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IT Disaster Recovery Plans

How would your business cope if it became the victim of a data breach, cyberattack, or even a natural disaster? Discover what a disaster recovery plan is and how to implement one in your business with our useful guide.

Written by Avast Business Team
Published on May 18, 2022

What is a disaster recovery plan?

Disaster recovery plans (DRPs) are evolving policies or processes that define how organizations should effectively respond to data breaches or exploits that impact service delivery. They must also identify the actions needed to ensure robust critical IT systems and networks, such as reconfiguring systems and existing networks applications, as well as recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery report objectives (RPOs).

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    A robust DRP should address three elements to optimize delivery:

    1. Emergency response procedures — to mitigate or reduce the impact of a physical or virtual disaster by providing detailed emergency response requirements.

    2. Backup operations — to ensure all operations can come back online with minimal impact following a disaster.

    3. Recovery actions procedures — to get all data and systems restored as soon as possible.

    Regular testing will also ensure an organization has implemented an effective procedure.

    Types of disaster recovery plans

    There are many types of IT disaster recovery plans. A DRP checklist should incorporate key actions and the responsibilities of disaster recovery members. Several further key steps will also need to be taken:

    • An operational risk analysis (RA) and business impact analysis (BIA) should be completed to assess long-term objectives and include assessments of location (single or multiple sites), power systems, and security. A BIA should also include data recovery and protection capabilities.

    • Following this, recovery strategies that underpin the DRP process will aim to mitigate risk and potential downtime, ensure that data is recoverable, and minimize the financial impact.

    An IT recovery plan can form part of a wider Business Continuity Plan (BCP), which explains contingency plans for all areas of operations. A BCP should detail how a business looks to get up and running following a disruption in operations. Separate from a DRP, it also houses contingency plans for all areas of the business which may be impacted. It could therefore take longer for businesses to get back up and running, or resume working at all.

    There are seven tiers of disaster recovery for safeguarding business continuity, with the highest tier providing the optimum solution:

    • Tier 0: No off-site backup — the risk of full data loss

      Companies with a Tier 0 business continuity solution have no backup data or on-site backups only. Depending on the disaster, this could mean full data loss or lengthy recovery times.

    • Tier 1: Data backup with no hot site

      Businesses back up their data, which is sent to an off-site storage facility or vault. Businesses that adopt this method will face up to several weeks of data loss and recovery activity.

    • Tier 2: Data backup with a hot site

      Through Tier 2, businesses regularly make backups, which are housed in an off-site facility and infrastructure (hot site) to restore systems. While the recovery time is easier to predict, this solution will result in several hours or even days' worth of data to restore.

    • Tier 3: Electronic vaulting

      This enables data to become copied to a remote server (or electronic vault). However, bandwidth capabilities may affect your ability to backup all data – you will need to prioritize critical systems.

    • Tier 4: Point-in-time copies

      Tier 4 solutions harness disk-based solutions. Disk-based backup data is created and stored both on-site and off-site. This is known as a point-in-time copy as it will only reflect the data available at the time the backup is made.

    • Tier 5: Transaction integrity

      Tier 5 solutions enable data to regularly flow between the primary and secondary data centers.

    • Tier 6: Zero to near-zero data loss

      For businesses that cannot risk any potential data loss and need systems to be restored, Tier 6 solutions require disk-mirroring – real-time hard disk backups that ensure uninterrupted data access.

    • Tier 7: Automated, business integrated solution

      Including all the features within Tier 6, Tier 7 incorporates automation to help restore systems and applications efficiently.

    It will be helpful as a part of your planning to assess the tier that is relevant to your business now and consider how you can work towards a more robust DRP at a higher tier.

    Cloud disaster recovery plans

    Cloud-based systems reduce or remove the need for conventional IT infrastructure where data is stored locally on servers, computers, laptops, or mobile devices. This can reduce costs and enable organizations to access data remotely.

    Incorporating the entire server, cloud DRPs can provide faster recovery times, reduce the need for manual updates to operating systems, and all applications and data can be more easily transferred from one data center to another.

    Cloud-based security services can also deliver robust data security across the entire network, rather than individual devices, covering all policies and procedures.

    Network disaster recovery plans

    Developed by network administrators, network disaster recovery plans are implemented following a disaster to reinstate its operations quickly and effectively. Areas within network disaster recovery planning include all servers, network applications, and services, as well as Local Area Networks, Wide Area Networks, and wireless networks.

    The following steps must also be considered:

    • Outline the process required to enable rapid network recovery, alongside its purpose and scope to deliver business continuity and long-term objectives.

    • Identify the contacts who will be responsible for ensuring network disaster recovery.

    • Identify critical infrastructure assets and network services that may be impacted.

    • Assess the reasons for network failure and potential risks and threats to future delivery.

    • Analyze recovery time objectives and recovery report objectives to decide on the most appropriate disaster recovery strategy.

    • Implement backup network reconfiguration files and network infrastructure (for example by installing data protection software).

    • Regularly test the plan and document each step in the process.

    Virtualized disaster recovery plans

    Virtualizing a DRP can make the recovery process more efficient by separating key systems onto virtual machines (VMs). When key systems are kept isolated, they are less likely to be affected by the same disaster that has impacted the primary infrastructure and can minimize downtime.

    Following a data breach or other unexpected event, a business disaster recovery process must identify and monitor all VMs to ensure they are not affected.

    Data center disaster recovery plans

    By protecting data from unexpected events that could damage or corrupt software, hardware, or existing data, a data center disaster recovery strategy may include the following steps:

    • A business impact analysis to establish critical data and applications and their associated costs when critical systems are impacted.

    • Recovery objectives to assess the acceptable downtime period before impacting business operations and the time required to reinstate operations.

    Your business disaster recovery plan: the key steps

    Here are key steps for creating a DRP for your organization:

    1. Evaluate key goals and objectives

      Developing a clear set of goals will allow you to streamline key targets before and after a disaster.

      • Recovery time objectives (RTOs) detail the time you identify is acceptable to be “offline” without impacting business continuity.

      • Recovery report objectives (RPOs) cover the data that must be sourced from storage to support everyday operations, and how much data your company can lose without impacting business operations.

      Creating a list of mission-critical operations will help you to pinpoint the costs of potential downtime and the long-term effects.

    2. Personnel

      It will be vital for businesses to outline the personnel who are responsible for implementing the DR plan. This should include contingencies in the event of absence or sickness.

    3. IT inventory

      An IT inventory must incorporate all hardware and software owned and operated by your organization, including off-site storage location equipment and recovery locations, and virtual machines or cloud systems. This will also enable you to identify critical assets and develop processes for recovery.

    4. Backup capabilities

      To ensure data can be protected following a disaster, a DRP must detail how each resource is supported and backed up, and how the data can be salvaged or restored.

    5. Disaster recovery processes and disaster recovery locations

      Disaster recovery processes, separate from backup capabilities, should outline all emergency responses, such as mitigation to ongoing cybersecurity risks.

      A disaster recovery plan should also detail the location of a hot disaster recovery site, where data can be replicated if required to reduce operational downtime. This should also note how the data can be accessed remotely.

    6. Restoration procedures

      To ensure a business can fully recover and get back online swiftly, restoration procedures should be detailed for a range of disasters – whether physical, such as flooding, or virtual, such as a ransomware attack or server failure.

      This section should note:

      • How cloud backup systems or external disaster recovery services will be utilized.

      • How changes to the system will be documented once rebuilt.

      • How procedures must be adapted to suit remote access.

      • The employees who are authorized to access additional guidance or information about the recovery process.

      All IT staff should be familiar with these disaster recovery strategies and have access to data relevant to achieving the objectives of a disaster recovery plan.

    7. Testing the plan

      Regular testing will ensure that plans remain up to date and fit for purpose. Such tests may include disaster recovery plan checklist tests, simulation tests, full interruption tests, and parallel tests.

    Why is a disaster recovery plan important?

    A disaster recovery plan underpins the success of any business by preventing or minimizing the operational or financial impact on a business. The Equifax data breach exposed the private information of 143 million Americans. Data breach costs also rose from $3.86 million to $4.24 million in 2021, the highest average cost in 17 years, and will continue to rise.

    Without a disaster recovery policy, your business could face:

    • Damage to reputation

    • Loss of data

    • Loss of clients

    • Increased downtime and reduced productivity

    • Potential fines relating to compliance

    A disaster recovery plan enables organizations to recover quickly if disaster strikes, and supports wider business goals, such as:

    • Cost efficiency and increased productivity, especially when utilizing cloud-based data management systems

    • High-quality service and reputation, leading to customer retention and loyalty

    • Compliancy

    • Ability to scale

    The monetary value of one person’s data varies. Some suggest it’s worth more than $240 per year . As an industry, data brokerage garners $156 billion annually.

    Keep your network safe with Cloud Backup

    Disaster recovery is a solution for when the worst happens, but preparation is just as important. Secure your business data, reduce potential downtime, and enable critical information to be accessed anytime, anywhere with Avast Business Cloud Backup.

    Get enterprise-grade security for your business with Avast Business Hub


    Get enterprise-grade security for your business with Avast Business Hub

    Avast Business Team