Tips for Disaster Recovery Planning
There’s no other way about it: as businesses, we are reliant on our technology. Just ask anyone who’s been through a network outage during the middle of the day. It can render your day almost a total loss. The good news is that those typically only last a couple of hours. But what’s your plan in the case of an extended outage?
Could your business survive and operate “business as usual” in the face of a disaster? Be it the next devastating hurricane, a new wave of wildfires, an earthquake, flood, or volcano – or a massive cyber attack. The threat is real, and it can come in many forms, at any time.
Dramatic, we know. But there’s never been a more pressing time to have a disaster recovery plan for your business.
Between the cyber threats facing the market today to the natural disasters that seem to be growing in number and strength, preparedness and business continuity is Business Strategy 101.
And yet, so many organizations overlook their disaster recovery plans.
To help, we’ve made a list to help you develop a well-rounded business continuity strategy.
Business Continuity Planning
Preparing Your Business
- Identify Potential Risk Areas
What threats are most likely to face your business? Do you live in Colorado where wildfires are commonplace, or in the middle of “Tornado Alley”? Focus on developing plans to address your areas of highest risk – including, but not limited to, the natural disasters that are common in your area. But remember that unexpected hacks and electrical fires can be just as damaging to your business.
- Outline the Trickle-Down Effect
For each risk type, there will be differing outcomes. For example, a flood or natural disaster may keep you from receiving your inventory shipments. The “trickle-down” effect would be an inability to fulfill orders.
Alternatively, a ransomware attack would likely not deter your ability to fulfill, but it may affect your processing or access to documents or tools.
Think through and outline the cause-and-effect. How would this affect the continuity of your daily operations? What steps can you take to ensure that if you cannot fulfill an order, that you can still make sales?
- Document & Communicate
Starting with your areas of highest risk, document your continuity plan. We suggest focusing first on your core business functions – like your ability to earn revenue, serve customers, and manage your supply chain. Prioritize high impact processes, and look for potential disruptions to productivity, compliance, revenue, and reputation.
If you cannot receive or fulfill shipments, but you still have the ability to process orders, can you establish an emergency drop ship plan with your key suppliers? Planning ahead allows for a much smoother process should you ever need to use it.
Outline your emergency strategy, and communicate it both internally and externally. It’s a good idea to have your communication plan outlined and templated in advance so your team is not scrambling to write last minute notices to customers and suppliers in the moment. For internal communication, call or text “trees” are an efficient way to get the message out to your team in the case of a weather-related office closure or emergency.
- Prepare Your Tech
A key component of any disaster recovery plan is your tech and tools. It’s also the piece most commonly overlooked.
Running your business in the cloud is an effective way to prepare for the unexpected. Anywhere, anytime access to your key information and systems is a major benefit to cloud-based tools. Collaboration tools like Microsoft Office 365 make meeting from afar a breeze, and cloud storage keeps all your key data easily accessible when going to the office is out of the question. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solutions like Azure allow for built-in security and easy management of your IT environment in the cloud.
Of course, it’s not the cloud or nothing. Your network and IT need extra care in the case of a business disruption. Here are a few areas to keep in mind, especially if you’re running in a more traditional environment.
Preparing Your Environment
- Backups alone are not enough.
Backing up your data is great. But if that’s your sole source of IT business continuity planning, you’ll be sadly disappointed when it comes time to recover.
In the case of a true disaster, you need an operational environment to continue running your business. Raw data backups will hardly do the trick.
Problems, mistakes, and errors are all par for the course when building and testing a recovery environment. Test ahead so your recovery will run smoothly at the time of a disruption – particularly if you fall victim to a hack or ransomware attack.
- Leverage useful technologies.
Virtualization can be a great tool to utilize in your disaster recovery planning. It essentially creates a virtual environment that can remain separate from your physical environment. If your data is stored in an on-premises server room, a virtual production in the cloud can allow for quick recovery time in the case of a server failure, fire, or flood. Point in time backups and replication are made easy with some of today’s leading virtualization tools.
- Look outside your office.
Using a shared data center can offload some of the logistics and costs associated with your business’s data storage and recovery. These shared location services provide businesses with space, power, security, and connectivity. You essentially provide your own servers and software, and leverage outside resources for the rest. This is great for flexibility, but it does require management and maintenance from your own IT department. When exploring co-location data center options, look for a facility with a high-speed network and redundant backbone.
- Test and retest often.
Successful testing is the desired outcome for any disaster recovery plan. Testing your network and IT environment recovery process means documenting, just like your business processes. Create an IT checklist including your infrastructure, applications, and business processes for recovery.
Test at least annually. No one wants to be in the midst of a disaster situation and not know how to restore your environment. Regular refreshers and tests will ensure your process and tech is up to snuff with the needs of your business. Avoid costly downtime by preparing ahead, training your staff, and testing at a regular cadence.
While you’re at it, do you know the overall health of your IT environment? Test it now!