We live in a world where disasters can come in many forms.

There are natural disasters, internal data leaks, external cyber attacks, hardware and software fails, and just good old fashion human error. People overwrite backups, SANs crash, and data gets corrupted. It’s all part of the game when we’re talking about enterprise IT.

To combat this stress and to prepare for the unexpected (and eventually expected), organizations need to have an effective disaster recovery plan in place. The primary goals of a disaster recovery plan are to minimize disruptions to networks and data and to restore normal operations as quickly as possible. But what does it take to build a strong disaster recovery plan?

It requires putting together comprehensive documentation as to what actions will be taken during and after a catastrophic event. To make sure business continuity is maintained, the plan should be discussed among IT teams, business leads, and tested in advance. By taking these steps, organizations can have greater peace of mind knowing that if, and when, a disaster strikes, they will have a systematic plan in place to ensure organizational stability. Let’s dig deeper into strategies for building a strategic and effective disaster recovery plan.

  • Map out your current environment – One of the first steps in building your DR plan is gathering data. Gathering data and building a complete inventory of the organization is a critical first step in putting together a disaster recovery plan. Inventory policies, equipment, communications, important telephone numbers, contact and customer details, equipment, systems, applications and resources description, onsite and offsite equipment, and data locations. Teams should also gather details about backup storage facilities and retention schedules and other material and documentation information. With an analysis of existing network structure, applications, databases, equipment, and organization setup, the disaster recovery team can start to outline a plan and communication methods which should be followed at the time of the disaster
  • Prioritize –  Once a complete inventory of the organization is collected, the disaster recovery team needs to outline critical requirements pertaining to each department. This might include mapping out linkages and dependencies related to data, documentation, services, processes, and vital resources. Each activity should all be categorized and ordered based on priority, such as essential, important, and non-essential. The priorities list will be important during the recovery phase after a disaster to determine which systems and technologies are put back online first.
  • Evaluate cloud-based DR options – Cloud-based technologies can also play a critical role in your disaster recovery plan. There are several options for DR in the cloud, including, DR-as-a-Service (DRaaS) delivered from a cloud or managed service provider. In these scenarios, companies hand over control to the service provider to deliver uninterrupted service as defined by the SLAs for both primary and DR instances. There’s also backup and restore from the cloud where the backup in the cloud becomes a substitute for tape-based off-site backups if a disaster occurs. There are also solutions where data is backed up and restored to the cloud. In this approach, data isn’t restored back to on-premises infrastructure, instead, it’s restored to virtual machines in the cloud. There are also options for replication to virtual machines in the cloud, which are most suitable for those applications and data that requires aggressive recovery time.

The type of cloud backup options selected for disaster recovery depends on what type of data is being restored and the requirements for getting the data recovered and back up and running. With limited bandwidth, possibly terabytes of data in many cases, getting data back on-premise after a disaster from an off-site cloud location can be extremely challenging. To get around that in the event of a disaster, for example, an organization may want to consider looking for backup cloud providers that offer the option to restore data to disks. These disks can then be sent to an office or designated ‘safe’ offsite location, in the event of a disaster. Having these types of contingency plans in place in the event of an outage can save a lot of stress and headaches down the line.

In an industry where corporate IT teams want to ensure maximum uptime of computer systems while preventing data loss, waiting for disaster to strike or for the ‘shoe to drop’ can be a stressful proposition. Setting up a smart IT disaster recovery plan can help organizations minimize potential economic loss and disruption to their bottom line, reputation, and goodwill in the face of a disaster natural or otherwise. While cloud-based technologies greatly extend disaster recovery options, it doesn’t change the DR fundamentals of having to map out a thoughtful, organized, and well-tested disaster recovery plan. Effective disaster recovery plans secure an organization’s assets and paves the way for business continuity in the most systematic way possible.