If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that the world is full of surprises. Sometimes those surprises are great. Other times, they really live up to the term “disaster.”
If you are in charge of a business or organization, then you need to be able to prepare for and overcome disaster. When it comes to IT, we call this specific idea a disaster recovery plan.
What Is a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP)?
The name alone gives away most of the secret sauce. This is a plan that helps your business or organization recover from a disaster. But what, in more specific terms, does that mean?
Well, a disaster plan can come in many forms and sizes. At its most general, it is the entire combination of rules, processes, techniques, and tools that you can use to either restore or maintain operations during a critical IT disruption (you can also have non-IT disaster recovery plans, but we’re focusing on the IT side of things today).
What counts as a disaster? It can be anything that takes your business offline. It could be something related to IT, like a ransomware attack. It could be a natural disaster. It could be a political uprising. It could even involve the loss of communications with an international partner because war broke out.
The disasters tend to be unpleasant in nature, but since they do happen, it’s important to have a plan in place that can help you adapt and overcome.
That’s the real point of your recovery plan. No matter what happens, you have a structure in place that is ready to assist with recovery as soon as it is needed, and with that, you can maintain as much operational capacity as possible while restoring lost functions as quickly as possible.
How Does It Work?
It sounds nice to have a plan in place for anything that can go wrong, but how do you realistically create such a plan? The key is to break everything into smaller pieces, and to begin with, you can separate your DRP into groups of prevention, detection, and correction.
Disaster prevention is everything you can put in place that prevents downtime to begin with. This includes all kinds of redundancies — such as redundancy in critical hardware (like web servers), power, services (like your internet service provider), and even personnel. It can also include things like cybersecurity, physical security, and investments in routine maintenance.
Redundancies are great, but they aren’t the whole story. You also need to spot problems before they spiral out of control.
When you see a word like “detection” you might immediately think of antivirus software. That’s certainly a part of detection, but disasters can come from non-digital sources as well. Power monitoring, surveillance equipment, and even seismographs can all be part of your detection infrastructure, depending on what disasters you anticipate and how you need to look out for them.
Your last classification includes everything you use to fix things when they go wrong. A lot of your strategies and contingencies fit into this category, and it’s invaluable. Most of the time, when you can anticipate a problem, it gets fixed a whole lot faster. Thus, correction often takes up a lot of room in the overall disaster recovery plan.
Types of Disaster Recovery
Cataloging DRP ideas and assets can help you think more about how this all works, but we still aren’t at a finished product. When it comes to crafting the plan, you need to know what tools you have at your disposal and how to apply them. To get there, it helps to categorize the types of disaster recovery that exist. (Keep in mind that we’re only focusing on disasters and how they relate to IT in this discussion.)
It’s a natural place to start. You want backups of all of your data. If you lose data from any type of disaster, the backups help you recover quickly and effectively.
Typically, IT experts follow the rule of three. You want the original data that you work with regularly. Add to that a cloud backup (that is professionally maintained and accessible anywhere in the world), and a hard-copy backup that you physically control. Between these three copies, it’s unlikely that any one disaster can take all of them out of commission.
You can add an additional backup to this for ultimate thoroughness: an additional, offsite hard copy. This way, you won’t lose your original data and your hard copy at the same time.
Disaster recovery as a service is another resource to consider. This is essentially where you pay a professional group to plan and execute disaster recovery for you. They can serve as advisors, master planners, IT support, or anything else you need, depending on the nature of the contract.
Most of all, DRaaS is helpful for spotting and overcoming the most common disasters that strike IT assets.
The last major type of disaster recovery is virtualization. This is the creation of virtual environments that can offer all kinds of benefits. You can utilize virtual environments to create better collaboration spaces and move work away from a central location. When your work locations are decentralized, it’s harder for a single disaster to take everything offline.
You can also use virtualization to help your infrastructure connect and operate over distances. It offers the same benefits but on a hardware level.
The Final Step
At this point, you’ve considered how to think about disaster recovery planning. You’ve considered the different types of recovery and recovery solutions, and you now have a foundation to work with. Creating the step will still require plenty of planning and research, but you have a starting point. You can involve third-party experts to really dig into the nuts and bolts, or you can start thinking about what kinds of problems would hurt your business the most. When you can answer those questions, you already know which direction to take your DRP. The rest is a matter of time, energy, and execution.
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