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5 steps to creating a foolproof IT disaster recovery plan

5 steps to creating a foolproof IT disaster recovery plan

Imagine this: you get that dreaded 3 AM call saying that the storm took out your entire data center—leading to a huge disruption in services and massive data loss. This event could cost your company millions of dollars in losses, especially if you do not have a disaster recovery plan (DRP).

As an IT asset manager, you know that a reliable DRP is essential to keeping your infrastructure safe and secure. Unfortunately, creating the perfect DRP can be tricky. Costly delays and unexpected expenses may arise if you do not pay close attention to the details.

To help you navigate this, in this blog post, we provide five key steps you should consider when building a foolproof IT disaster recovery plan—so that no matter what comes your way, your business will stay afloat.

Learn how to create a comprehensive DRP that can save time and money in an emergency.

What is a disaster recovery plan?

Organizations need a DRP to protect their systems, applications, and data from unforeseen events. They provide a comprehensive set of procedures, protocols, and tools related to data protection and business continuity.

The plan sets forth policies and instructions to quickly restore operations after an emergency or disruptive event. This helps organizations avoid costly downtime, revenue loss, and data loss due to unforeseen incidents.

Disaster recovery plans also help organizations assess the impact of potential disasters on their operations, resources, and people so that they can take the necessary measures to reduce the risks associated with such events. Additionally, DRPs can help organizations secure technology investments by providing contingency plans for restoring systems in case of failure or disruption.

Typically, there are four stages in the disaster recovery cycle, and they are:

  • Prevention: The steps you take to prevent any massive disruption or data loss
  • Preparation: The steps you take to ensure that you can recover the data if something happens
  • Mitigation: The measures you implement to minimize any damage due to such issues
  • Recovery: The measures you implement to go back to normal operations

5 steps to create a disaster recovery plan

Here are five steps to creating a solid DRP that can minimize the damage when any incident occurs:

Step 1: Conduct a risk analysis of your IT infrastructure

Identifying vulnerabilities in IT infrastructure requires a comprehensive audit of all hardware and software systems and any access points. To start, IT administrators should review all their in-house systems and determine which versions are running and how they are maintained. 

Next, the team should scan for open ports or default user accounts that might have been left unsecured. Once these potential flaws have been identified, it is important to document them, along with details such as priority level and risk assessment

It is also helpful to catalog the security measures that have already been applied so you can track future improvements. This can include anti-malware protection, access control protocols such as two-factor authentication, or regularly scheduled data backups. 

Plus, stay informed on the latest cyber threats by subscribing to industry newsletters and attending educational seminars on cybersecurity topics when possible. Based on that, assess your vulnerabilities and catalog them.

Step 2: Determine business-critical applications and processes

Identifying critical business applications and processes is essential to any disaster recovery plan. To determine which components are most vital to a company’s success, one must understand the organization’s day-to-day operations to prioritize restoration efforts. 

Several approaches can be used when conducting a business impact analysis (BIA), from evaluating user experience, system performance, and analytics, to understanding data governance requirements. 

By documenting key applications and processes, you can gain insights into how different elements of your business interact and how quickly these components need to be restored for the company’s operations to continue uninterrupted. It is also beneficial to examine recent changes in IT infrastructure and upcoming projects or initiatives that could affect the current landscape. With this information, organizations can develop effective strategies for restoring business continuity during a disruption or crisis.

Through a comprehensive BIA, businesses can identify their most crucial applications and processes and use this data to create an effective DRP that will help them stay resilient if faced with unexpected disruptions or crises.

Step 3: Create a disaster recovery process for your organization

Once you have all the information, you can create the disaster recovery process. It is a multi-step process, as explained below:

Determine IT disaster recovery objectives

Creating a DRP begins with establishing disaster recovery objectives. These objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound. The goals should define the plan’s desired outcome and help organizations determine what disaster recovery solutions are necessary to recover from a disaster successfully. 

In addition to establishing objectives, organizations should also identify which data sets they want to protect, their recovery times, and how much data loss they can tolerate in the event of a disruption or breach. The goals for each of these items should be documented and used as the foundation for any disaster recovery plan. Organizations should also consider their risk tolerance when setting these goals. If risks are high, organizations may impose more stringent requirements for maximum tolerable downtime and the amount of allowed data loss.

Here are a few metrics you can track:

  • Recovery Time Objective (RTO): Time you need to recover all your applications/data
  • Recovery Point Objective (RPO): Age of files that need to be recovered to resume operations
  • Maximum Tolerable Downtime (MTD): Time to can spend with a downtime without incurring too much loss

Determine stakeholders for each process

You need to identify the decision-makers, such as the C-suite executives and other stakeholders responsible for authorizing disaster declarations. Once these individuals have been identified and their roles specified, the task of outlining the duties of each person involved should be undertaken. 

It should include regular operations personnel with day-to-day tasks and any third-party vendors who may need to be contacted in case of an emergency. Additionally, it is essential to ensure backup employees are identified in case an original employee is unavailable or on vacation. 

When preparing a disaster recovery plan, all personnel should understand their roles and responsibilities, including contact information for regular operations personnel and backup employees. 

Identify your disaster recovery sites

Creating a successful disaster recovery plan requires several key steps to identify the appropriate disaster recovery sites. First, it is essential to understand the business objectives of your organization and its IT infrastructure to determine which DRP sites are needed. 

Hot sites are used for organizations with rapid business continuity plans that require running the entire system at another location within a few hours. For those companies with less stringent requirements on availability and data restoration, warm sites are used as they allow access to critical systems but exclude customer data. 

Cold sites may be sufficient for organizations with more relaxed requirements for continued operations after an incident. They need only store IT systems and data until their DRP goes into effect.

Additionally, costs should be considered when determining which type of DRP is best suited for a company’s unique situation—hot or warm sites can often be more expensive than cold ones due to their higher levels of functionality.

Create a document outlining the response process

You need to document all your procedures and protocols. It is essential to include every detail to ensure complete transparency and coordination among teams, employees, stakeholders, vendors, and customers. 

Start by creating a communication procedure for each necessary party involved. This includes emergency contact information and methods of communication if traditional means are unavailable. Additionally, document data backup protocols that list any facilities utilized and third-party solutions to secure the data. Include instructions for initiating a disaster recovery strategy with assigned staff roles and critical activities that must be completed. 

Additionally, post-disaster activities, such as contacting customers or vendors after the incident has passed, reestablish operations. Be sure to provide details about how these tasks can be accomplished, such as through phone calls, emails, or other forms of communication.

Create a response team & train them

The response team should consist of those individuals whose technical expertise and knowledge are essential for responding to any unexpected event. It is vital to have each member’s contact information readily available and that each member understands their specific roles and responsibilities in the event of an emergency. You can accomplish this through regular training sessions conducted by experienced personnel. 

The size of the response team will depend on the size and complexity of the organization. Ideally, it should include IT professionals, system administrators, security experts, legal professionals, and customer service representatives. 

Plus, this team must have access to resources such as specialized equipment and software necessary for effectively dealing with disasters. Proper planning for contingencies should also be undertaken to ensure that recovery efforts are well-coordinated and effective in mitigating potential damage.

Step 4: Implement the DRP, test, and iterate

Testing the DRP is essential for ensuring its effectiveness in actual emergencies. It should be done in realistic conditions, recreating circumstances that would occur in a crisis. The verification process should include all relevant activities and tasks to ensure the DRP stands up to most disruptive events. One or more tests should be carried out annually, depending on the organization’s size and how often its system or services might change. 

To prepare for a test, organizations must produce a copy of their current production environment and start validating procedures. When running the test, it is essential to engage multiple stakeholders, such as the executive, operations, and IT staff, to ensure all teams are aware of their roles during an emergency. It is also essential to document any issues that arise during testing to address them before being used in an actual crisis. 

After each test, organizations must review the results and log any recommendations for improvements before finalizing their DRP plans.

Step 5: Document the final plan and regularly update it

The key to achieving an effective DRP is documenting each process step and periodically reviewing and updating the plan. To keep the plan up-to-date and accurate, all changes must be tracked about personnel, systems, technology, processes, and more. It is also vital to practice executing the DRP regularly as part of ongoing maintenance efforts. 

There should also be a system that ensures that all personnel are trained on their respective roles/responsibilities concerning the DRP to respond faster.

Reviewing the plan should involve checking existing elements of the plan and testing new ideas or scenarios that could impact its effectiveness over time. An effective DRP will ensure that your organization is well-prepared for any disaster.

Protect your data and IT assets with Virima

Disasters happen. When they do, you can lose your entire business in an instant. Even the most minor problems can become a major catastrophe for your company without proper preparation. If you are not prepared for an IT disaster, it could be fatal to your business.

Creating a foolproof IT disaster recovery plan is easier than you think—if you know what to do. Plus, having the right tools also helps facilitate and simplify this process. For instance, Virima enables you to catalog and map your entire IT network using its IT Discovery and Service Mapping features. 

The discovery probes go deep into your infrastructure and identify assets irrespective of whether it is present on-premise, hybrid, or cloud environment. Using that data, it creates dynamic service maps that show you what assets are present, what services they impact and each asset’s status. You can use that information to determine which asset is responsible for the incident, and based on that, you can implement an incident remediation plan.Book a demo with Virima now to see how our product suite can help you manage disasters easily.

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