More than 40% of businesses don’t have a documented company-wide disaster recovery plan — particularly when it comes to data and technical networks. Yet failures and disconnects are more likely than many might realize. In one study, almost 75% of businesses reported experiencing an outage or other failure. More than 65% said the issue had been within the previous 12 months.
A strong disaster response protocol is essential for businesses of all sizes and types. Find out more about this critical business task and how a managed service provider can help.
Disaster Recovery Versus Business Continuity Planning
Before diving into details about technical disaster recovery, it’s important to look at how these efforts fit into the overall story of business continuity planning.
Business continuity planning refers to proactive plans and efforts to maintain as much business functionality during and immediately after a disaster as possible. Disaster recovery, in contrast, is usually specifically concerned with protecting data and bringing technical functions and access back online as quickly as possible following an event.
The two are highly related and do overlap. For example, both business continuity planning and disaster recovery might be concerned with creating redundancies so if one process or location is hit, others can handle its work. For disaster recovery efforts, redundancies are especially related to safeguarding and accessing data, while business continuity plans might focus on concerns such as whether a secondary call center can handle overflow calls if a center in Florida is hit by a hurricane.
When Is a Planned Disaster Response Necessary?
Many businesses associate disaster planning with natural disasters. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods are examples of disasters. They can interrupt business processes, damage resources, and disconnect staff from technology and data required to serve customers.
However, thinking that only natural events require disaster response efforts is one reason many businesses don’t have a comprehensive, documented plan. And we should all know better given the past few years. COVID-19 demonstrated that business interruption can occur anywhere on the globe. You don’t need high winds and a storm surge to make it happen.
A recovery plan may be needed when your business is facing:
- Natural disasters, including tornadoes, floods, wildfires, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Even severe storms or droughts may create a challenge.
- Human-caused disasters, including acts of war or terrorism, major accidents, or civil unrest or rioting.
- Hyper-local events, including building fires or infrastructure damage.
- Technical disasters, including cybercrimes such as ransomware, data breaches or failures of hardware or other systems.
- Mass trauma events, such as local, regional, or global disease outbreak.
Why Is Disaster Recovery Planning Important?
Disruptions can be costly for your business, and those costs aren’t limited to monetary considerations. The IDC conducted a study on the state of disaster readiness among businesses. It asked businesses that had experienced data loss or disruption about the consequences of those events.
Almost half of the organizations reported paying extra employee overtime as staff worked to remediate and recover from data disruption. Other consequences included:
- Reduced productivity
- Loss of revenue
- A negative impact to customer experience
- Damage to brand reputation
- Loss of customers
- Direct costs of recovery, including paying for equipment or consultants
You may not be able to mitigate all issues completely with a disaster response plan. But being prepared goes a long way, especially when it comes to future-facing concerns such as brand reputation and customer experience.
What Should a Disaster Recovery Plan Include?
Every disaster response plan is unique. That’s because every business is unique. But consider including:
- A review of business-critical functions. You should know what processes are required to maintain minimum viable business during or immediately following a disaster. You also want to know what processes and data are most important to get back online faster.
- A list of all events that might negatively impact your business so you can plan with those risks in mind. Don’t forget to include internal issues, such as a security breach caused by accidental disclosure.
- Processes and procedures for mitigation and recovery efforts. Documenting these decisions ensures people can turn to the disaster recovery plan as needed to take appropriate action.
- Communication plans that detail when disaster response efforts should begin and who is responsible for communicating information.
It’s a good idea to review your disaster response plan each year. Take time to make updates to ensure the plan aligns with the current scope and needs of your business. You should test your plans to ensure they work before a disaster strikes.
How Does a Technical Disaster Response Work?
While disaster response may involve strategic resources for all parts of the business, tech departments tend to bear the heaviest burden. That’s because there are many types of disaster response planning, but all of them involve securing data.
This is where a managed service provider such as iwerk can play an important role. Outsourcing disaster recovery efforts lets you attend to the business needs and growth of today knowing you’re protected should something happen tomorrow.
Here are some ways the right technology service provider can help you safeguard data and support business continuity.
Data backups involve regularly copying data onto alternate locations and preserving version history. This can include physical devices, cloud services or even tape.
It is critical that a backup is air-gapped. This is a term that means backup data is kept completely separate and inaccessible from the daily business environment. Air-gapping ensures that if a data breach or ransomware issue occurs — or if business system data is destroyed or corrupted in any event — you have a separate and clean backup to turn to.
This solution only backs up data, though. Infrastructure isn’t safeguarded.
The data is also only safeguarded to the point it was backed up. If you back up once a day, you can have up to 24 hours of data lost in a disaster event.
Managing data backups can be cumbersome in-house. You can work with a third party to reduce the burden of data backups on your internal resources, but that still doesn’t solve the infrastructure risk.
Cold, Warm, and Hot Sites
Cold sites are secondary worksites that include the infrastructure needed to support business processes. One example is an office employees can use if a fire or flood damages their normal workspace.
This method duplicates infrastructure. But it doesn’t address data backup or access. It would need to be paired with a method of data replication.
A hot site is a secondary location that also maintains data backups. Maintaining a hot site can be expensive, though, as it must include active servers that sync with main datacenters. You have to attend to it constantly, possibly having some staff members on site daily to ensure its success when the time comes.
Warm sites rest between cold and hot sites. They have servers ready to deploy an production environment, but they’re not actively synced with main datacenters. Because of this, a warm site might take longer to deploy fully in a disaster response scenario than a hot site.
Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)
DRaaS works like Software as a Service. You buy a subscription or pay-per-use plan with a DRaaS provider. The provider moves your business setup to the cloud.
One big benefit of this option is that cloud-based processes support operation during some downtimes. They also make it easier to get back up to speed following a disaster.
DRaaS isn’t completely fail-safe, though. If the provider’s resources are within the path of a natural disaster too, you can still experience a business interruption. You also still must contend with the infrastructure interruption in your place of business.
Virtualization technology allows for one single physical device or server to emulate the function of multiple devices or servers. This reduces physical hardware needs, and this technology can be used to replicate your entire computing environment into off-site virtual servers. One benefit is that virtualization can be automated to a certain degree to help bring services back online faster than with other methods. Virtualization does require close attention and dedication to the overall setup and plan, though.
Snapshots of databases can be captured on a periodic basis. If an attack or other event results in data loss or corruption, the database can be rolled back to the last good capture.
Obviously, this does result in lost data. Anything modified after the last good data capture may need to be recreated.
This method is similar to point-in-time data recovery. But instead of capturing information in specific databases, it covers the entire virtual machine. That does require a comprehensive setup, but it can save your business time and money during or after a disaster.
How Can iwerk Help?
For many businesses, a multi-faceted approach to disaster response planning is required, but it can be a highly technical and tedious process.
iwerk can help by:
- Learning how you work and architecting a business continuity plan that fits your organization’s requirements
- Selecting the right products and vendors to support your BC plans and disaster responses
- Setting up methods of data backup and recovery
- Configuring your cloud, server, and network infrastructure to support the plan
- Ensuring compliance requirements are identified and met or exceeded
- Testing your plan so you know what it takes and how long it takes
Start the process of safeguarding your business and its data. Contact us today.