7 Tips For Creating An Effective Disaster Recovery Plan

A disaster recovery plan is only as good as the planning surrounding it. Without a carefully designed and rigorously tested plan in place, you'll find it difficult to safeguard your organization against day-to-day threats that could destroy valuable data and even sink your business. If your organization is in severe need of an effective disaster recovery plan, simply take a look at these 7 tips:

Know What You Have

You won't be able to get your disaster recovery plans off the ground if you don't know what hardware and software your organization has. An ideal disaster recovery plan should include a thorough inventory of all hardware and software, including cloud-based applications. This inventory should be listed in order of importance to critical operations. This way, you'll be able to get your organization back up and running in the shortest amount of time possible.

Know How Much Downtime and Data Loss You Can Tolerate

Every organization has a threshold for pain tolerance. Your organization's level of tolerance will define the type of disaster recovery solution it needs for continued survival. Whereas an auto mechanic may be able to cope with downtimes lasting minutes or even hours, an e-commerce website may only have seconds before downtime results in severe financial losses.  

Know Who is Responsible

Any disaster recovery plan worth its weight should clearly identify the key players in managing the DR process. These key players should also have their roles and responsibilities clearly defined, so all parties involved can have a critical understanding of what needs to be done and by whom. These details should be encapsulated in a list featuring specific personnel, their positions and responsibilities and pertinent emergency contact information.

Knowing exactly who is responsible for what role during the disaster can help promote a smoother and more effective recovery, especially when dealing with third-party providers and vendors throughout the disaster.

Make Good Communication a Priority

Good communication is essential for keeping both employees and clients informed and up-to-date in case disaster strikes. A good communication plan will keep your employees in the loop from start to finish, with ongoing updates to keep them informed of any changes that occur during the disaster. Make provisions for alternative methods of reaching employees, since your main methods of communication may be down during the event.

Have a Plan for Handling Sensitive Information

Even if your organization doesn't regularly deal with sensitive and confidential information, it should still have operational and technical procedures in place to ensure it remains protected throughout the disaster recovery process. For instance, there should be detailed procedures on how to access and maintain sensitive information upon activation of the DR plan.

Practice Triage for Your Applications

In an ideal disaster recovery plan, applications should be divided into the following categories:

  • Mission-critical applications that are impossible to do business without
  • Essential applications that can be restored within a 24-hour timeframe without serious damage
  • Non-essential applications that can be restored within several days without serious damage

Triaging applications according to their level of importance can help reduce downtime and streamline the disaster recovery process.

Mind Your SLA

Reading the fine print is essential for nearly every contract you deal with, but it's an absolute must when it comes to service-level agreements with your third-party providers or vendors. This is especially important if you've outsourced your storage to a colocation facility or have certain functions outsourced to an outside IT firm.

The terms and conditions outlined in your SLA should also contain a binding agreement that clearly defines the level of expected service if a disaster occurs. A well-written SLA may contain agreed-upon initial response times at the onset of the disaster and timeframes for restoring systems during the event. SLAs ensure that your third-party partner has an obligation to meet your explicit performance standards.

Conduct Regular Tests

Anything can happen during a disaster. To eliminate unpleasant surprises, it's essential to subject your disaster recovery process to extensive testing on a regular basis. Otherwise, you won't have a clear understanding of how your DR plan will hold up until an actual emergency occurs.

Testing can reveal deficiencies in a DR plan that would otherwise go unnoticed until it was too late. Backup failures, obsolete contact data, slow Internet connections and deficiencies within the supply chain are just a few of the fatal flaws that should be rooted out during the testing phase.