2024 Gartner® report: Tips to bolster your disaster recovery program
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July 4, 2024

Data center disaster recovery: Crafting effective strategies and processes

Effective data center disaster recovery is essential for organizations to protect themselves from the adverse effects of a number of risks, including network and power outages, system failures, human error and cyber attacks. It is a key component of your overall IT disaster recovery (IT DR) strategy.

This article will outline the fundamentals of data disaster recovery, effective strategies to use, how to implement your disaster recovery plan, and best practices.

The foundations of data center disaster recovery

What is data center disaster recovery? 

As part of IT DR, data center disaster recovery is how an organization recovers and restores its technology infrastructure and operations when its primary data center becomes unavailable. It relies on the replication of data and processing to a secondary location that has not been affected.

What does data center disaster recovery involve?

Preparation for data center disaster recovery involves the following steps:

  1. Conduct a risk assessment and business impact analysis to identify potential threats and vulnerabilities that could impact your data centers and determine how to prioritize your systems and applications based on their criticality and how much downtime is acceptable for each.
  2. Build your disaster recovery plan, outlining the procedures for responding to various types of disasters. Include roles and responsibilities across the team, a communications plan, and step-by-step recovery instructions for restoring data, applications, and systems. Store these plans in a central location and update them regularly so they are ready to go when disaster strikes.
  3. Ensure that you are regularly backing up your data and storing it in multiple locations to prevent data loss during an outage. Implement redundant power supplies, network connections, and hardware to ensure continuous availability and minimize single points of failure.
  4. Regularly test your data disaster recovery plan in a way that reflects how you would recover during a real incident, involving the people who would conduct the recovery in a real scenario.
  5. Collect data after every test and recovery to monitor success and continuously improve.

Types of disasters that can impact data centers

Cyber attacks

According to government data, 58% of large UK businesses have experienced cyber crime in the last 12 months, while in the US there have been 5,136,645,282 known records breached so far this year. In other words, cyber attacks are a huge risk to businesses and they’re not going away any time soon.

Cyber attacks add a layer of complexity to data center disaster recovery as certain procedures such as automatic failover could result in duplicating ransomware onto other sites. Even if ransoms are paid and hackers return access to systems, there can still be a lengthy recovery process to get back up and running.

Software failures and human error

Software bugs and misconfigurations by operations staff can also lead to outages that require disaster recovery. For example, an update to code that has unexpected knock-on effects on customer-facing technology. This is where the importance of regular backups comes in, allowing you to fail back to a previous version of your code without the error present.

Natural disasters

Fire, floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters can all physically impact data centers and cause them to go down, for example through a power outage. Certain measures can be taken to reduce this impact, such as locating data centers in low-risk areas and building in fire safety precautions and backup power generators. In the case of an outage caused by a natural disaster, rapid failover to a secondary site is needed to minimize financial loss, retain customer satisfaction and protect corporate reputation. 

Effective strategies for data center disaster recovery

So how can you ensure an effective data center disaster recovery?

Planning and data backup

The key to a successful data disaster recovery is preparation. To be confident in your ability to failover your data center operations during an emergency you must first have the right plans and measures in place.

Begin with a business impact analysis to understand what your organization’s biggest risks are so you can develop a plan to recover from the most prominent ones. Tier your applications by criticality to prioritize which need to be recovered first during an outage. 

Regular data backups are essential. More critical services will require more frequent backups to ensure minimal data loss in the event of a disaster.

Implementing a disaster recovery plan

Having an effective disaster recovery plan is essential to ensure your data center failover and recovery runs smoothly. Here’s how to implement one effectively:

Your data center disaster recovery checklist

The key components to creating a data disaster recovery plan:

  • Inventory applications by criticality
  • Build automated and executable runbooks
  • Manage and track recovery metrics
  • Integrate the technology recover stack
  • Reference the organizational design and personnel plan
  • Conduct post-recovery event reviews

Find out more about these steps from the key components to include in an IT disaster recovery plan checklist.

Data center disaster recovery best practices

  • Regularly conduct data disaster recovery testing
  • Regularly back up your data to avoid a high level of data loss during a disaster
  • Ensure good communications and visibility
  • Use the right IT disaster recovery solution

Cutover’s automated disaster recovery software enables enterprises to simplify complexity, streamline work, and increase visibility. Cutover’s automated runbooks connect teams, technology, and systems, increasing efficiency and reducing risk in IT disaster recovery. Cutover is trusted by world-leading institutions, including the three largest US banks and three of the world’s five largest investment banks.

Chloe Lovatt
IT Disaster Recovery
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