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Lisa Carroll

By: Lisa Carroll on January 15, 2024

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10 Disaster Recovery Steps For Your IT

Business Continuity | Disaster Recovery

Updated: 2024

Most business leaders don’t like to think about the possibility that disaster could strike their organization. But that doesn't eliminate the risk.

Whether it’s a natural or man-made disaster, the ramifications can be equally damaging. At a minimum, disasters of either kind can cause downtime, damage to your reputation, and financial loss

Many business owners assume that since they haven’t been affected yet they won’t be a victim in the future. Or, they may think that they don't have the financial and staffing resources necessary to prepare for a future event that may or may not happen. 

Businesses often wait for disaster to find them and then scramble to recover. We work with businesses to prepare for unplanned situations so they can be ahead of the game. But I'm not here to sell our services; I'm writing this article to provide the information business leaders like you need to protect their organizations. 

We've seen the damage that can be caused and we want to help your business avoid falling victim. Experience has shown us that it's better to prepare for an event than struggle to recover from one

In this article, I’ll outline a 10-step IT disaster recovery plan you can implement with or without external help. I’ll explain the critical elements and what you can do now to prepare

What Is An IT Disaster Recovery Plan? 

An IT disaster recovery plan is a well-thought-out, strategic, systematic document that business leaders can use to recover from a disaster (natural or otherwise). 

It involves a step-by-step process for restarting work after an unplanned (and sometimes devastating) event. 

While having an overall business disaster recovery plan for the entire organization is important, there should be a separate IT disaster recovery plan that focuses on the IT infrastructure. 

Disaster recovery strategies are only effective if they are in place long before a disaster ever happens

Why Is An IT Disaster Recovery Plan Important? 

In today's global marketplace, most companies would be hard-pressed to operate without their IT infrastructure. Everything from customer orders to scheduling to employee communication would grind to a halt without IT.

All it takes is one unexpected event to upend business as usual. 

The following statistics bear that out

- between 25 and 40 percent of businesses never recover from a natural disaster according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (or FEMA)

60 percent of small businesses are unable to withstand the six months following a cyber-attack due to the massive costs of recovery including damaged reputation, loss of data and revenue, instability, and reduced employee productivity according to the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers

The good news is that you can follow the IT disaster recovery plan steps to lessen the risks during and after a disaster. 

10 Things Every IT Disaster Recovery Plan Must Include

Creating an IT disaster recovery strategy and plan will give you the peace of mind that you know how to respond and take quick action to minimize the impact of an unplanned event. 

Here are 10 topics every IT disaster recovery plan should cover: 

1. IT Inventory

Make sure you have a list of exactly which IT resources—systems, hardware, and software—are used to run the business

Ask employees how their work would be impacted if certain systems or networks were unavailable for a period of time. Identify which applications and data are critical to your business. Take extra measures to protect them.  

It can also be helpful to add different scenarios to your IT disaster recovery plan so that you understand which systems would be affected in the event of a flood, hurricane, fire, power outage, or another disaster on your premises.

2. Data Backup & Verification 

If you don’t have one already, develop a way to regularly back up your essential data off-site. (Data that is static and unchanging may not need to be backed up more than once.)

Consider migrating to the cloud or using a physical data center located in a different geographical region to ensure that you have access to a recent backup if your physical plant and the surrounding region is impacted by a natural disaster. 

Once you establish a regular backup procedure and schedule, test it often to make sure that it works. The last thing you need is to realize mid-emergency that your backups haven’t been working or you can't figure out how to access them. 

Both physical and cloud backups have some risks. Figure out which makes the most sense for your organization. 

Learn what it means to migrate to the cloud and important questions to ask

3.  Recovery Timeline

Understand how much down time your organization can tolerate. This will help you outline acceptable recovery goals and timeframes by which certain IT systems need to be back in operation.

Industries such as healthcare may have a recovery timeline of mere minutes, while other industries may be able to tolerate longer timelines.

IT disaster recovery plans should include well-defined parameters including:

      • Recovery Time Objective (RTO)
        the maximum amount of time the business can tolerate before your IT systems return to normal (to avoid unacceptable consequences) and 

      •  Recovery Point Objective (RPO)
        RPO defines the maximum amount of time between backups to ensure that the amount of data lost will not exceed what the organization can tolerate.

Use this downtime cost calculator tool to evaluate your RTO and RPO and get an estimated cost of downtime for your organization. 

4.  Detailed Responsibility 

Get buy-in from key internal stakeholdersBe sure they understand which IT operations could be affected, how that could affect different business functions, what would happen next, and who would be responsible for resolving the issues. 

Include a plan for communicating with employees and external stakeholders in the event of a power or internet outage.

5.  Physical Damage

Physical damage to your plant could affect your on-site IT equipment as well. Everything from servers to devices could be affected.

Some of these potential issues can be mitigated by moving your operations to the cloud, but no matter where you choose to store and back up your data, anticipate how you will respond to physical damage that may impact IT resources

6.  Insider Threats

People can also cause damage, due to malicious or unintended actions. 

One way to lower your risk is to lock down administrative rights on your IT systems. Provide access to only the systems and data employees and third-party vendors need. 

There are countless stories of companies that have been breached by third-party vendors who had unnecessary access to vulnerable systems. For example, internal salespeople don’t need access to the payroll and benefits information of other employees. Provide appropriate access only.

Another way to reduce risk is to provide employee security awareness training on a regular basis to keep your staff abreast of the latest cyber threats. Experts agree that 80-90 percent of cyber attacks are caused by human error.

Related article: Employee Security Awareness Training: An Honest Cost-Benefit Analysis

Wondering what security awareness training should include? We spell it out in this article: 3 Topics Every Cybersecurity Awareness Training Must Include.

7.  Insurance

Don't assume that a traditional, standard business policy with $50,000 of coverage will cover costs incurred as a result of a cyber incident.

And, even if it does, that amount will likely only cover one day or a week (at the most) of the strategic expertise and qualified professional guidance you will need from IT consultants, forensic experts, attorneys, and public relations strategists.

There are insurance policies out there that cover costs associated with natural disasters and cyber incidents. This coverage can include the cost of replacing IT equipment, and compensating for broader losses that result from a disaster

If you invest in these types of plans, be sure the details are included in your IT disaster recovery plan for easy access. 

8.  Validation

IT disaster recovery plans should be tested at least once (or preferably twice) per year.

After not testing for several years, one of our clients performed a test only to realize that all of their drives failed when trying to restore them. If this had occurred during a real disaster, the data would have been lost forever.

Gaps identified during testing should be documented extensively so that you can start fixing them before you need them.

9.  Business Continuity

Business continuity (BC) refers to the organization’s strategy for maintaining essential business operations as much as possible during and after a catastrophe. Create and test a full BC plan in order to be confident that you can meet any unexpected event head-on. 

This plan, which goes hand-in-hand with the IT and organizational disaster recovery plans, should also be tested and kept current. It is an essential part of the organization’s overall BCDR efforts. 

10. Updates

Disaster recovery isn’t something that you can set and forget; it needs to be actively maintained over time. Update your IT disaster recovery procedures, technologies, and equipment.

Business needs and staff members change, make sure to update and communicate the relevant changes to everyone involved in executing the plan. 

Ready To Implement Your IT Disaster Recovery Plan? 

Building a strong, resilient IT disaster recovery plan is essential. After reading this article, you know the topics to include: IT inventory, data backup & verification, recovery timeline, detailed responsibility, physical damage, insider threats, insurance, validation, business continuity plan, and updates. 

Honestly evaluate your ability to implement the steps outlined in this article. Maybe you can do all or some of them on your own. Organizations with a full complement of IT professionals on staff can likely implement this 10-Step IT Disaster Recovery plan on their own.

Organizations with a small IT staff (or IT staff), may need help from an outside IT provider. 

If you decide that working with an outside provider is the best solution, be sure to compare a number of providers so that you get the best fit. Here is a list of questions to consider asking IT providers you are considering that option. 

While we know Kelser isn’t the right fit for everyone, we encourage you to check out our managed IT support, which includes business continuity and disaster recovery services. 

Or read this article: What Is Managed IT? What’s Included? What Does It Cost?

No matter how you choose to proceed, it’s imperative that you move forward to protect your organization from disaster before you are affected.

Managed IT Support Page Link CTA [BANNER] 

About Lisa Carroll

Lisa is Kelser's VP of Revenue who works at the intersection of business and technology to help Kelser’s clients jump on growth opportunities.

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