Disasters come in many forms. Some are freak, random events that strike out of the blue. Others are completely-preventable lapses in human judgment, or even the result of a malicious act. For any organization, an interruption in operations can be, well, disastrous. But it doesn’t have to be.
Investing in a disaster recovery solution is an investment in safeguarding your business. Interruptions to your operation will happen, but how you proactively prepare and react to the event will help minimize the impact until operations can be fully restored. A rapid and successful disaster recovery depends entirely on what your company does before a disaster ever occurs.
3 Steps to Successful Disaster Recovery
STEP 1: Make a Plan
Various industry surveys report that roughly two-thirds to three-quarters of companies have no viable disaster readiness plan in place. In our modern, interconnected world where a failure in one facet of operations can cascade into a system-wide breakdown, the failure to plan is inexcusable, but something that is easily remedied. Responsible businesses prepare for the worst, and those that do are vastly more capable of weathering a disaster-related interruption.
Any good business continuity plan will identify the key players within the organization (management, IT, HR, etc.) and assign roles and responsibilities to them if and when disaster strikes. A careful risk assessment of the company’s vulnerabilities, a clearly-defined chain-of-command, and overlapping communication and contingency protocols are essential elements of any disaster recovery plan. The participation of your internal IT team and external IT service providers is also critical to a successful and workable plan. Make sure the various stakeholders provide input and air their concerns during planning because, in the midst of a crisis, you don’t want anyone arguing over what to do.
Be sure to plan for multiple causes of downtime as well. Most people think “disaster” means a natural event like storm, fire, or flood. In fact, natural disasters are the most infrequent causes of business interruption. Far more likely are events such as power outages, network and/or hardware failures, human error, or unauthorized access/cyberattacks. By planning for a wide range of potential events and investing in a multi-purpose approach to recovery, you can prepare your company for virtually any scenario. Finally, have a “Plan B” in place, in case Plan A doesn’t work out for some reason.
STEP 2: Protect Your Company Data and Applications
Data protection and recovery lies at the heart of any successful disaster recovery, but DR solutions are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Every company should employ a regular data backup solution so that operations and data access can be rapidly brought back to a pre-disaster state. In addition, investing in virtual desktops enables an organization’s employees to continue working from any location, should the physical damage to the business be too severe.
Work with your disaster recovery solution provider to not only integrate data backup and virtual infrastructure into your plan, but also to develop a tiered approach to recovering your organization’s critical software applications. By organizing your applications into recovery tiers, you can ensure that applications are brought back online according to their level of operational urgency, and enable you to focus on recovery needs during an event.
STEP 3: Test, Test, Test
Once your DR plan is in place, be sure to schedule and run regular testing drills to make sure the plan actually works. The time to discover weaknesses or holes in your plan is not during an actual disaster event. Regular testing will expose any inefficiencies in the plan or confusion on the part of stakeholders, and gives your management the confidence that the solution in place was worth the investment. This will make it easier to justify updates and expansions of the DR system as technology evolves and new threats emerge later down the road.
The Fourth (and most important) Step
An additional step in successful disaster recovery—and a critical one at that—is to pick the right Disaster Recovery-as-a-Solution (DRaaS) provider. When selecting a provider, be sure to consider not only their recovery technology offerings, but also their business maturity and level of expertise. Look for a provider with the technology you require, and the levels of knowledge and professionalism that match your business objectives.
A good provider partner should be willing to help you plan and implement a disaster recovery program that meets your Recovery Time Objectives (RTO), as well as offer confidence-building resources such as third-party validations of their solutions, comprehensive Service Level Agreements (SLAs), signed certificates of testing, a dashboard to monitor and manage real-time analytics, etc.
Every minute counts in the event of a disaster and interruption in business continuity. To ensure a rapid recovery and resumption of operations—as well as to mitigate any loss of data, revenue, or customers—it is worth the time and investment to develop and implement a proper disaster recovery plan. The keys to success are a proactive approach that recognizes (and respects) the danger to your business, and selecting the right provider partner to meet your recovery goals.