How to Create a Disaster Plan for Your Business
What would happen to your business if a disaster rendered your office building unusable? What about a data loss event that caused your company’s data to be lost or unavailable? Do you have a contingency plan to make sure your business is protected? These plans can be as complex or simple as you need them to be.
However, when creating an IT Disaster Recovery Plan, there are a few essential elements you need to know before you create one.
- How much will your down time cost you?
You need to know what’s at stake for your business. How much would it cost to have your employees not working because you’ve lost technology or a bad virus has infiltrated your systems? If this ever happens, you’ll need to know your cost of downtime in order to establish the right recovery objectives required to get your business back up and running in the time frame acceptable to your organization. We have a downtime calculator that you can use to estimate what those costs will be.
- What do you want to protect your business against?
What is the risk of having a natural disaster at your place of business? In a place like California, earthquakes are more likely than most areas of the country. Earthquakes could cause many infrastructure problems causing days or weeks of downtime. In the southern region of the US, you have tropical storms and hurricanes that can cause wind and flood damage-- destroying data, offices and equipment. How about data corruption? Viruses and malware can infect files for long periods of time before they are detected. To protect against several different disaster scenarios, there may be multiple recovery procedures required to recover from each scenario. Assessing which disaster scenarios that are most likely to affect your business is a key component to creating an effective disaster recovery plan.
- What do you want to protect?
Depending on the size of your business, you’ll need to identify and document the data you need to backup, and which systems require additional redundancy. In a previous article [link to email article above], we’ve outlined how tricky it can be to backup various data types. Databases, user files and email backups need to be protected in a way that protects against the identified threats. For example, consider your email backups. Are you protecting the email messages or just the email database? Other issues arise when companies do not have multiple versions of their backups. This is especially relevant for cases when viruses, corruption or malware infect your systems. In other words you’ll want to protect against more than just natural disasters. [Link to back up article]
- What do you do once a disaster or issue arises?
This is the part of your plan where you outline “who” does “what” and “when.” Consider questions like; which employees will be in charge of what tasks? Who will call vendors to assess the damage to the IT equipment? Who will contact customers to inform them that a disaster occurred but that you’ll be up and running shortly? Who will be the central point of contact or the person in charge of communicating with the IT department or the professionals who will come to fix or replace the damaged equipment?
All of these things are required to minimize your risk of downtime and make the restoration process go smoothly. You’ll also want to make sure you have a list of the necessary contact information for each team member, company or vendor.
- Test the plan, then manage.
You’ll want to go through the plan to verify the plan actually works. Things look great on paper, but they don’t always execute the way we want. By testing the plan you’ll know which pieces are working well and which parts need some improvement.
When managing the plan, you’re scheduling time to go over it and make sure it’s still relevant. Have you changed any IT hardware, vendors, or applications in the last few months? There might be a better or different way to backup or recover that system or data if a disaster were to occur.
At a minimum, an IT disaster recovery plan has to cover the above listed items. A potential disaster could take as little as an hour or up to several days to recover. Regardless of the size and scope of the disaster, having these items documented will go a long way to helping you recover faster and with less stress.
If you would like more direction, we have a worksheet we can send to you in order to start creating your plan. Click here to grab the worksheet. Also feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us to send you the Disaster Planning Worksheet.