When it comes to operational disaster, it’s never a case of “Will it happen?”, it’s only a matter of when. Whether it's the result of external threats or internal failures, there’ll be a day when you need to take immediate action to ensure business continuity.
A well-tested and thought-out IT disaster recovery (DR) plan is essential to making sure your business can handle large-scale disruptions efficiently. If a disaster occurs and your organization isn’t prepared for a loss of service, it may have serious repercussions, including data loss, customer dissatisfaction, or potential fines.
That’s why it’s important that your organization takes steps to make its processes and operations as secure as possible. In this article, we’ll cover the types of disasters that businesses could face, the potential impact of disasters, and the roles and benefits of a readily available DR team.
What disaster recovery means and why it’s important
Disaster recovery is the process of maintaining a business’s crucial infrastructure and systems when it's challenged by an unexpected internal or external threat. This usually involves transferring all operations from the primary data center to the secondary data center, while a specialist team works to get systems back up and running.
Disaster recovery matters to your business and your customers. Here are a few reasons why having a comprehensive DR plan is important when faced with a crisis:
- Maintains customer retention: If customers are unable to access your services in the event of a disaster, they may question your organization’s reliability and security, especially if it impacts the businesses for a prolonged period of time. On the other hand, if your company can continue providing its services while a crisis is taking place, customers will feel confident in your systems, practices, and security, therefore enhancing their trust and loyalty toward your company.
- Prevents money loss: A disaster can directly lead to income loss and decrease productivity if an established DR strategy isn’t in place. You can prevent losing money unnecessarily by implementing a robust, well-tested recovery plan that maintains productivity through business continuity and returns systems back to standard operations. Taking prompt action to fix the issue also helps to reduce recovery costs: If your recovery time actual (RTA) aligns with your recovery time objective (RTO), then you have utilized your resources to reach optimized efficiency.
- Enhances security: When considering the consequences of malware, ransomware, and other malicious intrusion methods, you need to ensure you undertake comprehensive risk assessments to reduce the impact these cyber threats may have. Integrating secure backup, data protection, and restoring processes into a DR strategy should significantly soften the blow by preventing data loss and protecting you against attacks before they begin.
How are businesses impacted by disasters?
A disaster could result in a slowdown, interruption, or total network outage in an IT system — leading to loss of service. The main disasters organizations encounter include:
- Natural disasters or extreme weather: Instances of fires, floods, earthquakes, blizzards, and other naturally induced disruptions can damage business property and cause physical on-premises systems to fail or impact supply chains.
- Failing hardware: Technological failures can result in downtime and loss of data. The impact of failing technology depends on the size and complexity of a system, as well as the speed at which it’s handled.
- Incompatible systems: When software or hardware systems do not coordinate with each other as expected, companies may experience processing errors, system downtime, and data inconsistencies.
- Cyberattacks: Malicious unauthorized access by third parties can cause data breaches, identity theft, and other forms of fraud. This can severely impact a company if it doesn't have effective cybersecurity measures in place.
- Human error: Mistakes are easily made, but not so easily fixed. Human error, such as mistakes in data entry, communication, or operations, can have sizable consequences and lead to potential disaster.
The essential elements of a disaster recovery plan
Not being able to provide services during a crisis can portray your security methods as weak and inefficient, causing your business to come to a halt. To enhance your reputation and form a robust, successful DR strategy, you’ll need to incorporate the following four elements:
- Communication: This is imperative to time-effective recovery. Without communication, it’s impossible to know the severity of the disaster, who’s taken action in what areas, and whether any progress is being made. Consider implementing a secure, centralized communication platform for better RTA results.
- Reliable backup: Disaster recovery requires backup you can depend on. It’s key to outline what needs to be backed up, who’s responsible for backing up data, and how the system should be implemented. In case a natural disaster damages physical infrastructure and hardware, backups shouldn’t be on-site.
- Timing: When it comes to business-threatening catastrophes, time is money. A strong DR plan should have a set RTO to aim for during recovery, and comparing this with the RTA after testing will outline the key areas of improvement. Timelines may differ depending on your industry — some take just minutes to overcome, while others may take longer.
- Regular testing: Make sure to test your DR plan at least once or twice a year so you can fix any inefficiencies and keep your teams in practice. You’ll also gain valuable insight into how your RTA compares with your RTO.
Check out our whitepaper to learn more about how to successfully execute a DR plan. But to carry one out, you’ll need a team of IT specialists who’ll be able to tackle the issues in prompt timing.
What do IT disaster recovery teams take care of?
IT DR teams handle the development, documentation, and execution of a disaster recovery plan. They are responsible for getting organizations back on their feet in the event of a crisis or system failure. When a situation arises, a disaster recovery team should handle the following components:
- Network and telecommunication equipment: Network disruption makes all business-related communications very difficult. For DR teams to fix network connections, they should first be familiar with your organization’s infrastructure and well versed in recovering operations. This will come with practice from regular testing.
- Servers: The team will be responsible for maintaining your server and operating systems (OS). They should know exactly what replication and backup technologies to use and know the differences between virtual and physical environments, as well as their implications for disaster recovery.
- Storage: Storage devices mainly relate to replication and data protection. Because the processing environment may not always be local, the team you take on should have experience in dealing with problems in both types of storage environments — virtual and physical.
- Databases: These centralized databases hold application data, as well as other data, and can operate on shared or individual servers. The DR team should have extensive knowledge of data protection to ensure it’s as secure as possible.
The roles and responsibilities of a disaster recovery team
To form a DR team, you’ll need to include the following positions:
Although executive management won’t need to be heavily involved in DR planning, it’s essential for them to be aware of implemented processes for oversight and approval purposes. Executives need to approve DR strategy, policy, budgets, and obstacle management plans.
Crisis management coordinator
This is a leadership role that involves overseeing data recovery management in the event of a disaster. A crisis management coordinator should:
- Initiate recovery plans.
- Communicate with their team.
- Form resolutions for problems that arise.
- Eliminate time-wasting factors.
- Coordinate recovery efforts from beginning to end.
Business continuity expert
A business continuity expert is integral to disaster recovery. They should lay out the foundations and strategy required to enable businesses to continue operations as fast as possible in the event of a catastrophe. Whether this entails transferring processes to the secondary data center or instigating full recovery, the individual in this role should handle business continuity management, make sure the DR plan aligns with business needs and confirm that critical components of the strategy are executed during the recovery process.
Impact assessment and recovery team
This team has the most responsibility in the recovery process as they have the most expertise. There should be four infrastructure representatives: networks, servers, storage, and databases, and each should be responsible for identifying, implementing, and testing the DR strategies and solutions.
IT applications monitor
The influence of the IT applications monitor depends on the established DR plans and crisis severity. The person in the position should understand which application tasks need executing according to the plan, including application integrations, data consistency, and app settings and configuration. They will then identify the next steps to recovery and form a plan that confronts errors in the business unit.
Cutover can help
Communication and connectivity are two of the biggest challenges when orchestrating disaster recovery. With Cutover’s Collaborative Automation SaaS platform, your IT DR team can connect with applications, technology, and each other easily in the event of a crisis. Our platform drives operational excellence by bringing teams and technology together to manage complex workloads with real-time visibility and control.