10 Essential Elements of an IT Disaster Recovery Plan

Does your organization have a DRP in place? Can you recover from an existential threat? Let's unpack the essential elements of an IT disaster recovery plan.

With cybercrime on the rise, it's essential for every organization to have a disaster recovery plan (DRP) in place. Your DRP defines a set of best practices and procedures for recovering your systems and data in a disaster. Several disaster events could damage your company, reputation, finances, and continuance.

It's not only hackers and bad actors that have the potential to ruin your business continuance. Natural disasters like floods, fires, and power blackouts have the capacity to turn your business into a dead weight with no prospect of recovery. This post unpacks ten essential elements of an IT disaster recovery plan. Are you ready? Let's dive in.

What is a disaster recovery plan?

According to the Wall Street Journal, as many as four out of ten organizations don't have a disaster recovery plan in place. So, what is a DRP, and why is it important for your business? A DRP is a detailed and documented process of recovery procedures implemented in the case of a systems disaster at your company.

Many companies think a DRP isn't necessary for their companies' survival and prosperity, but they're mistaken in this assumption. While disasters like blackouts, natural events like hurricanes, and hacks are severe threats to your business's survival and continuance, most disasters facing your business occur for human error.

Essentially, your employees are the top reason you need a DRP. While some employees might be involved in corporate espionage, most companies don't have to worry about employees stealing sensitive data. This disaster isn't a James Bond scenario. It's more probable they'll do something silly, like inadvertently clicking a malicious link and giving hackers access to your systems.

The reality is humans make mistakes, and the steps of a disaster recovery plan minimize the risk of employee error, preventing ransomware attacks, data leaks, viruses, and malware from entering your systems.

So, what elements should a disaster recovery plan cover? Let's walk you through everything you need to know about designing and implementing a DRP for your business. These procedures and policies can apply to any company, from small businesses to the largest corporations.

Top Ten Essential Elements of a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP)

#1 Conduct an IT assessment and asset inventory

Before creating an IT disaster recovery plan, businesses must take a complete inventory of their IT assets. This assessment includes on-site software and hardware and those cloud solutions you rely on in your operations.

Your in-house IT department or services provider completes this risk analysis and assessment. The scale, scope, and time required to conduct the audit depend on the organization's size and complexity. Until the evaluation is complete, the company will not have an adequate plan in place to recover these assets in the event of a disaster.

A managed services IT partner plays a key role in disaster recovery planning. These professionals ensure you receive adequate planning meeting your compliance and security requirements, regardless of the industry.

#2 IT backup strategies under your DRP

Your disaster recovery plan IT template must include the results of the audit across all asset categories like hardware, data, cloud, and systems. Disaster recovery planning requires the implementation of a formalized strategy generation procedure.

This action starts with an IT engineer examining the assessment results and looking at the tactics and tools to customize a DRP response to the continuance of your business operations. Each organization will have different requirements for data use, application recovery, cloud-based solutions, and on-site assets.

DRP strategies can be costly to organizations. The IT partner should look to minimize costs wherever possible, such as by migrating business functions and assets to the cloud instead of incurring the expense of managing and maintaining offsite data centers, also known as disaster recovery sites.

These impenetrable facilities have enterprise-level protection processes, guaranteeing your offsite assets' safety. Internal disaster recovery systems and sites might be the better option for a recovery strategy in organizations with larger information and recovery time requirements.

This strategy planning stage of the DRP and business continuity plan processes is where IT specialists utilize their expertise and experience to fine-tune the disaster recovery plan and tailor it to the business's specific requirements.

#3 Train your employees in your back management practices

Top management must champion disaster recovery policies to be effective and adopted by all organizational structures. Each staff and management member must have a keen understanding of their role in the processes involved with the DRP and the procedure under their responsibility.

For example, employees must understand the impact of downloading unapproved software from unauthorized sites to simplify their workflows. While it might seem a good idea to the employee, this action could severely impact systems security. So, employees must have the necessary training to understand the impact of their actions.

These unauthorized actions effectively remove them from the umbrella of protection provided by the guidelines and procedures of the system, exposing not only their workstation to risk but the organizational system as a whole.

It's critical they understand the importance of keeping operations within the boundaries of business continuity and disaster recovery plans. Organizations must invest in the relevant training procedures for employees in both their role within the company and cybersecurity awareness.

#4 Create a disaster response team

The best practices for DRPs include access to an emergency response team to determine the extent of the rollout of the disaster recovery plan when required. After assigning responsibilities and roles to employees and management, the team contacts and assembles the DRP team, including the IT specialists and key staff from organizational departments that focus on the business recovery strategy.

Organizations must design and test the DRP with active disruption rehearsals where delegated staff members respond to DRP examples in real-time. Some organizations may feel this testing slows down their business, but it's necessary to ensure the efficacy and effectiveness of the DRP.

Under disaster recovery policies, staff must have the contact information for third parties, including suppliers, key customers, media outlets, insurers, and family members, when responding to natural disasters or cases of personal injury.

The recovery plan template includes financial assessments evaluating disaster-related expenses relating to recovering systems and continuing business operations.

#5 Include workflows and data in your backups

The cornerstone of any IT DRP is data backup. This strategy ensures no data loss in the organization, and east recovery in the event of a hack, ransomware attack, or natural disaster destroying on-site server assets.

Organizations must note that some backup data solutions are better than others in the event of a disaster. For instance, "business-lite" and consumer-grade data backup solutions only offer limited data file backup, not the entire system's storage.

Without access to your data, applications, and operating systems, your organization could experience problems when attempting to restore systems in the event of a disaster. To prevent total or partial data loss, organizations must utilize an IT partner that implements an image-based, enterprise-class, cloud backup solution mirroring the entire system, not only individual files.

The strategy is one of the top priorities when designing the DRP; if not, the top of the checklist. The provider must leverage the 3/2/1 rule of data backup procedures as part of the IT disaster recovery plan template. This approach ensures you have a copy of all data available for immediate retrieval from the recovery point.

The 3/2/1 rule involves the storage of three copies of all data files, the operating system, and your applications. IT includes two types of storage media for backups (one on-site and one cloud-based destination for backups) and one offsite storage location of all resources.

Emergency backups must be regularly executed, automated, and verified under the policies contained in the DRP at each stage of the process.

#6 understand the metrics involved in your disaster recovery plan

One of the key issues discussed with your managed IT provider when creating the DRP must be the metrics involved with the recovery procedures. It's important to review the following.

  • What is your estimated recovery time objective (RTO)?
  • What is your recovery point objective (RPO)?
  • How fast can the team transition from the failed state system to a recovery solution?

It's common for management to ask how long it will take to get systems back up and running in the event of a disaster. However, the RTO query depends n the budget organizations have to design a DRP with adequate resources focusing on execution speed.

The cost elements associated with the task will inevitably affect the outcomes of your network DRP. Factors like cloud migration, frequency of backups of digital assets, and speed of restoration are all reflected in the costs associated with your DRP.

These metrics give the organization and management the option to have a discussion surrounding cost versus benefit. Business disaster recovery is crucial to survival, but it's important for management to find a reasonable balance between function and price.

#7 Use air-gapped backups

Your IT partner should create an air-gapped backup of all data. This strategy prevents cybercriminals from jumping between live systems to backups when entering your network. It also mitigates the risk of the attackers creating a disaster scenario in the active data center.

The IT partner should accomplish this feat by maintaining a separate secure backup not connected via LAN to the network. Or they must utilize backup appliances running different operating systems and security access than used by the network server and devices. This strategy ensures the organization recovers data within the range of the parameters of its RPO.

#8 Implement backup encryption

Backup encryption is critical in keeping data in your files and applications away from bad actors. When your IT partners encrypt data in transit and at rest, it's relatively useless to cyber criminals. The team can retrieve and access the data, but the hacker cannot interpret it.

#9 Understand backup retention and compliance benchmarks

Compliance requirements are a consideration when discussing data encryption in the DRP. Many legislative compliance protocols and industry standards mandate the task of data encryption. The DRP should detail algorithms used in data encryption in the organization's data center and the recovery procedures required to meet RPO and RTO targets.

File retention, particularly email correspondence, is a high priority for organizations in regulated industries. The IT disaster recovery plan should include policies and corresponding protocols ensuring the expectations of data retention.

#10 Plan for disaster recovery testing

The reality is that DRPs are only effective if they're stress-tested regularly. Conducting an annual tabletop exercise with an IT disaster recovery plan example is vital to understanding its efficacy and where organizations need to adjust procedures and best practices surrounding the process.

The It partner must conduct this test in conjunction with key stakeholders. The success of the DRP is only as effective as the team rollout of their responsibilities and processes. Everyone in the disaster recovery team must understand their role and what the organization expects of them in a disaster scenario.

Employees must understand where they need to go, how to log in, and where to get the instructions for the DRP procedures in the event of a disaster. The business disaster recovery plan must include answers to these queries.

Easy access to these answers prevents confusion amidst the chaos of the disaster event, reducing the response time and duration to recover business operations.

In closing – Work with the right IT partner on your disaster recovery plan

Companies must understand the importance of a DRP and the essential elements involved with structuring and executing the procedures in a disaster scenario. In planning for disaster recovery, what is the ultimate goal?

Hiring a reliable and effective IT partner to navigate the complexities of the DRP is essential to its success in a disaster scenario. Contact top-rated IT support in Victorville to develop and execute your DRP. A reputable and reliable IT partner is the crux of your disaster planning protocol and vital to the swift restoration of systems in the event of a disaster. Don't be caught without a DRP in place. Your organization depends on it.