What Are the Steps in a Disaster Recovery Plan?

natural disaster disaster recovery plan

A disaster recovery plan is your backup plan for getting your business back to normal operations as quickly as possible after a natural or man-made disaster event. This could be hurricanes, storms, or other natural disasters or employee error, system or hardware failure, or even an intentional cyberattack. When this happens, your recovery plan springs into action to recover or continue operations after a disruptive event or disaster put your business to a halt.

In addition, a disaster recovery plan also aims to minimize or limit the damage, interruption, or  other adverse effects of the disaster on your business operations. In this way, you’ll be able to reduce the potential economic repercussions of the event. It would also eliminate confusion among your employees as they know in advance what they are supposed to do during the emergency.

Why Do You Need a Disaster Recovery Plan?

A disaster recovery plan is essential for your business to, well, stay in business. It can help you eliminate data loss as well as any unexpected expenses or costs. It will also lessen the chance of employee confusion or unproductivity should a disaster event take place. As they already know what to do because it is outlined in your disaster recovery plan, you don’t lose time and money – or at least not a lot.

But perhaps one of the most important reasons why your business should have a disaster recovery plan in place is to avoid any reputational damage that might result because of the disaster event. Once you lose your reputation, you will start losing customers and revenues quickly. 

Plus, a disaster recovery plan is required by data privacy laws and standards. Failure to comply could result in violations and hefty fines. So, if you don’t have one in place, now is a good time to develop your own disaster recovery plan.

Steps in a Disaster Recovery Plan

Every business is different, so the disaster recovery plan of a retail store might not exactly be the same as that of a manufacturing company. However, there are basic steps that every business must follow to build their disaster recovery plan. These are the key steps.

1. Conduct risk assessment and business impact analysis.

The first thing you should do is perform a risk assessment, which will help you spot potential hazards that can adversely affect your operations. Meanwhile, a business impact analysis will help you determine the possible consequences of a disruption and help you evaluate risks (including infrastructure and geographical risk factors) and determine possible consequences. Disruptions could come in the form of data loss, financial losses, reputational damage, or regulatory penalties.

This is a critical first step as it will hep you gather important information that will aid in developing an effective recovery strategy. For instance, the risks you identify will guide you on setting goals for your disaster recovery plan.

To successfully do this step, you should gather inputs from your employees (especially if you have multiple departments working together), vendors or suppliers, and other experts and stakeholders. You’ll especially want to hear from your IT department who are in charge of your business infrastructure for inputs about data, hardware, software, and network connectivity. In addition, talk to senior management to ensure that disaster recovery goals are aligned with business objectives and all other department heads regarding what their critical assets and functionalities are. Furthermore, HR and public relations should also be consulted regarding internal and external communication. These two departments will be the company’s representatives to the employees, clients, suppliers, and the public to keep these stakeholders informed in case any disaster event or other work disruption occurs.  

2. Evaluate critical needs.

In this step, you’ll be evaluating each department’s critical needs. The goal here is to establish priorities and predetermine alternatives. Selected alternatives must have written agreements specifying important details such as cost, duration, security procedures, and more.

3. Set recovery plan objectives.

Once you know the risks and potential losses as well as your business’ critical needs, it’s time to set the goals of your disaster recovery plan. This will include recovery goals and an acceptable period when your IT infrastructure and systems should be back to normal. If you’re in the healthcare field, this means you have minutes to resume operations, but other sectors and industries can afford a longer timeframe.

This set of objectives will include the following:

  • A list of mission-critical operations in order for your business to continue operating.
  • A list of which data, equipment, applications, or user access are necessary to support those mission-critical operations.
  • Recovery time objectives (RTOs) for each essential business function. RTO is the amount of time an application or operation can be offline without incurring negative consequences.
  • Recovery point objective (RPO), or the amount of data your business can afford to lose.

These recovery objectives should take into consideration any service level agreements (SLAs).

4. Collect data and draft the document.

Once you have your recovery objectives, it’s time to collect data and write your disaster recovery playbook. These data might include:

  • Master vendor list, critical contact list, and any other list you deem necessary to successfully execute your disaster recovery plan.
  • List of inventory and materials, equipment, hardware, software, documentation, and other assets
  • Software and data file backup schedule
  • System restoration or recovery procedure
  • Temporary disaster recovery locations

Your disaster recovery plan should also identify which employees or departments will be responsible for what. For instance, if you have an IT department, the members should know what they are accountable for. Or, who will be in charge of handling the internal communications and who will speak to suppliers and customers. Or, which employees will have access to what data and so on.

If you have a recovery data center, your disaster recovery plan should include a plan detailing how the business will handle possible disruption brought about by physical damage to the site due to a natural disaster, for example.

5. Test and revise your disaster recovery plan.

Once you have your disaster recovery plan, don’t let it sit and accumulate dust in the corner.  Conduct a dry run, walk-through or simulation test to see what works and correct problems or make improvements. After that initial run, you should actively maintain it, i.e., validate or test it. Regular, scheduled testing will ensure that your disaster recovery plan still works or notify you if it requires any update in procedure, technology, or equipment.

This regular testing will also serve as training for your employees and keep their knowledge about the business’ recovery plan fresh in their minds.

What Are the Steps in a Disaster Recovery Plan?

A disaster recovery plan is your backup plan for getting your business back to normal operations as quickly as possible after a natural or man-made disaster event.