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Why an IT Disaster Recovery Plan is Crucial for Businesses of All Sizes

Unfortunately, IT disasters are inevitable and can happen at any time, usually occur without much warning. IT systems face many threats that can cost businesses time and money alike.

But no matter the type of disaster that could threaten your IT system at any time, you can protect your essential enterprise data and operations with a disaster recovery plan. With a detailed plan of action in the event of an IT system outage, you can prepare for disasters and help your enterprise resume mission-critical functions promptly. This ensures you don’t suffer any major losses in operations and revenues.

Understanding IT Disaster Recovery

Disaster recovery in the IT world means protecting those systems that organizations rely on to support critical operations of the enterprise. Disaster recovery is a part of business continuity—making sure all business functions are operating in the event of a disaster. But these days, businesses rely heavily on their IT systems at all times, so IT disaster recovery is one of the main priorities for business continuity.

Common Disasters

In the world of IT, disaster is typically technological in origin. While the thought of a natural disaster tearing through your business is terrifying, the most common cause of disaster in IT is actually power loss and outage. Sometimes, a gust of wind knocking down a wire is all it takes to crash your systems – not a tornado.

Regardless of the cause, an outage is an outage, and downtime is downtime. Disaster recovery and business continuity dictate how you get things back up and running while minimizing the impact of an interruption.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common types of IT disaster, arranged by how much each contributes to enterprise downtime:

  • Power outages (75%)
  • Hardware error (52%)
  • Human error (35%)
  • Virus or malware attacks (34%)
  • Natural disasters (20%)
  • Onsite disasters (11%)

As you can see, natural disasters are fairly low the totem pole. Keeping the lights on is of far greater concern, both literally and figuratively.

Disaster Costs

But what will it cost you? Figuring out the bottom line of downtime depends on the type of disaster and the business you’re in.

But depending on the type of disaster, the size of your business, and whether or not you have a plan in place, a small amount of time spent without critical IT systems operation may cost you. Just one hour of downtime for an unprepared business can cost:

  • $8,000 for small companies;
  • $74,000 for mid-size companies; and,
  • $700,000 for large companies.
Imagine what a whole day of downtime would cost. Although disasters are never ideal, companies who have experienced IT system disasters can learn from their mistakes and use this information to improve—or create—their disaster recovery plan. 

Building a Disaster Recovery Plan

Whether or not your company has experienced costly downtime from a disaster, you should update your disaster recovery plan. And if you don’t have one, don’t wait for a disaster to happen to build one. You’ll be glad you did whenever the inevitable happens.

Risk assessment, figuring out what areas in your IT system are vulnerable to disasters, is a great place to start with any plan. This requires a thorough knowledge of your IT infrastructure, so if you don’t know much about it, talk to the industry pros to help you develop an effective plan.

Although you might think it’s best to prepare for the worst disaster possible, you shouldn’t focus on one type of threat. Your plan should cover various threats based on your vulnerabilities and the likelihood of the disaster occurring. Sure, it’s good to be prepared for tornadoes, but power outages and malware may pose more of a threat. Instead, focus on how you will handle a crisis, restore your critical system functions, recover, reduce downtime, and communicate with stakeholders.

A thorough plan will include the following:

  • Your main goals and overview of the plan;
  • Contact information for your disaster recovery team and data and software backup service;
  • Details of emergency response action;
  • Diagrams of the IT network and recovery site, including directions to the site;
  • The most critical IT assets and their outage time limit;
  • Recovery Point Objective (RPO)—the maximum age of files (in hours) needed from backup storage to resume normal operations;
  • Recovery Time Objective (RTO)—your downtime limit—the amount of time you have to recover and resume normal operations;
  • The software, systems, and license keys to use in recovery;
  • Recovery technology system software documentation;
  • Details of Insurance coverage; and,
  • A plan to handle the media along with financial and legal issues.

After a Disaster

In the event of a disaster, you will need an incident response team—with the recovery plan in hand—to:

  • Assess what was affected by the disaster—hardware, software, and systems;
  • Recover the systems; and,
  • Provide a follow-up on the plan, noting successes, failures, and suggested improvements.

With this information, you can update your recovery plan and be even more prepared for another disaster in the future.

Cloud-Based Recovery

Disaster recovery has moved to the cloud to offer added security and protection from disasters. Cloud-based recovery also:

  • Often costs less;
  • Is easier to implement; and,
  • Allows for regular disaster plan testing.

With the help of cloud-based data storage and recovery systems, you can reduce recovery downtime to minutes instead of hours and get your business up and running again with minimal losses. Although disasters are hard to predict, you can at least be prepared and protect your business from the high costs of these threats.