Considering the events that have been shaping the world for the last year and a half, it almost feels excessive to state that you need to prepare for a major disaster strike at any moment...
As a small business owner, you know that you’re always just one user error, one weather forecast, one public health emergency, or one cyber attack away from facing a major disruption to your operations.
While some disruptions are nearly impossible to prepare for and even more difficult to recover from, others can be addressed with a thorough disaster recovery plan. In almost all cases, disruptions of your IT infrastructure fall in the second category and can be fixed.
That’s great news because cyber threats aimed at small businesses have increased both in number and sophistication since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What Is a Disaster Recovery Plan?
IBM defines a disaster recovery plan as a formal document created that contains detailed instructions on how to respond to unplanned incidents.
The goal of a disaster recovery plan is to provide organizations with the means to address unplanned incidents as quickly as possible to minimize their operational, financial, and reputational impact.
Without a disaster recovery plan, it’s easy for organizations to plunge into chaos and fail to take the steps necessary to resume operations. What’s more, organizations that don’t have a comprehensive disaster recovery plan may find it impossible to stay compliant with industry regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC).
Creating a disaster recovery plan isn’t nearly as difficult nor time-consuming as you may think, and your efforts will be rewarded in the long run. Here are the main steps to create a bulletproof disaster recovery plan to protect your IT infrastructure against worst-case scenarios.
Step #1: Analyze IT Risks and Their Potential Impact
To create a bulletproof disaster recovery plan, you need to have a good understanding of the possible risk that threaten your IT infrastructure. Here’s what you need to do to reach that point:
- Identify your IT assets, including all network equipment, end-user devices, software applications, and cloud services.
- Understand how critical each IT asset is to your operations. Imagine how your ability to do business would be impacted if a specific group of IT assets was suddenly affected by a major disaster.
- Think about the IT risks you face, how severe their impact could be, and how likely you’re to encounter them.
This step sets the stage for all subsequent steps, so it’s paramount not to underestimate it. After all, it’s impossible to have a sound recovery plan unless you know ahead of time what you’ll need to recover.
Step #2: Clearly Define Your Recovery Objectives
It’s not enough to say, “We need to recover those and those IT assets otherwise we won’t be able to do business.” Why? Because there’s a huge difference between recovering, let’s say, malware-infected workstations in less than an hour versus several days. Unless you have clearly defined recovery objectives and a plan that reflects them, you can’t really be sure that your efforts will deliver the desired results.
More specifically, you need to define your recovery time objective (RTO) and your recovery point objective (RPO):
- RTO: the amount of time an IT asset can be unavailable and not result in significant damage to a business.
- RPO: the maximum targeted period in which data can be lost from an IT service due to a major incident before the business is significantly harmed.
You can (and should) have different RTOs and RPOs for different groups of IT assets to reflect the differences in their criticality.
For example, nonessential end-user devices, such as smartphones, can be down for multiple hours, and sometimes even days, before resulting in significant damage to a business, and data stored on them over a similarly long period of time can be lost since its importance is likely fairly low.
On the other hand, your email server (regardless of whether physically located on your premises or managed by a third-party cloud infrastructure provider) is critical, so you want to make it available again as quickly as possible and avoid as much data loss as you can.
Step #3: Choose the Right Data Backup Approach
To meet your recovery objectives, you need the right data backup approach. All available backup solutions fall under the following categories:
- On-premises backups: There are many backup solutions that let you manually or automatically create local copies of your data and store them on your server or on dedicated backup devices. On-premises backups give you total control over your data, but they fail to address threats such as natural disasters.
- Cloud backups: Over the last decade, many cloud backup solutions have emerged as a more disaster-proof alternative to local backups. While they don’t provide the same level of data ownership as on-premises backups, their geo-redundant nature makes them a boon to all organizations located in areas where natural disasters are a common concern.
- Hybrid backups: To get the best of both worlds, you can combine on-premises backups with cloud backups. That way, highly sensitive data can be kept on-premises to maintain compliance with data privacy regulations, and the cloud can be utilized for its cost-effectiveness, scalability, and availability.
In practice, your data backup approach of choice will also need to fit your budget, so you may have to make some compromises when finding the right balance between availability, complexity, and costs.
Step #4: Document Your Disaster Recovery Plan
After laying all the groundwork down, now is time to document your disaster recovery plan. When documenting your disaster recovery plan, make sure it includes the following information:
- Your recovery time and recovery point objectives.
- A list of all equipment and data required to operate.
- The roles and responsibilities involved during a disaster recovery event.
- A detailed description of communication procedures with contact details for the recovery team.
- The exact steps to take in a disaster recovery incident in order to recover data from backups and restore affected systems.
Keep in mind that even the most well-documented disaster recovery plan is guaranteed to become less and less relevant over time, so make sure to update it from time to time as your IT infrastructure evolves and your disaster recovery needs change.
Step #5: Test Your Disaster Recovery Plan
Regardless of how much time and effort you spent creating your disaster recovery plan, you should not assume that it can meet your recovery time and recovery point objectives without testing it first by creating a realistic disaster recovery scenario.
Contact us to Create Your Disaster Recovery Plan
If all this sounds like too much work or too big of a challenge, then don’t hesitate and take advantage of managed disaster recovery services, such as those provided by us at OSIbeyond.
With our expertise and experience, you’ll be able to effortlessly prepare for any disaster, both natural and manmade. Contact us, and let’s together create a bulletproof disaster recovery plan.