The Ultimate Guide to Disaster Recovery
October 8, 2021
Nobody anticipates a disaster, but it can happen to any organisation. You need to have a recovery plan in place in case a problem strikes unexpectedly. Whether it’s a pandemic, fire or flood, a disaster that could impact your organisation will happen.
Many organisations still overlook the necessary planning required for continuing operations in a disaster, and those that may have a plan have not tested it to ensure its effective.
We certainly hope you never experience a disaster or outage. Still, it’s always worth understanding disaster recovery and why your organisation should integrate it as part of the operations. This blog will cover:
- What is Disaster Recovery?
- Why do organisations need a DR plan
- Types of disasters organisations could experience
- DR best practices
- DR methods
- DR challenges
What is Disaster Recovery?
Disaster Recovery or Business Continuity are terms used to reference an organisation’s strategic plans and actions to continue operations in the event of a catastrophic event. Depending on the nature of the event, these can be a simple as regaining lost data to moving operations to an alternative location. Having a pre-planned and tested DR/BC plan before the event should be a pillar of an organisation’s plans.
Why does an organisation need a disaster recovery plan in place?
It may seem unnecessary to plan for things that may never happen, but all of us invest in home and car insurance. Is the organisation any different- could you afford the cost of a disaster?
By having a disaster recovery and business continuity plan in place, you’ll have peace of mind that you’re covered and prepared if something does happen in the future.
- Avoids revenue impact – the impact of lost working, production, services and reputation damage through not being able to service customers will impact revenue. Aside from this loss, you may still incur expenses in trying to recover from the event itself. Having a plan will ensure you can identify and plan to keep any loss of revenue to a minimum.
- Maintaining customer satisfaction– gaining customer trust is already challenging but even more complex after a disaster involving personal data. Having a plan and communicating with customers and still operate helps retain and ensures the impact to customers is negligible.
- Instils brand trust– demonstrating a solid DR plan shows that, as an organisation, you have everything under control, which builds people’s confidence in you. It also limits damage to your brand’s reputation in the process.
- Minimises downtime and interruption– If the worst happens, getting critical systems and services back online is vital. A plan and adequate procedures for recovering data and systems get you back up and running quickly and with less impact.
- Ensures quick and smooth restoration of organisation – Time is money and getting systems and employees back up and running after a disaster. Gartner predicts that the average cost of business downtime is approximately £4,400 per minute. Knowing exactly what needs to happen enables a smooth recovery and reduces the impact on revenue.
- Trains up your staff– Your staff will be the key in recovering from a disaster, and they will need to know the plan and their roles in the recovery. It’s no good to have a plan if no one knows it or what to do when needed.
Types of disasters an organisation should be prepared for
There are many types of disasters that your organisation should be aware of and prepared for. Understanding these will help build a robust DR/BC plan.
The news is filled with natural disasters, from wildfires wreaking havoc to flooding washing away cars and buildings.
More organisations are being affected by such things. With weather patterns changing, the chances of a flood or hurricane that could damage facilities and premises increase.
Equipment, Infrastructure and technology failures
Technology has dramatically improved our lives and has advanced over the years, but it’s still not perfect. Computers can fail, burst pipes can flood buildings, and many other variables can unexpectedly cause a disaster – even if you’re using modern appliances, it’s not uncommon for a boiler to catch fire or other tech in the workplace to create a problem.
Cyber security attacks are disasters involving your IT Systems. They include attacks by cybercriminals using methods such as Malware, Phishing, Ransomware and more.
These can involve a breach of data, data loss or even disabling your computers and systems. As well as having an effective recovery plan, there are also some basic cyber security measures that your organisation can implement to minimise your risk.
Best practices of implementing a disaster recovery plan
It can be a pretty daunting and complex task to create and implement a DR/BC strategy. Still, your organisation can always start with the following disaster recovery best practices:
- Have a specialist disaster recovery team – having a fully trained team of specialists means the operation can begin much faster as everyone knows what they need to do before it happens. This means communication is open, and it can help both employees and customers feel reassured.
- Evaluate the risks regularly – assessing potential risks and hazards from the start – and continuously doing so – means there are no surprises if something does go wrong.
- Ensure your DR strategy is documented - it’s no use having a plan if nobody knows what it is. Ensure your disaster recovery plan is adequately documented and accessible for everyone and that it’s kept up to date.
- Make backups part of your DR strategy – plan what parts of your organisation need backup and determine when and how it will happen. That way, you will have greater knowledge of the data backed up and how frequent the backups are.
- DR test and optimise – although it is a plan that hopefully never needs to be used, it needs to be in good shape if required, which means testing and improving the plan over time.
Choose the best methods for your organisation.
There are many tools and strategies that can be implemented to help you. We recommended that you first start by understanding exactly what you would need to run in the event of a disaster and then find the ways to protect and recover these areas.
Some examples are detailed below.
Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)
This method uses a third-partyto replicate and host data and systems using the cloud. This method allows your organisation to continue operating through the vendor’s location, reducing downtime and ensuring minimal disruption to operations.
This method provides a full recovery and costs based on usage, so it can be a helpful method to reduce the need to invest in protection every time technology changes.
Backup as a Service (BaaS)
This method uses a third-party provider to back up your organisation’s data at a separate location so that it’s safe in the event of a disaster. However, it’s not a form of protection for any of the IT infrastructure.
Virtualisation can play an essential role in an organisations DR/BC strategy. Having virtual machines means that the data and systems can be replicated to a different site and brought to life in a disaster. This means systems and software could be spun up on employees’ computers and IT systems wherever they are working and helps with recovery times.
Instant recovery takes a snapshot of an entire virtual machine, which can then be used as a way of restoring data.
A cold site involves setting up some basic infrastructure that employees can use following a natural disaster, allowing organisation operations to continue at a second location. However, this doesn’t cover the rescue of any critical data, so it is not sufficient as a complete approach to DR.
The difference with a hot site is that it maintains updated copies of your data at all times, which aids the recovery time after a disaster as it reduces downtime. However, because of this, they’re more expensive to run.
As the name suggests, this method involves picking a specific point in time to make a copy of critical data and systems. This copy can then be used as a backup for everything until the copy was made.
It is often a more cost-effective method as it doesn’t involve the constant transfer of data. Still, there may be data loss if the disaster struck between the point-in-time when the copy was made. Having a plan to back up critical data at the right times to aid recovery is a sensible solution.
Challenges of Disaster Recovery
Disaster recovery is not without its challenges. It’s time-sensitive and deploys at a time of great stress to minimise disruption and lost revenue.
There is often too much data and too many files to handle for large companies, so they are inadequately backed up.
This can lead to challenges in recovery because data can get lost in this process. Even when sufficient data is backed up, the recovery involves complex data management.
Disasters are difficult to predict – both in terms of when they strike and how severe they are. After all, if they were easy to predict, they wouldn’t happen in the first place! They are costly, and there is always unavoidable downtime and stress when they happen.
Final thoughts – Be Prepared
Disasters can happen at any time, so it’s essential to be prepared. This means you need to have a Disaster Recovery Plan in place that protects your organisation. You need to stress test and plan your strategy, ensuring that the most critical services and technology are the first to come online. Think about your lines of communication and how customers will contact you should you lose the office. Start protecting the data that matters and ensure you have multiple copies and test your ability to recover from these copies.