Disasters and cybersecurity incidents are inevitable. The unprepared are hit the worst, and the consequences can range from massive monetary and reputational damages to outright business closure. A recent study suggests enterprises can lose up to $5 million per hour in unexpected operational disruptions and data loss events. The only way around this is to stay alert and ready around the clock with a robust disaster recovery plan.
A disaster recovery plan (DRP) serves as a strategic framework for anticipating, preparing for and recovering from catastrophes and incidents challenging business continuity. It outlines the necessary resources, processes and steps to ensure services, data and operations continue even during unexpected events. A DRP is essential from a compliance standpoint and can be the only lifeline for businesses in extreme crises. Yet, only 54% of organizations have a well-documented DRP.
Preparing For Disaster Recovery
1. Planning is the key.
Effective planning is paramount to ensuring an organization’s resilience in the face of potential disasters. Organizations must carefully identify and prioritize operations, processes and data critical to business continuity. After establishing their risk tolerance, organizations can map out the risks and threats they face along with their potential impact on business-critical operations and data. These threats can range from a natural calamity resulting in loss of infrastructure to a full-blown cyberattack compromising confidential data.
Additionally, the DRP must include all the resources, services and additional personnel for the emergency response team needed for rapid recovery after an incident or a disaster. It’s also important to assess current insurance policies and coverage to determine what’s included and identify any gaps in coverage, particularly for cyber incidents.
2. Timely communication matters.
Disasters can compromise regular means of communication. For instance, a cyberattack may bring down servers hosting internal communication apps. A DRP must elaborate alternative communication channels and hierarchies specifically for unforeseen circumstances and outages. It should also provide contact information for the DR personnel so that employees can reach out to them when needed.
Certain regulations mandate that organizations formally report any data breach incidents to the public and authorities within a given timeframe. The DRP must account for such requirements, and all employees should understand how to communicate internally and externally during operational interruptions.
A key requirement for a DRP is making it easily accessible—the document itself must be straightforward and concise. It should also include visuals to help employees easily navigate the document.
3. Ensure a successful DRP implementation.
Once the management has drafted and approved the plan, the implementation phase begins. In this phase, organizations must acquire and set up the necessary hardware, software and communication equipment. It’s crucial for all stakeholders to understand what’s expected of them during unexpected events and disasters. Therefore, DRP implementation must include assigning specific tasks, such as data recovery and communications management, to individuals to avoid any ambiguities during times of panic.
Conducting comprehensive training for all DR personnel is also crucial. It allows individuals to practice their roles and responsibilities in a nonemergency setting, enhancing their preparedness for potential crises.
4. The proof is in the evaluation.
It’s a common mistake that organizations don’t test the effectiveness of their DRP regularly. They can avoid unexpected DRP failures by conducting unannounced drills and simulations of disaster situations. DRP personnel can evaluate their preparedness in a low-risk environment, and organizations can identify where the DRP needs improvement before a real emergency hits.
Another way to ensure a DRP is comprehensive, error-free and actionable is to submit the DRP for external assessment. By handing over the DRP to a third party specializing in disaster recovery and incident planning, organizations can ensure their DRP meets organizational and compliance requirements and is actually capable of steering the organization through a crisis.
5. DRPs need ongoing maintenance and monitoring.
Organizations, regulations and technologies keep evolving and so should a DRP. Disaster recovery planning isn’t a one-time endeavor—the plan needs to stay updated with any changes in the organization or the environment in which it’s operating. Organizations need to regularly review, update and test the DRP as procedures evolve, partners change, climate shifts, regulations take effect and newer technologies emerge.
It’s also important to draft a plan for post-emergency analysis for when an incident occurs and the DRP is put into practice. The analysis should look into what went right, what went wrong and what could’ve been done better. This will, in time, strengthen the DRP even further.
Coordination With Incident Response Plan
Ancillary to a DRP is having an incident response plan (IRP). As the name suggests, an IRP should lay out guidelines in the event of a data breach, ransomware attack or other security event. The two plans can work cooperatively. For example, should the company’s data center undergo an attack, disaster recovery will focus on restoration and resumption of activities. Supporting those efforts, the IRP should outline how the organization will investigate the cyberattack, including steps to prevent it from happening again by remediating the vulnerabilities that were exploited. The IRP should include how to communicate the incident post-mitigation with company stakeholders. Initially, the plan should draw input from IT staff, business unit leaders and legal counsel and be reviewed, updated and tested on a regular basis to reflect changes in the organization’s environment.
Combining the DRP and IRP provides an indispensable part of any business’s continuity strategy. It provides a vital framework to address disruptions and maintain smooth operations under any circumstances. For organizations lacking internal expertise, seeking guidance from external experts can be invaluable. External audits allow organizations to proactively identify any gaps that internal teams may have overlooked. With careful implementation, meticulous testing and ongoing maintenance of a comprehensive DRP and IRP, organizations can meet their legal obligations, protect employees and customers and ensure their survival during unpredictable events and challenges.