24 May 2024
octobits-how-to-create-disaster-recovery-planning

How to create disaster recovery planning (Image by OCTOBITS)

Octobits Blog – A comprehensive Disaster Recovery Planning (DRP) acts as your guide in the face of such disasters. 

As a safeguard, DRP is designed to protect an organization’s critical data and systems, minimize operational downtime, and ensure a swift restoration of services.

DRP provides a structured plan to get your critical systems and data back online, ensuring you can recover quickly and minimize the impact on your business. 

With disasters ranging from natural calamities to technological threats, the scope of what constitutes a ‘disaster’ has broadened.

These incidents can disrupt the very lifeline of a business, leading to financial losses, damage to reputation, and, in some cases, cessation of operations. 

And remember, when disaster strikes, it’s too late to start planning.

A proactive approach with a well-defined DRP can make the difference between swiftly restoring business operations and facing prolonged disruptions or permanent closure.

So, are you ready to dig into how well-defined DRP should be for your company?

What is Disaster Recovery Planning?

Disaster recovery planning (DRP) is a structured process that involves documenting strategies and procedures to help an organization recover and resume critical IT infrastructure and operations after a disruptive event.

Disaster recovery planning (DRP) is fundamental to any robust IT governance strategy. 

To get in touch with IT governance strategy, please reviewIs Your IT Steering You in the Right Direction? IT Governance Explained.’

Returning to the topic at hand, a well-crafted DRP provides a structured and documented framework that outlines the precise steps necessary to restore your IT infrastructure, critical systems, and business data after a disruption. 

What we need to understand is that the landscape of DRP has evolved significantly, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Unitrends State of BCDR Survey Report 2021, cybersecurity and cyber resilience have emerged as top priorities for small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs) and mid-market to enterprise organizations, with a substantial increase in workloads being moved to the cloud.

An effective DRP starts with a thorough risk assessment, identifying potential threats and their impact on your business.

It also includes a business impact analysis (BIA) to prioritize critical systems and set realistic recovery time objectives (RTOs).

A DRP includes detailed backup strategies outlining how frequently data is backed up, where it’s stored, and the security protocols protecting it.

Finally, your DRP should specify the type of disaster recovery site you’ll use (cold, warm, or hot) and establish a clear communication plan for updating employees and other stakeholders during a crisis.

Why Disaster Recovery Planning is Important

Disaster Recovery Planning (DRP) is indispensable to any organization’s comprehensive risk management and business continuity strategy. 

Let’s break down the key reasons why investing in a DRP is a smart decision.

First, extended downtime comes with a hefty price tag. Extended downtime is a critical concern for businesses, directly correlating with lost revenue, decreased productivity, and potential harm to customer relationships.

A DRP also minimizes disruption by providing the blueprint for rapid response and recovery, protecting your bottom line.

Beyond finances, prolonged outages or data loss can severely damage your reputation.

A good DRP protects your reputation by minimizing public-facing disruptions and maintaining data security.

Speaking of security,  data breaches are increasingly common, and a DRP is crucial for prevention.

Secure offsite backups, comprehensive encryption, and rapid recovery procedures form the backbone of data protection within your DRP, reducing the risk of permanent data loss. 

Adhering to industry data protection and disaster recovery regulations is another crucial reason for investing in DRP.

The Queensland government also emphasized the significance of this DRP. You should look at what the Queensland government says about the recovery plan.

Disaster Recovery Planning Strategies

Disaster recovery planning (DRP) is a strategic process that protects your business from the crippling effects of unforeseen events.

It involves a methodical approach to safeguard and rapidly restore your IT systems and data.

This ensures your business operations can continue with minimal disruption.

Let’s break down the critical components and strategies that make a DRP effective.

Risk Assessment and Business Impact Analysis (BIA)

Begin with a meticulous risk assessment. Identify the spectrum of potential threats – from natural disasters and hardware failures to cyberattacks and even human error.

Carefully assess each threat’s likelihood and its specific impact on different areas of your business.

Next comes the BIA, where you systematically assess the criticality of your systems and processes.

This stage is about prioritization, determining the maximum downtime each function can tolerate before causing significant harm.

Recovery Objectives: RTO and RPO

Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) and Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs) form the core metrics of your DRP.

RTOs establish the absolute maximum downtime acceptable for each critical system.

Think of e-commerce sites needing a far stricter RTO than an internal HR platform.

RPOs focus on data – how much loss can you tolerate?  Having an RPO of one hour for financial records means your backup strategy must run at least hourly to meet that goal.

Disaster Recovery Solutions

Regular backups are crucial for any DRP. You have to choose several strategies sectors, such as:

  • Data backup options (onsite vs. cloud vs. hybrid)
  • Redundancy of systems (ideally across multiple locations)
  • Architectures that emphasize high availability (clustering, load balancing) minimize downtime. 

As an example, implementing redundant systems in different geographic locations ensures that if one system fails or is destroyed, another can take over with minimal disruption.

DRP Documentation and Communication Plan

A detailed DRP document outlines the steps to be taken before, during, and after a disaster.

A comprehensive DRP document is far more than instructions; it includes your entire IT inventory, contact details, role assignments for a crisis, and step-by-step procedures.

Complement these with a communication plan – in a disaster, clear updates to staff, customers, and stakeholders maintain trust.

Testing and Maintenance

Regular testing – simulations, drills, and even careful full failovers – is how you refine your DRP before a real disaster tests it for you.

The DRP should be reviewed and updated regularly to reflect changes in the business environment, IT infrastructure, and emerging threats.

Plans that aren’t updated, especially alongside tech or business changes, lose their value.

Training and Awareness

Staff need to understand their roles for a smoother recovery. Drills transform your plan from theory into practice actions that help keep panic at bay when something real happens.

Then, regular training and drills can help prepare employees for an actual disaster.

Compliance and Regulatory Considerations

We all know that many industries have specific regulations governing data protection and disaster recovery. 

A DRP aligned with standards like HIPAA, PCI DSS, or GDPR demonstrates your commitment to safeguarding information and helps avoid legal penalties.

What are the Three Types of Disaster Recovery Plans?

There are different ways to categorize disaster recovery plans (DRPs). Each type comes with a unique focus, implementation methods, and circumstances where they are most effective.

These different types address various disaster recovery aspects, ensuring your business can weather disruptions and protect its critical data.

Understanding the nuances of each type allows organizations to choose the strategy that best aligns with their risk level, recovery time needs, and budget.

A robust DRP strategy often combines elements from multiple types to ensure all your bases are covered.

Yup, the choice depends on your risk assessment, how quickly you need to be operational again (RTOs), and your budget.

Let’s delve into the specific characteristics and use cases of the main DRP types.

Type 1: Measures-based Disaster Recovery Plans

This type focuses on the different stages of disaster management:

  • Preventive measures: These are your first line of defense to minimize the chance of something going wrong. Think of them like fire prevention systems, strong antivirus, and regular backups.
  • Detective measures: Early warning is key. Intrusion detection systems, monitoring software, and regular audits help spot trouble brewing before it causes a full-blown crisis.
  • Corrective measures: These come into play once a disaster has occurred. Activities like restoring data from backups, switching to redundant systems, or rebuilding damaged infrastructure are all corrective steps.

Type 2: Specific Disaster Recovery Plans

These plans focus on distinct areas of your IT landscape:

  • Data center disaster recovery plans: Here, the emphasis is on the physical facility, hardware, and core networking needed to run your entire operation. This might involve detailed planning for alternate power sources or replacement servers.
  • Data backup disaster recovery plans: Data is often your most precious asset. These plans outline exactly what gets backed up, how often, and where (local vs. cloud storage, etc.).
  • Incident response plans: Security breaches are their type of disaster. These plans are less about technical recovery and more focused on who does what during a breach, how to communicate within the company and potentially to the public, and complying with legal requirements.

Type 3: Site-based DR Plans

This category is all about how quickly you need to be up and running versus the cost you’re willing to bear:

  • Cold site: The most basic option. Provides space and power, but you need to install your own hardware and restore data – the slowest recovery time but the most affordable.
  • Warm site: Some hardware and potentially outdated data are pre-positioned. You’ll get back online faster than with a cold site, but the cost is higher.
  • Hot site: Mirrors your production environment and is ready to take over almost immediately. Naturally, this comes with the highest cost.

How to Create Disaster Recovery Plans

A well-crafted DRP is the difference between swiftly resuming operations after an incident and facing prolonged disruptions that could threaten your business’s survival.

That’s why, first, we need to talk about risk assessment. Don’t limit your thinking to natural disasters only.

Cyberattacks, hardware failures, human error, and even social unrest can all disrupt your IT systems.

Consider the probability of each type of threat and the specific impact it would have on your various systems and business functions.

This information feeds into the next stage, the Business Impact Analysis (BIA).

The BIA prioritizes which of your systems are most mission-critical.

Your e-commerce site, for instance, likely carries a much heavier impact if it goes down compared to an internal HR system.

Understanding this allows you to establish Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs), which dictate backup frequency, and Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs), which determine how long a particular system can remain offline before causing severe damage.

And remember, your detailed DRP document includes far more than just technical steps.  

Roles and responsibilities must be assigned alongside contact lists for internal staff, external vendors, and anyone else who needs to be informed during a crisis. 

Templates for updates to employees, customers, or partners ensure consistent and timely communication during the incident.

And don’t overlook software license management! Thorough records of what software you own and how many installations are permitted prevent you from accidentally becoming non-compliant with licensing terms during a recovery, avoiding legal penalties atop the disruption you’re already facing.

Then proactive measures are crucial also. Installing fire suppression, implementing robust security practices, and building redundancies for critical hardware reduce the chance of a disaster in the first place. 

Smaller but still essential are uninterruptible power supplies (UPS). These prevent unplanned power drops from causing data corruption or damaging hardware.

Finally, do a testing; tabletop simulations and planned system failovers reveal flaws in your plan before a real disaster tests them for you.

Last but important, always keep in mind that your DRP isn’t a static document.

DRP must evolve alongside your business and IT landscape. So, always do periodic reviews to ensure your DRP remains relevant. 

Conclusion

Don’t think of disaster recovery planning as an optional insurance policy – it’s a core component of business resilience.

Start following these guidelines and the Queensland Government’s business recovery resources.

So, you can develop disaster recovery planning that positions your company to recover quickly and confidently.