5 critical steps for IT’s disaster recovery plan

Most businesses are aware of the need to plan for a disaster, but many don’t know where to begin. Here’s one guide from a disaster recovery firm. 

For IT, a “disaster” means any event that causes a company’s technical infrastructure to be unavailable for any problematic length of time.

That can be anything from weather-related events or natural disasters to severe technical glitches — in other words, things that can affect any business.

But where should businesses begin in planning for disaster recovery? Here’s some advice from an e-book published by disaster recovery vendor Vision Solutions:

1. Inventory business processes and resources

The first step in making sure the business can recover after a disaster is knowing what exactly must be recovered. That means knowing what processes are critical to operations, and what IT resources are needed for those processes.

To do that, check the business’s organization chart and consult with managers and front-line workers in each department. Make a list of processes, along with the necessary applications, hardware, network infrastructure and other IT resources.

You can also make sure nothing was skipped in that step by doing the reverse and cataloging all of of the organization’s IT resources and connecting them to business processes. If done properly, the two analyses should match.

2. Set objectives and priorities

As much as businesses would like to be able to continue all normal operations no matter what happens, in some cases that’s not possible. That’s why disaster recovery plans must distinguish between core operations and those it can temporarily do without.

To do that, IT can talk further with representatives in each department to figure what items from the initial list of processes and resources are essential.

3. Determine the potential costs of a disaster

Figuring out how much the business stands to lose if a disaster hits will help IT determine how much to budget for a disaster recovery plan.

To get as accurate an estimate as possible, businesses must consider factors such as:

  1. Lost employee productivity
  2. Lost sales and orders
  3. Lost customers
  4. Labor costs for employees involved in the recovery, and
  5. The likely frequency of disasters occurring.

More information on calculating those costs can found in a Vision Solutions white paper here.

4. Choose a disaster recovery solution

Disaster recovery solutions come in a variety of flavors, ranging from software to manage back-ups to hosted, cloud-based recovery sites that businesses can use to resume operations if their primary locations are unavailable.

Whatever level of a solution the business needs, here are the most important factors they should consider when choosing a provider:

  1. Total cost of ownership — That includes the sticker price, plus any maintenance fees, staff time needed for management, use of IT resources, etc.
  2. Ability to meet RTO and RPO needs — Businesses must decide their recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) — or, how long recovery must take and what exactly must be recovered — and make sure their solution can meet those needs.
  3. Reliability — Obviously, businesses must be confident that their recovery solution will work when it’s needed. You can find that out by talking to vendor references about their experiences.
  4. Vendor support — Likewise, since disasters are unpredictable, you’ll need to know the vendor will be able to help when the business needs it. That means guaranteeing 24/7 support if your organization’s systems must run 24/7.

5. Test the plan

Once the recovery plan is formulated and solutions are in place, the organization must test it to make sure it works.

This is an ongoing process — tests should be run regularly during slow periods (such as over a weekend), as well as after any change is made to the IT infrastructure.

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