Organizations cannot always prevent or avoid disasters. However, having a concrete Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) is an essential precautionary measure that helps companies minimize possible damage, allowing them to get things back up and running. In some instances, it completely prevents disasters from happening in the first place.
While no one likes preparing for a disaster, disasters do strike anyway, when least expected—so it’s a good idea to prepare for one. Usually, when a disaster strikes, company executives are caught off-guard due to inadequate plans and resources to manage the devastating effects.
With a consistent rise in the number and sophistication of IT attacks on small businesses, cybercriminals pose a constant threat to organizations’ delicate data. Consequently, creating a Disaster Recovery Plan for your organization will go a long way in saving valuable time, reducing frustrating downtimes, and preventing permanent loss of private information, when an attack occurs.
According to research by Verizon, 43% of cyber crimes exploit vulnerabilities in the IT systems of small businesses. The consequences of these cyberattacks can wreck your company—the devastating effects can range from loss of revenue to a damaged reputation, court cases, and closure of your business altogether.
Besides helping your company get back up after a disaster, a DRP plays another crucial role of ensuring business continues after operations resume. Business continuity is important because when a business goes down for a long time, reviving it becomes difficult, costly, and customers lose trust in the company. The DRP provides procedures to keep the business running both in the short term and the long term after the disaster.
You should consider a disastrous breach of your company’s private information more as an eventual inevitability than a possibility, so that you can take a proactive approach when dealing with a disaster. A DRP helps to be prepared for when it happens, and not for if it happens.
What is a Disaster Recovery Plan?
A Disaster Recovery Plan is a document that outlines how the company will respond to an unprecedented incident that compromises and negatively impacts the company’s resources, to help the company resume and sustain its normal operations quickly.
Therefore, the instructions in a DRP guide the IT department in recovering substantial data and system functionality so that the organization can resume basic operations quickly for business continuity after the data breach incident. While effecting the DRP will not necessarily lead to the complete functionality of your company, it will, at least, help the organization to resume operations at a minimal level.
As a CEO of an SMB, you are certainly concerned about the safety of the private data in your care, and you should create an IT Disaster Recovery Plan that benefits more than just your data. It will reduce the downtime of your system, and make it incredibly easier to recover from a data breach disaster when it happens.
What’s the Purpose of a Disaster Recovery Plan?
Although minimizing downtime after the occurrence of a disaster is the primary purpose of a Disaster Recovery Plan, it is not the only facet. Creating a DRP will help your organization assess risks arising from data breaches and explore a variety of solutions.
Other significant purposes of a DRP are:
1. Minimizing Downtime
Minimizing downtime is the primary purpose of a DRP. The plan clearly outlines how the IT department will react to different scenarios in the DRP. The document also guides on how to carry out routine drills to gauge how long it would take to get the systems back up and running after a data breach incident, and adjusting the plan appropriately.
2. Business Continuity
The main purpose of a DRP is to enhance the security of data by preventing attacks, and, therefore, guarantees business continuity. In cases where the attacks are successful, disrupting normal operations, the DRP provides a path to quick restoration of the operations, again ensuring business continuity. The end goal of a DRP is therefore to warrant the continuity of business activities so that customers are not adversely impacted by cyber crimes.
Many business operations involve transferring information from one department to another or externally from the organization to stakeholders. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) requires that a set of standards be met to protect the privacy and security of information. A DRP exclusively addresses the safety of all vulnerable information, thereby eliminating penalties that would otherwise stem from the failure to comply with HIPAA requirements.
4. Lowering Risks
A DRP minimizes the number of risks that would mature into a disaster. When creating a DRP, a company assesses several risks associated with its business and patches up all the avenues that may lead to a disaster. In doing so, the organization minimizes the risks by enacting the appropriate mitigating measures.
5. Addresses Stakeholders’ Concerns
Business owners, investors, directors, and shareholders have their apprehensions over what would happen in the worst-case scenario. A DRP addresses their concerns and often provides them with satisfactory explanations of how the business will get back up post the disaster.
Creating A Disaster Recovery Plan
Whilst appreciating the need for an IT DRP—and attempting to craft one is a great start, it is equally essential to understand the conventional steps to creating a successful DRP. Below are the key steps to creating a DRP:
1. Know Your Company’s Technology Vulnerabilities
In readiness for an IT disaster, you must assess and know your IT vulnerabilities. Your delicate applications and network systems have a bearing on your production factors, and if something were to go wrong—say a breach of private data, the effects would severely impact the production of goods and service delivery.
By knowing the areas that attackers target, your organization can prepare to prevent or power through the worst-case scenarios. For the four listed vulnerabilities, take note of all the vendor technical support and contact information as you may need their help to wade through the disaster.
2. Choosing the Right Technology Plan
The point of having a DRP is to identify your IT vulnerabilities and fortify the security around them to prevent access by cybercriminals—and in case they do, the DRP will help your organization get back up and continue with its operations. On knowing your system’s weak points, you can choose the right technology plan that will adequately protect your organization from hackers.
When choosing a technology plan, consider an industry-specific technology that will grow with your business as most technologies become outdated quickly. When they become outdated, you’ll be left with expensive equipment that you have no use of.
A Strategic Technology Plan is a scheme that outlines where your organization is now and where it should be at some specific time in the future with regards to technological resources. Having a technology plan will help your team understand the short-term and long-term technology goals, as well as the costs associated with upgrading technology.
A typical technology plan should have the following components:
- A mission statement
- Technology needs assessment
- Short-term and long-term technology goals
- Employee training and appraisal
- Resource requirements for technological advancements
- Evaluation method
Some factors to consider when devising a technology plan are:
- Your organization’s need
- The option to lease
- Backup plan
- Employee training
3. Come Up with A Communications Plan
A well-devised communication channel will go a long way in making data recovery smooth and less stressful. In cases where the communication plan involves many people across many departments, data recovery may not be easy. Devise a communication plan that requires only a few individuals and departments.
To stay safe, have an additional communication plan for a scenario where the disaster adversely affects the organization's common communication channels.
4. Train Your Employees
It is advisable to train all employees in your organization on disaster recovery so that they understand what a DRP is, the procedures for implementing a DRP, and their roles in the recovery process.
When everybody knows what to do during a disaster, the DRP becomes transformed into a valuable resource rather than a mere plan. If convenient, set aside time to simulate an IT disaster and instruct the employees on what to do to make data recovery fast and efficient. In doing so, everybody in your organization will be adequately informed and prepared to help the business get back up quickly in case of a disastrous attack.
5. Periodically Test and Improve the Plan
Over time, different aspects of companies evolve. These typical changes are caused by the upgrade of IT infrastructure, change of company premises, and change in core values, to mention a few. This means that a disaster recovery plan devised today may not be relevant a year or so later. Therefore, it becomes crucial to allocate time every few months to go over and reflect on the changes in your plan.
Examples of changes to address could be:
- Change of data storage methods from physical files to digital storage devices
- Change of communication channels from telephone calls to video calls
- Upgrade of servers
- Further departmentalization of the organization
Structure of A DRP
Companies with IT infrastructure need a clearly outlined and easy to implement DRP to minimize the effects of a disaster and help the company resume basic operations fast. We hope that the steps in this post will help you create a DRP that benefits more than just your data.