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Business Continuity Planning Disaster Recovery Plan Disaster Recovery Strategies

How to Build a Successful Disaster Recovery Strategy

Understand the critical role of a disaster recovery plan in protecting your business from costly downtime or disruptions.

In today’s climate, industries face various challenges, from geopolitical tensions to escalating cybersecurity threats. Despite the diverse nature of these challenges, one thing remains constant: the need for robust disaster recovery strategies. These strategies provide the framework for swiftly restoring business operations after unexpected events.

Globally, the adoption of disaster recovery strategies is on the rise. According to a recent report by the International Data Corporation (IDC), companies worldwide invested $219 billion solely in cybersecurity solutions last year, marking a 12% increase from 2022.

A disaster recovery strategy outlines your business’s response to unforeseen incidents. Robust disaster recovery strategies encompass disaster recovery plans (DR plans), business continuity plans (BCPs), and incident response plans (IRPs). Collectively, these documents bolster preparedness against a spectrum of threats, including power outages, ransomware and malware attacks, natural disasters, and more.

What is a disaster recovery plan (DRP)?

Disaster recovery plans (DRPs) are comprehensive documents outlining companies’ responses to various disasters. Companies usually develop DRPs internally or entrust their disaster recovery processes to third-party DRP vendors. Alongside business continuity plans (BCPs) and incident response plans (IRPs), DRPs are pivotal in ensuring the efficiency of disaster recovery strategies.

What are business continuity plans and incident response plans?

Similar to DRPs, BCPs, and IRPs constitute integral components of a comprehensive disaster recovery strategy, aiding businesses in returning to normalcy post-disaster. BCPs generally adopt a broader perspective on threats and resolution strategies compared to DRPs, emphasizing the restoration of connectivity. IRPs, a subset of DRPs, specifically address cyberattacks and IT system threats. They meticulously delineate an organization’s immediate response to threats, from detection to mitigation and resolution.

Why having a disaster recovery strategy is important

Disasters can disrupt businesses in various ways, presenting complex challenges. Whether it’s an earthquake affecting physical infrastructure and employee safety or a cloud services outage impeding access to critical data storage and customer services, a robust disaster recovery strategy is vital for swift recovery. Here are some key advantages of establishing a resilient disaster recovery strategy:

  • Ensuring business continuity: Business continuity and business continuity disaster recovery (BCDR) are essential for restoring normal operations following unforeseen events. They offer vital services such as data protection, backup, and other critical support.
  • Reducing costs: IBM’s recent Cost of Data Breach Report reveals that the average cost of a data breach in 2023 surged to USD 4.45 million, marking a 15% increase over the past three years. Enterprises lacking disaster recovery strategies are vulnerable to expenses and penalties that may surpass the savings from forgoing such solutions.
  • Minimizing downtime: Enterprises today rely heavily on advanced technologies like cloud-based infrastructure solutions and cellular networks. When unforeseen incidents disrupt business operations, the resulting costs can be substantial, often running into millions. The prominent visibility of cyberattacks, extended periods of downtime, or interruptions caused by human error can lead to customer and investor attrition.
  • Maintaining compliance: Companies operating in heavily regulated sectors such as healthcare and personal finance are subject to severe fines and penalties in the event of data breaches due to the sensitive nature of the data they handle. A robust disaster recovery strategy plays a crucial role in expediting response and recovery efforts following unplanned incidents, particularly in sectors where financial penalties are often linked to the duration of the breach.

How disaster recovery strategies work

Effective disaster recovery strategies equip businesses to confront diverse threats. A robust framework for restoring regular operations can instill confidence among investors and customers, enhancing the likelihood of successfully overcoming any challenges your business encounters. Before we get into the specific components of disaster recovery strategies, let’s examine some essential terminology.

  • Failover/failback: Failover is a common practice in IT disaster recovery, involving the transfer of operations to a secondary system when the primary one fails due to factors like power outages or cyberattacks. Failback, on the other hand, refers to the process of reverting to the original system once normal operations are restored. For instance, a business might switch from its primary data center to a secondary site with a redundant system ready to activate instantly. When executed effectively, failover and failback can ensure a seamless experience for users and customers, who may not even realize they’ve been transitioned to a secondary system.
  • Recovery time objective (RTO): RTO refers to the amount of time it takes to restore business operations following an unforeseen incident. Setting a realistic RTO is among the initial steps businesses must take when formulating their disaster recovery strategy.
  • Recovery point objective (RPO): Your business’s RPO defines the level of data loss it can sustain while still achieving recovery. Some enterprises maintain continuous data replication to a remote data center to ensure uninterrupted continuity. Others establish a tolerable RPO, ranging from minutes to hours, confident in their ability to recover any lost data within that timeframe.
  • Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS): DRaaS is an increasingly popular approach to disaster recovery, driven by a growing recognition of the importance of data security. Companies adopting DRaaS essentially delegate their disaster recovery plans (DRPs) to a third party. This third party hosts and manages the required infrastructure for recovery, devises and oversees response plans, and ensures a prompt restoration of critical business operations. According to a recent report by Global Market Insights (GMI), the DRaaS market reached USD 11.5 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow by 22% in the coming years.

Five steps to creating a strong disaster recovery strategy

The foundation of disaster recovery planning lies in a thorough analysis of your key business processes, often referred to as business impact analysis (BIA) and risk assessment (RA). Although each business is unique and may have specific needs, there are several universal steps you can take, regardless of size or industry, to facilitate effective disaster recovery planning.

Step 1: Perform a business impact analysis

A business impact analysis (BIA) involves a comprehensive evaluation of every potential threat your company may encounter, along with their potential consequences. A thorough BIA examines how these threats could affect daily operations, communication channels, employee safety, and other vital aspects of your business. Factors to consider during a BIA include revenue loss, duration and expenses associated with downtime, costs of reputation restoration (public relations), erosion of customer or investor trust (both short and long-term), and any penalties resulting from compliance breaches due to interruptions.

Step 2: Conduct a risk analysis

Threats can differ significantly based on your industry and business type. Conducting a thorough risk analysis (RA) is critical in shaping your strategy. Each potential threat can be evaluated individually by considering two key factors: the probability of occurrence and its potential impact on business operations. Two commonly utilized methods for this assessment are qualitative and quantitative risk analysis. Qualitative risk analysis relies on perceived risk, while quantitative analysis is grounded in verifiable data.

Step 3: Establish your asset inventory

Successful disaster recovery relies on having a comprehensive overview of all assets owned by your enterprise. This includes hardware, software, IT infrastructure, data, and any other elements crucial to your business operations. Use three common labels to categorize your assets:

  • Critical: Reserved for assets indispensable to normal business operations.
  • Important: Assigned to assets used daily, whose disruption would impact business operations but not halt them entirely.
  • Unimportant: Designated for assets used infrequently and not vital for normal business operations.

Step 4: Define roles and responsibilities

Assigning roles and responsibilities is arguably the most important part of a robust disaster recovery strategy. Without clear assignments, individuals may not know how to respond in the event of a disaster. While specific roles and responsibilities may vary depending on company size, industry, and business type, certain key roles should be included in every recovery strategy:

  • Incident reporter: Responsible for communicating with stakeholders and relevant authorities during disruptive events, and maintaining up-to-date contact information for all pertinent parties.
  • Disaster recovery plan manager: Oversees the execution of tasks assigned to disaster recovery team members and ensures the smooth operation of the established strategy.
  • Asset manager: You should assign someone the role of securing and protecting critical assets during a disaster, and providing updates on their status throughout the incident.

Step 5: Test and refine

Continuously practicing and updating your disaster recovery strategy is crucial to ensuring its effectiveness. For instance, if your company acquires new assets post-DRP formation, incorporating them into the plan is essential to their ongoing protection. Testing and refining your disaster recovery strategy involves three key steps:

  1. Conduct accurate simulations: When rehearsing your DRP, strive to replicate conditions closely resembling actual scenarios without endangering anyone physically.
  2. Identify issues: Utilize the DRP testing process to pinpoint flaws and inconsistencies, streamline processes, and rectify any shortcomings in your backup procedures.
  3. Test disaster recovery procedures: While assessing the initial response is important, it’s equally vital to test the procedures for restoring critical systems afterward. This involves evaluating how you will reactivate networks, recover lost data, and resume regular business operations.

Disaster recovery solutions

Modern enterprises rely more than ever on technology to serve their customers. Even minor outages can lead to significant downtime, affecting both customer and investor confidence. In light of these challenges, here at Bva, we stand ready to assist you in crafting a robust disaster recovery plan, ensuring your business is well-prepared for any potential disruptions.


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