Have you ever spilled something on your keyboard or accidentally dropped your laptop? What happened next was probably a cautious attempt to turn it back on, followed by a state of panic that your laptop won’t respond to your repetitive pressing of the on/off button, followed by one last ray of hope when you take it to a nearby computer shop, where they tell you you’ve just fried your components.
Pretty scary, isn’t it? Now take that feeling and multiply it several times to understand a fraction of what happens when an IT system in a company crashes.
Cyber-attacks, earthquakes, tornadoes, fires, terrorist attacks, even monkeys (one actually caused a power outage in Kenya last year) and a lot more, are all potential disasters that could hit your business and the reasons why your company needs to have a disaster recovery (DR) plan.
So how big of a problem is this? Well, according to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, an estimated 25 percent of businesses don’t open again after a major disaster. To protect your business, you need to identify the risks relevant to your organization.
Disaster Recovery in a Nutshell
So what is disaster recovery and why should every organization have a DR plan?
Disaster recovery is a set of tools, procedures and policies that are put in place in the event of a disaster to recover the vital technology infrastructure of the company and allow its continuation. These disasters can either be human-induced, such as terrorist and hacking attacks, or it can be natural, like hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, lighting strikes and so on.
Why is this important?
No business is safe from these or many other disasters. Events such as these can disrupt or even grind day-to- day business operations to a full stop. As a result, the company will be unable to provide services to its clients. Sometimes, this disruption will be short, with little impact, but other times, client and customer important data may be affected. This can cause lost orders, late invoices and loss of productivity.
When this happens, companies will be forced to put extra work hours in an attempt to recover for the lost time, putting more costs on themselves. Eventually, clients may leave, looking for a more secure company to work with (one with a DR plan, preferably).
Even a one-hour downtime can cost the company a lot of money. According to Tech Advisory, a one hour downtime can cost small organizations $8,000, mid-sized $74,000, while large companies lose as much as $700,000.
Isn’t This the Same as Backup?
You might be asking now, isn’t disaster recovery just another term for backup?
In a way it is, but with one fundamental difference. While both backup and disaster recovery involve making copies of your valuable data, the concept of restoring a backup assumes restoring data back to its original location, whereas activating a disaster recovery plan assumes restoring data to an alternative location. As the name implies, in case of a disaster — this can be a major event where you lose your entire IT infrastructure, or a minor event when a server becomes unavailable — a disaster recovery plan will help you to restore data on an alternative device or in a remote location to ensure business continuity.
What Should a Disaster Recovery Plan Look Like?
Every organization that includes IT should have a DR plan in case a disaster happens. This plan includes the necessary steps that need to be undertaken, strategies to follow and how employees should act, among other things.
In short, the most important things to consider when developing a disaster recovery plan are:
1. What potential threats (natural or man-made) is an organization facing and how it can/should react to them.
2. How will these disasters affect the business (business impact analysis, or BIA).
3. How does this affect our clients, customers and users? Who will speak to them on our behalf? How will they be notified?
4. Who do we need to contact during a crisis? Shareholders? Police? Government? Is there a mandatory reporting procedure to follow?
5. Where should the data be recovered? Locally, in the cloud, or both? Is there a backup procedure to accommodate for that?
6. What are the priorities? System and applications should be prioritized. What must be recovered first?
7. What systems need to be updated? A common mistake companies make is not updating their systems following a disaster recovery.
8. Practice. Does the DR plan really work? Is your staff prepared for an emergency?
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