Some days, you glance at the news headlines and it feels like the world is a steady stream of one horrific disaster after another. But looking at it pragmatically, although the world is admittedly intense right now, we also have a lot of power to direct how and if certain events impact our organizations.

One of the keys to minimizing and mitigating risk in this unstable business climate is taking a proactive approach to security and data protection by creating a disaster recovery strategy long before you need it (and chances are good you WILL need it).

The Importance of a Disaster Recovery Strategy

Different types of disasters require different clean-up approaches, but what they all have in common is how they can impact your business if you don’t have a disaster recovery strategy in place.  

The impact of a disaster on an organization can be direct (e.g., loss of revenue) or indirect (e.g., reputational damage), financial (e.g., a hefty ransom payment) or less tangible (e.g., diminished standing in the marketplace). 

If the disruption to the business is extensive enough, the combination of all of these impacts could even cause a company to fail.

When you also factor in other potential consequences of a disaster—such as data loss, theft, or exposure—the financial, legal, and ethical implications of a security event or disruption are enormous. 

How to Create a Rock-Solid Disaster Recovery Strategy

But don’t let the grim tone fool you; there is plenty you can do to minimize the negative impact of a disaster on your business. You just need to build a knowledge base that can be used to create and support a rock-solid disaster recovery strategy.

Here are eight things you need to know to implement an effective, efficient disaster recovery plan:

1. The Difference Between Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

The main difference between disaster recovery and business continuity is the stage in which they occur. 

The business continuity plan should trigger as soon as there’s a problem to ensure minimal interruption to services and operations. Disaster recovery kicks in later, after the initial threat abates, to finish restoring business functions and technology. 

2. What You Are Recovering

Taking a complete inventory of all of the assets and resources in your business’s IT infrastructure is a crucial step toward making a full recovery. This process is more difficult now thanks to the mass pivot to remote work, but this inventory is essential to disaster recovery and well worth the effort.

3. Which Applications and Data Are Mission-Critical

Recovering from a disaster requires a lot of prioritization. Knowing which applications, files, and systems (and their dependencies) require the highest level of protection and fastest restoration will speed up recovery and eliminate wasted resources.

4. Who Is in Charge of What

Appointing a disaster recovery team is step one in the plan. This group will spearhead recovery efforts and employee training, so be sure to include representation from all levels and business lines in the organization.

5. What the Recovery Goals Are

Recovery point objectives (RPO) and recovery time objectives (RTO) drive a lot of decision-making during a disaster. These are the metrics that define how much data can be lost (RPO) and how long an application can be down (RTO) before the business is significantly harmed.

Setting appropriate RPOs and RTOs ensures business-critical functions are back up and running quickly with minimal data loss.

6. Where You Are Backing up Data

Secure backups are your lifeline in disaster recovery. Without this data, resuming normal operations quickly is next to impossible. Backing up to the cloud is one of the best ways to protect data because the cloud is off-site and won’t be affected by localized threats, and the files can be air-gapped to ensure the data is untouchable during a ransomware attack.

7. If the Disaster Recovery Plan Works

If you don’t test the disaster recovery plan to make sure it works, then you might as well not make a plan at all.

Although it isn’t necessary to test the plan end to end every time, you should set a schedule to ensure all parts of the plan are tested and reviewed regularly to identify any gaps or changes that need to be made.

It is also a good idea to conduct surprise testing to gauge employee preparedness in the event of a real disaster.

8. How Recovery Efforts Change Based on Type of Disaster

There are many different ways disaster can strike your organization, and IT needs to be ready with a plan to recover from all of them.

How you protect business-critical data and systems from a hurricane looks a lot different than how you recover from a ransomware attack, which is entirely different from how you get the network back up and running after a server upgrade goes awry.

Businesses are navigating many kinds of threats as we continue to find our footing post-pandemic. Ensuring your organization has a current, well-tested disaster recovery plan in place provides peace of mind that your data is protected and you can get the business back up and running quickly. 

Download The 2020 Data Attack Surface Report to learn more about why you need a data protection and recovery strategy and from what you are protecting your data.

Download The 2020 Data Attack Surface Report