2024 Gartner® report: Tips to bolster your disaster recovery program
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May 27, 2024

How to create a disaster recovery plan for your company: A comprehensive guide

Disaster recovery plans (DRPs) are a necessity to ensure your company is prepared for the unexpected. Whether it’s an outage, failure, or other type of disaster event, you need a well-documented disaster recovery plan to get systems back online. Understanding how to write a disaster recovery plan is crucial for effective preparation.

This article provides a comprehensive guide on how to create a disaster recovery plan. It highlights key things to consider when implementing your plan, ways to enhance DRPs with templates, disaster recovery plan testing scenarios and technology and solutions to help you build an effective DRP. 

The importance of having an IT disaster recovery plan

Avoiding negative impacts from disasters is all about preparedness. Should an IT disaster event or outage occur, you need to ensure your company can minimize interruptions and recover all applications and systems as quickly as possible. The IT disaster recovery plan, whether cloud based or on-premises, is the roadmap to get you there. Without a DRP, your team will be flying blind. This could cause an overlap of actions or even worse, missed steps. 

Assessing your business requirements

Before you create a disaster recovery plan (DRP), you need to review your business requirements. Typically, this includes conducting a business impact assessment and a risk analysis.

  • A Business Impact Analysis (BIA) identifies the impacts of disruptive events and generates recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO).
  • A risk analysis (RA) identifies the threats and vulnerabilities that can disrupt the operations of systems and processes highlighted in the BIA; it also assesses the likelihood of a disruptive event and outlines its potential severity.

The BIA is the starting point for identifying risks during an IT disaster recovery. 

Server and infrastructure considerations

A well thought out IT disaster recovery plan will include server and infrastructure requirements including IT equipment (hardware and software), data, facilities that house the infrastructure, and personnel. 

If you manage cloud workloads and a cloud disaster recovery plan, your cloud service provider (CSP) handles the hardware and personnel managing the maintenance of the infrastructure. However, the workloads, security, middleware and operating systems are still the responsibility of the business, not the CSP. 

Key components of a disaster recovery plan

The steps in a disaster recovery plan outline the comprehensive instructions on how to respond to unplanned disaster events including what to do during and after a disaster event/scenario. Here are some key components of a disaster recovery plan:

  • Inventory of IT assets 
  • Business requirement assessments
  • Recovery benchmarks or goals: RTO and RPO
  • Backup operations
  • Communication plan
  • Recovery procedures
  • Automated runbooks
  • Recovery testing plan 

Crafting your disaster recovery plan

We’ve already covered some of the prep work required before you create a disaster recovery plan and the key components needed. While each business may put a unique spin on crafting the DRP, the creation process is comprehensive and will typically include the following:

  • An audit of all IT systems, resources and assets
  • A document with the step-by-step procedure to bring each application or workload (if in the cloud) back online
  • Gaining alignment and buy-in from executives, leadership, and shareholders

The last item is crucial. Once IT leaders outline the process, it’s essential to ensure that executive leadership understands the importance of the recovery process, timelines and metrics to measure against. As the saying goes, you can’t track what you can’t measure. 

Key considerations to writing a DRP for your company

As mentioned above, thinking about how to create a disaster recovery plan is a comprehensive process. Often, businesses store DRPs in static documents like spreadsheets and word documents, or webpages like Confluence. These formats only provide the functionality to manually create lists of tasks which makes missing a critical step or other mistakes caused by human error more likely. 

Automated runbooks and recovery platforms provide a central solution for execution and standardization and automate manual tasks to reduce potential errors. 

Here are some key considerations when writing a DRP: 

  • What format will you use to make sure DRPs are clear and consistent?
  • Where will you store DRPs to easily find them? 
  • How frequently will you review and test them to incorporate updates and improvements? 
  • Who needs to be involved in the creation and approval process of each DRP?

For a step-by-step guide on how to create a disaster recovery plan, read about creating an IT disaster recovery plan template in 6 steps. 

Templates and tools

Technology and DRP templates can help you simplify, automate, and accelerate the DRP creation and execution process. Even a simple IT disaster recovery plan template can provide great benefits by helping to standardize the process and ensure that all the required steps for your disaster recovery procedure are followed. 

Technology tools, like automated recovery solutions, help you save time by: 

  • Centralizing all recovery templates in one repository
  • Managing all recovery tasks in one platform
  • Automating manual, repetitive recovery tasks 
  • Executing the DRPs more easily 
  • Tracking and measuring recovery results with reports and dashboards 

Conducting an IT disaster recovery test successfully

IT disaster recovery testing is imperative to ensure that your business can face an outage or disaster event and recover in a timely manner. 

Types of disaster recovery testing

There are various disaster recovery testing types. Each evaluates either IT systems functional components or performance, or both. Here are a few disaster recovery testing types: 

  • Tabletop exercises - walk through and discuss all components of the DRP 
  • Simulation testing - disaster scenarios are simulated in a controlled environment
  • Full scale testing - shifts the entire infrastructure to the alternative site (data center or cloud region) to validate that the DRP works, verifies readiness and can handle production load 

Objectives of a disaster recovery test

The ultimate goal of an IT disaster recovery test is to ensure that when a disaster event or outage occurs, you can fully recover critical IT systems, quickly and with minimal damage. There are a few disaster recovery test objectives including:

  • The validation that recovery time actuals, or RTAs, meet recovery goals, or RTOs. 
  • Gaining familiarity with the process and tooling and for the business to stress its systems and people to identify areas of improvement for your DRP before an outage occurs
  • Accurately mirror how the enterprise would respond in a real incident with unannounced testing

Maintaining and updating your DRP

Once you understand how to create a disaster recovery plan, create the draft, and execute a disaster recovery simulation test, you may think it’s time to take a break. 

It’s important to remember that disaster recovery planning is not a one and done action. As your business changes, it’s important to update your DRP to account for any new IT systems or decommissions, personnel changes or other factors that could affect your recovery. A best practice is to review your company’s disaster recovery plan example at least once per year and make any required changes and updates. 

How Cutover can help with your company's disaster recovery plan process

Cutover provides disaster recovery planning software with automated runbooks to help you standardize disaster recovery plans and accelerate recovery execution. The platform provides a central repository and the automated runbooks connect teams and the technology recovery stack to increase efficiency, reduce errors and recover faster. To learn more today, schedule a demo. 

IT Disaster Recovery
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