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Maybe you’ve already heard that disaster recovery and business continuity are essential for your business planning, but why is that?
Depending on your business operations, loss or theft of sensitive data due to an unexpected IT disaster can lead to service interruptions, loss of revenue and customers, brand image damage and even regulatory penalties. Today’s article will fully disclose why IT disaster recovery is important.
What is a disaster recovery plan?
A disaster recovery plan (DRP) is a business-specific set of actions and processes ready to be taken in the event of a disaster. An IT disaster can be a natural or man-made event causing business infrastructure failures, hardware failures and overall interruption of business functions.
Some examples of IT disasters can be:
- Floods, earthquakes and other environmental disasters affecting business hardware and data
- Accidental deletion of massive amounts of data
- Equipment failure
- Terrorism attacks
- Intentional damage and theft
- Public health issues such as epidemics (e.g. Covid-19)
- Security/Data breach
- Power outage
A DR plan is a part of a larger business continuity plan, which is essentially crisis management aiming to restore business operations as quickly as possible. Business continuity involves different action plans regarding potential risks, including business resumption, occupant emergency, operation continuity, incident management and disaster recovery – only the latter concern IT systems and infrastructure.
However, DR plans don’t only involve “post-disaster” actions but also preventative measures to minimise the risk of a disaster.
If such occurs, the planned set of actions is triggered for several reasons:
- Reduce potential damage
- Protect business IT infrastructure
- Execute and promote recovery processes
- Quickly restore operations.
Developing a disaster recovery strategy
Developing a disaster recovery strategy is specific to the business at hand. It can vary depending on the niche, business processes and offered services. A successful DR plan should involve setting recovery time objectives (RTOs) and IT priorities as part of an impact analysis.
The core of such strategies is based on three main goals, including prevention, detection of potential threats and correction.
Why is it crucial in the light of the recent pandemic?
States of pandemic and public health issues were traditionally separated from general business continuity and disaster recovery strategies. However, in the light of the recent pandemic, that changed. Today many IT service providers who offer DR plan development incorporate strategies concerning pandemics and general changes in business operations.
Disaster recovery plans are crucial in such circumstances because they can affect small businesses and large corporations in various ways. As seen in the past two years, public health issues and safety guidelines required many companies to adapt to remote working models. Consequently, employee work performance, coworker interaction, supply chains and customer needs also changed.
Keeping in mind that the purpose and goals of each business vary, possible changes might require adapting new software modules that address pandemics, additional training and awareness programs or offering guides and documents for the future. Additionally, each business and DR plan should consider customer experiences, employee health and safety and proper management of supply chains.
Disaster recovery vs backups
Many business owners still confuse disaster recovery with backups. Still, it’s essential to consider the differences between the two to minimise potential losses, retain customers and protect their reputation and competitive position.
Creating a backup means copying files or other data types that can be recovered in case of accidental deletion or data loss. Backups are only a part of a detailed disaster recovery plan whose goal is to cover different aspects of ensuring complete business continuity in a disastrous event.
While a data backup is a safely stored copy of your data in a secondary location, a DR plan is about setting goals, prioritising processes and assigning responsibilities.
If we compare disaster recovery to backups side by side, we can conclude that they have:
- Different purposes
- Different Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) and Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs)
- Different resource allocation
- Different planning process.
Companies backup data through different backup systems and methods to ensure they’ll be able to recover critical documents, presentations, correspondence, contacts and sensitive data. Often the purpose is data retention or long-term data archival.
On the other side, an IT disaster recovery plan guarantees the quick restoration and continuity of the entire business in case of a disaster.
RTOs and RPOs
Disaster recovery prioritises restoring critical data, business applications and processes, meaning it has shorter RTOs and RPOs when compared to backups. In a crisis, retrieving data and information needs to be as quick as possible so businesses do not lose revenue and customers. Backups can have longer RTOs and RPOs since lots of data is usually copied or retrieved.
Disaster recovery requires much more data storage when compared to backups. The main reason is that DR requires a fully functional separate IT infrastructure used for failovers (control transfers), while backups can be compressed versions of files and, therefore, do not require much storage space.
Backups are much simpler to execute when compared to creating a DR strategy in terms of planning. Companies need to consider RPOs and data retention requirements when planning a backup strategy, while DR plans are more comprehensive and require extensive data analysis and goal setting.
Disaster recovery vs business continuity plans
Similarly to backups and disaster recovery, disaster recovery and business continuity plans are two completely different terms. For successful business continuity, the company needs to work on and combine a business resumption plan, occupant emergency plan, operation continuity plan, incident management and disaster recovery.
Disaster recovery planning is part of business continuity but is focused on the IT sector. For further clarification, refer to the table below.
|Disaster Recovery||Business Continuity|
|Limits abnormal or inefficient system function||Limits operational downtime|
|Restores data access and IT infrastructure after a disaster||Keeps the business operational during a disaster|
|Creates employee safety measures||Keeps communication methods operating during a crisis|
|Focuses on returning to normal as soon as possible||Focuses on returning to full functionality after a disaster|
*Differences between disaster recovery and business continuity
Types of disaster recovery plans
Disaster recovery plans vary depending on the business but usually incorporate preventative, detective and corrective measures to prepare for an IT disaster. Preventive measures are directed towards avoiding an IT disaster altogether and may include data backup, offsite storage, fire-suppressant systems, climate control and secure management of digital assets.
However, when speaking about types of DR plans, companies should consider that they are environmentally specific.
1. Virtualised disaster recovery plan
Virtualised disaster recovery plans eliminate the need for physical server reconstruction after a disaster by utilising virtual servers. These plans allow for faster, simpler and more efficient recovery and RTO target achievements.
Virtual DR plans replicate the company’s entire IT infrastructure, storage, operating systems, apps, software and data backups on cloud servers. That means businesses are not dependent on hardware functionality and use virtual machines to run and restore processes from any location.
2. Network disaster recovery plan
Network disaster recovery planning aims at recovering business operations and functions in case of a network service disruption. The more complex the network is, the more complex the action planning becomes.
This type of DR plan is tailored according to the network, performance and staff and usually incorporates local area network (LAN), wide area network (WAN) and wireless network recovery. For the plan to work, apps, servers, devices, and data must be constantly updated and tested.
3. Cloud disaster recovery plan
Cloud disaster recovery plans require appropriate management to reach their full potential and be cost, space and time-efficient business recovery strategies. These plans can be as extensive as the business needs them to be, meaning you can back up small amounts of data or entire data sets and apps.
Make sure to consult what challenges cloud providers might encounter when backing up or recovering your data and that the plan’s manager knows the location of physical and virtual servers. By using cloud services, businesses save on data centre costs, including investing in modern IT hardware and paying for physical security and maintenance expenses.
4. Data center disaster recovery plan
Data centre disaster recovery plans mainly concern the risk assessment of IT infrastructure and the data centre facility.
A carefully executed plan should address a broad range of disaster scenarios and involve key elements of the entire building, including:
- Power systems, backup power and protection
- Physical security
- Utility providers
- Building location
- Office space
- Fire suppression
- HVAC systems
- Features and tools within the building.
One of the most significant benefits of large remote data centres is that they can house services for multiple companies, meaning a data centre DR plan protects all of them simultaneously.
Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS)
Businesses can also use a disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS). Typically, the service provider offers a cloud-based solution to make a complete copy of IT infrastructure and protect business processes in case of natural or man-caused disasters.
They handle everything from start to finish, including verifications of backups and security, allowing businesses to focus on other high-priority tasks.
When choosing a DRaaS solution, businesses need to consider the provider’s capabilities if a regional disaster occurs, which involves their location and data centres. It’s also good to check if they use third-party tools or offer their own.
How a disaster recovery plan can be used to safeguard financial data ?
For many businesses, it’s critical to be compliant with financial data requirements. A disaster recovery plan can help them quickly achieve that. The top five financial compliance challenges are employee errors, lost devices, unsecured smartphones, outdated regulations and non-compliant cloud service providers.
A DR plan incorporates all elements of the above-mentioned compliance challenges and ensures a quick operation recovery in case of a disaster.