A public scandal that damages your reputation
- Fraud (internal or external)
What are the consequences of not having a disaster recovery plan?
- Downtime and operation disruption
- Data Loss and Irretrievable Data
- Extended Recovery Time
- Financial Losses (indirect financial repercussions, damage to reputation, customer churn, legal liabilities)
- Regulatory and Compliance Issues (which cause a shutdown or delays)
- Competitive Disadvantage
What should a disaster recovery plan include?
A disaster recovery plan should be tailored to the specific needs and risks of your organisation. It should be adaptable, regularly tested, and continuously improved to effectively mitigate and recover from potential disasters.
The key ingredients are:
- Risk Assessment
- Business Impact Analysis (BIA)
- Recovery Objectives
- Data Recovery Plan
- System and Application Recovery
- Alternative Work Locations
- Communication Plan
- Cybersecurity Measures
- Testing and Maintenance
- Personnel Responsible for Executing DRP
- Documentation and Review
Key Elements of a Disaster Recovery Plan Explained
Identifies the potential risks and threats to your IT infrastructure, systems, and data. This includes natural disasters, power outages, cyberattacks and equipment failures etc.
Business Impact Analysis (BIA)
You should ideally perform a BIA to determine the potential impact of each risk listed in the types of disasters that should be included in a disaster recovery plan above. This analysis helps prioritise recovery efforts and allocate resources accordingly.
Defines the recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery point objectives (RPOs) for different systems and processes. RTO refers to the maximum acceptable downtime, while RPO determines the maximum allowable data loss.
We have previously written about Understanding RPO and RTO For Disaster Recovery in great detail. Head over there for more info.
Proactive Data Protection
In some circumstances, the best cause of action to prevent a disaster is to be proactive. Cloud data recovery is a prime example. This section of the DRP should outline the strategies for regular data backups, including the frequency, locations, and storage methods. It also specifies the procedures for restoring data from backups and verifying its integrity.
System and Application Recovery
Describes the steps and procedures for recovering and restoring critical systems, applications, and services. This includes the installation and configuration of hardware and software, as well as the necessary network and infrastructure components.
Alternative Work Locations
Identify and establish alternative offices or work locations where employees can continue their operations in case the primary location becomes inaccessible. These sites should have the necessary infrastructure, equipment, and communication systems to resume business operations as easily as possible.
Communication and Notification
Establishes communication channels and procedures for notifying employees, stakeholders, customers, and relevant authorities during a disaster. It includes contact lists, communication methods, and protocols for timely and accurate information dissemination.
Implement robust cybersecurity measures to protect against cyber threats and ensure the integrity of data and systems. This includes firewalls, intrusion detection systems, encryption, access controls, and employee awareness training.
Testing and Maintenance
Outlines the testing and maintenance procedures to ensure the plan’s effectiveness. It includes regular testing, simulation exercises, and training sessions for employees to familiarise them with their roles and responsibilities during a disaster.
Personnel Responsible for Executing DRP
The roles and responsibilities of key individuals and teams help to execute the disaster recovery process quicker, easier and more effectively. Establish a disaster recovery team, IT staff, management, and external vendors or service providers.
We recommend citing the positions somebody holds within the company rather than specific personnel. People come and go far quicker than positions.
Documentation and Updates
Documents the entire disaster recovery plan, including all relevant procedures, contact information, and technical details. It also specifies a schedule for reviewing and updating the plan to reflect changes in technology, infrastructure, or business operations.
What is a disaster recovery/data recovery plan in the cloud?
We get a lot of clients asking us about data backup in the cloud. What does a disaster recovery plan in the cloud look like?
In our opinion, cloud computing plays a central role in a DRP. Any business that stores data should really have cloud backup.
A cloud strategy leverages cloud computing services to enable the recovery and restoration of IT systems, applications, and data in the event of a disaster or disruptive incident.
Now we’ve covered some of the overviews, let’s get into some specific areas where a DRP will help you to get your business up and running. In the modern era, the two most crucial areas are arguably cloud services and cybersecurity.
Disaster Recovery Plan for Cloud Services
Developing a disaster recovery plan specifically for cloud services requires a focused approach that considers the unique aspects of cloud computing.
Speak with your cloud supplier and ask how they leverage the data replication and backup features. This is important for maintaining redundant copies of critical data. Ensure they perform backups regularly, and test the restoration process to validate the integrity of the backed-up data.
We also recommend regularly testing your disaster recovery plan in the cloud yourself so you are familiar with the process and to ensure it’s working efficiently.
This is because Cloud Service Providers provide automation and orchestration tools that help to streamline the recovery process. It, therefore, helps if you can leverage these tools by automating tasks such as infrastructure provisioning, configuration, and application deployment to speed up the recovery timeline.
Conduct simulation exercises and drills to verify the effectiveness of your recovery procedures, identify potential gaps, and refine your plan accordingly.
We also recommend deploying your cloud services across multiple regions. This redundancy enhances resilience and ensures that services remain available even if an entire region experiences an outage or disruption.
Ensure that your cloud services have redundant network connectivity options. Use multiple internet service providers (ISPs) or connect to the CSP’s network via diverse paths to minimise the risk of connectivity failures.
Implement failover mechanisms and load-balancing techniques to distribute traffic and workloads across multiple instances of your cloud services. This improves availability and mitigates the impact of failures in a specific region or instance.
Continuously review and update your cloud disaster recovery plan as your cloud services evolve. Stay informed about new features, enhancements, and best practices offered by your CSP to optimise your disaster recovery capabilities.
Disaster Recovery Plan for Cybersecurity
Developing a comprehensive disaster recovery plan for cybersecurity is crucial to mitigate the impact of potential cyber incidents. We don’t want to over-dramatise the risk of cyber threats, but disaster recovery plans for cybersecurity has to be part of a business continuity plan these days.
Establish an incident response team comprising individuals from various departments, including IT, security, legal, and communications. Define roles, responsibilities, and escalation procedures to ensure a coordinated response during cyber incidents.
The DRP should include mechanisms that enable you to promptly identify and report cybersecurity incidents. This includes setting up security monitoring systems, intrusion detection systems, and security information and event management (SIEM) tools to detect and alert potential security breaches.
We highly recommend training your teams on how to identify cyber threats such as phishing emails and QR code cloning etc. Micro Pro periodically publish content detailing the latest hacking technique to watch out for.
If you are not au fais with the strategies cybercriminals use read the two articles below:
A disaster recovery and business continuity plan should also define procedures for containing and mitigating the impact of a cyber incident.
This should take a proactive approach including strategies for isolating affected systems or networks, blocking unauthorised access, and implementing temporary security measures to limit the spread of the attack.
Establish processes for restoring affected systems to a known “good state”. This includes re-imaging compromised machines, reinstalling software from trusted sources, and applying security patches and software updates as soon as possible following their release.
Develop a communication plan to effectively communicate with internal and external stakeholders during a cybersecurity incident. This includes employees, management, customers, partners, regulators, and law enforcement agencies. Define protocols for timely and accurate information sharing to manage the incident’s impact on reputation and public perception.
Establish procedures for conducting forensic investigations to understand the root cause and extent of a cyber incident. This involves preserving evidence, analysing logs, conducting digital forensics, and collaborating with relevant experts or authorities.
In some cases, we also recommend assessing the cybersecurity preparedness of your third-party vendors and establishing protocols for collaborating with them during a cyber incident.
If you work with a selection of vendors, suppliers and auditors etc that have access to sensitive data of your employees or customers, you want to ensure they have their own incident response plans and can provide necessary support.
Regulatory Compliance: Consider applicable legal and regulatory requirements related to cybersecurity incident response and reporting. Ensure your plan aligns with these requirements to avoid legal and compliance consequences.
Disaster Recovery Plan for Network Infrastructure
The third and final piece of an IT disaster recovery plan legislates for failures in your business network infrastructure.
This is a cumbersome and complex procedure so if you run into difficulties, reach out to our IT support professionals in London.
But if you want to have a crack at creating a disaster recovery plan for network infrastructure in-house, conduct a comprehensive assessment of your network infrastructure, including routers, switches, firewalls, and other critical components. Identify single points of failure, vulnerabilities, and potential risks that could disrupt network operations.
You then need to implement redundancy measures to eliminate single points of failure. This includes deploying redundant network devices, establishing failover mechanisms, and configuring high-availability protocols to ensure uninterrupted network connectivity.
Maintain spare network equipment, such as switches, routers, and network cables, to facilitate quick replacement during a disaster. Establish a replacement strategy that outlines how and when spare equipment will be deployed.
The next step is to implement network segmentation to isolate critical network services and protect them from widespread disruptions. By dividing the network into segments, you can contain the impact of an incident and maintain the availability of essential services.
This section should also include alternative network connections that enable you to maintain connectivity during a disruption. This may include backup internet service providers, mobile data connections, or secondary communication channels to ensure critical network services remain accessible.
And again, regularly test your network infrastructure disaster recovery plan to validate its effectiveness. Conduct simulations and drills to ensure proper configuration, connectivity, and functionality of backup systems, redundancy mechanisms, and failover procedures.
Define communication protocols and contact lists for network administrators, IT staff, and relevant stakeholders during a network infrastructure disruption.
As explained above, you will need to keep relevant documentation detailing step-by-step procedures for network infrastructure recovery together with RTOs and RPOs that align with your business objectives.
Also, check that the Service Level Agreements and IT support agreements for network equipment and services are in place with vendors to guarantee prompt response and assistance during a disaster.
IT Support and Disaster Recovery in London
MicroPro provides a comprehensive range of cloud-based services that are designed to bolster your IT infrastructure. Our experienced and highly skilled team know the strategies and proactive measures for minimising the amount of downtime you could potentially suffer.
Our IT support professionals recognise the importance of mitigating complex problems and use advanced technologies that proactively monitor your IT systems 24/7 and identify potential problems before they occur.
We also offer Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) which is a cost-effective alternative to maintaining on-site DR environments. The time required to resume normal operations can be reduced significantly.
The team at Micro Pro will set up and manage DRaaS in the cloud for you and create a detailed SLA which documents all the relevant requirements. You can rely on our experienced engineers to safeguard your data and get you back up and running quickly in the event of a disaster.