Disaster recovery is an organization’s method of regaining access and functionality to its IT infrastructure after events like a natural disaster, cyber attack, or even business disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. A variety of disaster recovery (DR) methods can be part of a disaster recovery plan. DR is one aspect of business continuity.
Disaster recovery relies upon the replication of data and computer processing in an off-premises location not affected by the disaster. When servers go down because of a natural disaster, equipment failure or cyber attack, a business needs to recover lost data from a second location where the data is backed up. Ideally, an organization can transfer its computer processing to that remote location as well in order to continue operations.
Disaster recovery team: This assigned group of specialists will be responsible for creating, implementing and managing the disaster recovery plan. This plan should define each team member’s role and responsibilities. In the event of a disaster, the recovery team should know how to communicate with each other, employees, vendors, and customers.
Risk evaluation: Assess potential hazards that put your organization at risk. Depending on the type of event, strategize what measures and resources will be needed to resume business. For example, in the event of a cyber attack, what data protection measures will the recovery team have in place to respond?
Business-critical asset identification: A good disaster recovery plan includes documentation of which systems, applications, data, and other resources are most critical for business continuity, as well as the necessary steps to recover data.
Backups: Determine what needs backup (or to be relocated), who should perform backups, and how backups will be implemented. Include a recovery point objective (RPO) that states the frequency of backups and a recovery time objective (RTO) that defines the maximum amount of downtime allowable after a disaster. These metrics create limits to guide the choice of IT strategy, processes and procedures that make up an organization’s disaster recovery plan. The amount of downtime an organization can handle and how frequently the organization backs up its data will inform the disaster recovery strategy.
Testing and optimization: The recovery team should continually test and update its strategy to address ever-evolving threats and business needs. By continually ensuring that a company is ready to face the worst-case scenarios in disaster situations, it can successfully navigate such challenges. In planning how to respond to a cyber attack, for example, it’s important that organizations continually test and optimize their security and data protection strategies and have protective measures in place to detect potential security breaches.
Whether creating a disaster recovery strategy from scratch or improving an existing plan, assembling the right collaborative team of experts is a critical first step. It starts with tapping IT specialists and other key individuals to provide leadership over the following key areas in the event of a disaster:
Crisis management: This leadership role commences recovery plans, coordinates efforts throughout the recovery process, and resolves problems or delays that emerge.
Business continuity: The expert overseeing this ensures that the recovery plan aligns with the company’s business needs, based on the business impact analysis.
Impact assessment and recovery: The team responsible for this area of recovery has technical expertise in IT infrastructure including servers, storage, databases and networks.
IT applications: This role monitors which application activities should be implemented based on a restorative plan. Tasks include application integrations, application settings and configuration, and data consistency.
While not necessarily part of the IT department, the following roles should also be assigned to any disaster recovery plan:
Executive management: The executive team will need to approve the strategy, policies and budget related to the disaster recovery plan, plus provide input if obstacles arise.
Critical business units: A representative from each business unit will ideally provide feedback on disaster recovery planning so that their specific concerns are addressed.