5 Steps for Building a Data Disaster Recovery Plan

Learn what it takes to make an effective disaster recovery plan and the crucial steps involved. Don’t lose your business after the loss of data.

What is a disaster recovery plan?

Generally speaking, a disaster recovery plan is a document that outlines what a business will do to recover after a disaster. But more specifically for the IT world, a data disaster recovery plan outlines an effective strategy to return your business to operating capabilities after a loss or breach of data due to a disaster.

Disaster recovery plan steps detail how data will be recovered and IT infrastructure rebuilt to bring your business back online and operational. A good disaster recovery plan should be effective, strategic, well-thought-out, and also manageable. It should include goals, including recovery time and recovery point objectives so that it’s clear what everyone will be working toward if the plan is ever implemented.

What could cause a data disaster?

Nearly all businesses today rely on data as a primary or secondary resource for their operations. Interconnectedness is at an all-time high, but cybercrime is also at its peak across the globe. Therefore, several threats to your data can be planned for. Disaster causes can include:

  • Hacker or malware attacks
  • Natural events (earthquakes, flooding, fires, volcanic eruptions, storms, etc.)
  • War and other violent conflicts
  • Power failures
  • Hardware or software failures
  • Network failures

In some instances, even new legislation could cause a disaster for your business if it restricts the flow or ownership of data.

No one knows when a disaster could strike, but having a plan in place will help your business get back on its feet as efficiently as possible.

Why is a disaster recovery plan important?

A data recovery plan isn’t just for Big Tech companies controlling massive amounts of data. If your business holds a lot of important digital resources, then it can also be affected by a data disaster. And without a plan in place to speed recovery, many businesses simply won’t survive, let alone be able to return to functioning effectively.

Statistics on cyberattacks are worrying and show us that this is an increasing global concern area. On average, a cyberattack happens every 39 seconds worldwide, and 43% of these attacks target small businesses. This is often because smaller businesses have fewer resources to invest in security than larger ones, and this leaves them more vulnerable. In fact, just 45% of businesses consider their security budget adequate to protect them from cyber-attacks. It’s also worth knowing that most (up to 95%) damages from cyberattacks are caused by human error, including accidental downloads of malware or feeding information to phishing sites. With more people working from home, protecting your data from these sorts of mistakes is more difficult than ever.

Natural disasters can also pose great risks to businesses. In general, the related power outages cause data to be lost. Without a plan, 25% of businesses don’t reopen after disasters, and companies that lose their IT resources for more than nine days after a disaster tend to go bankrupt. But with planning comes protection. FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) recommends that the best thing a business can do is to create a disaster recovery plan so that if disaster strikes, steps can be taken to get things back on track.

How to develop a disaster recovery plan: 5 essential steps to include

Developing a disaster recovery plan involves some time and resources but is more manageable than you might think. It’s important to ask whether you can afford not to create a plan that will help your business survive in the event of a data disaster.

The goals of creating your plan are simple. It should set out a strategy that will help minimize delays and provide a sense of security for your organization. A good plan also should help you take action to ensure you have reliable standby and backup systems in place. And it should lay out choices to make so that a limited number of decisions have to be made under the stress and duress of the disaster so as not to make matters worse. If you want to know how to plan for disaster recovery, look at these five important steps to include in your plan.

1. Have a response team ready and assign duties

This is arguably the most important of all the disaster recovery plan steps. Having a team ready with pre-arranged duties is the best way to ensure everyone knows who will do what. Systems operate in set ways under set parameters, but humans don’t, and the stress of a disaster situation is sure to affect how people in your business react. That’s why this part of the planning is so crucial because it takes a lot of the human error element out of the equation. At the same time, if no one was assigned duties, nothing might get done at all, so people are, of course, still needed.

Team members should be selected based on their skills and areas of knowledge, but also their ability to be present and work during a crisis. This means that remote workers or people who are away for travel frequently may be poor choices. The response team should be composed of enough people to tackle the necessary tasks and can be broken down into smaller teams, such as a software team, data storage team, facilities team, computer restoration team, etc., as needed.

But more than selecting a team and assigning duties is needed to be prepared. The team should also be trained on their roles and run through practice scenarios to gain practical experience.

2.  Set clear objectives and timelines

All good plans, be they database disaster recovery plans or otherwise, require clear objectives to succeed. These objectives must be clearly stated and agreed upon so that everyone involved knows their shared goals. They should also be practical and attainable in a disaster situation. “Get everything back online within one hour” is an optimistic goal but not one that will be attainable for most businesses under most circumstances.

Because time is of the essence in data management, it’s crucial that your objectives are also time-oriented. Timelines can be made for the expected steps of the disaster recovery process, and sticking to these timelines should be made of paramount importance.

One way of setting clear, timely goals is to set RTOs and RPOs.

Your RTOs or recovery time objectives represent how long your business can manage to have an application offline before being negatively affected. You may have different RTOs for different aspects of your business, depending on how crucial speed is to each component. Lower RTOs apply to systems that can’t be down for more than a few seconds, while higher RTOs apply to systems that can be down for weeks without negative impacts. One example is email. If IT is continuously backing up employees’ emails, and someone deletes an email, because of the granular backup and recovery, this would have an RTO of only several minutes.

RPOs, on the other hand, are recovery point objectives. Rather than a measure of time, this is the amount of data that your business can afford to lose before a negative impact is felt. It can therefore indicate the frequency with which your data needs to be backed up. For example, a very short RPO of 10 to 30 seconds, means that data must be backed up frequently. Having this set will allow you to know if your infrastructure is sufficient to protect your data needs in case of a disaster.

3.  Gather the necessary preliminary information

Disaster recovery planning depends on being prepared, and here knowledge is definitely power. Gathering information to create your plan can include many different activities and the more clear information you can collect, the better.

One excellent way to manage this information is to create a blueprint of your entire network. And you’d be surprised how many organizations actually don’t already have one. This will help you identify flows of data that could be at risk and, therefore, both plan for prevention and recovery. It can also be worthwhile to speak with workers to determine their data needs and usage patterns. And, of course, gathering this information will help you figure out which of your data assets are most valuable so you know which ones need to receive the most attention.

Finally, the past always informs the future. Looking into any past data disaster events can give you much insight into how to both prevent and recover from potential future ones.

4. Identify what the most serious threats are

Is your business active in the flow of finance? Do you handle a vast medical information database? If so, your primary threats might be hackers and malware trying to gain access to your data. As such, an effective dr plan will include disaster recovery procedures related to leaks or data piracy.

What about the physical location of your business and servers – is there any specific risk of flooding, storms, or earthquakes in your specific region? If you’re located near a fault line, a river, or a volcano, your planning might be different. Instead, or perhaps in addition to cybercrime, your system disaster recovery plan may focus on getting back on your feet in case that specific natural disaster hits.

5. Document the entire disaster recovery process

As a part of your data recovery plan, it’s important to include reporting. This can take the form of checklists of forms to fill out when steps are completed, including room to give praise or criticism to what works and what doesn’t.

Preparing a documentation process as a part of your plan will ensure that valuable information about the steps taken isn’t lost and, instead, can contribute to any future planning that might take place.

Implement a disaster recovery plan today

Data recovery plan implementation can be a daunting task, especially for businesses that have never gone through this procedure before. However, with ransomware, malware, and natural disasters looming in just about every corner of the business world, a disaster recovery plan is becoming less of an option and more of a necessity for most businesses.

Disaster recovery plan steps include selecting a team, setting goals, gathering information, risk assessment, testing, and creating documentation processes to create a comprehensive strategy for your business. Data storage companies like Corodata can help with many of these planning stages and offer multiple storage solutions to protect your data and get you back on track if a disaster ever strikes.

Reach out to Corodata to learn more about building a disaster recovery plan and protecting your data today.