6 Essential Elements For a Disaster Recovery Plan

I have heard Michael Dunn, owner and CEO of Customware, Inc. say, “We can replace anything but your data.” There has never been a truer statement. Your data is critical.  Could you continue without your systems?  The answer is probably not.  KPMG, one of the Big Four auditors, along with Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopers, found that 40% of companies who have a major business disruption go out of business within 2 years.  They also have discovered that the survival rate of companies that didn’t have a disaster recovery plan is less than 10%.  Do you have a disaster recovery plan? What  does it involves? Do you know what it is?  If you take your business seriously, then you should also take the protection of your business data just as seriously.

Below are 6 essential elements of a good Disaster Recovery Plan

1. Be Prepared

When dealing with business systems you first have to understand that it isn’t if you have a crash, it is when you have a crash. Business systems go down. From the smallest of mom and pop companies to the largest conglomerates, no matter how hard you try, there will always be a time when hardware will fail.  Be it a natural disaster, virus or faulty equipment, it is going to happen. So, what can you do?

Start with a plan.  The Boy Scouts say it best, “Be Prepared.”  If you are ready for when something goes wrong you will have the confidence to know that it isn’t the end of the world.  In the world of IT this is called a Disaster Recovery Plan.  When this plan is in place and reviewed with your staff on a regular basis, everyone will know what to do and your business will be safer.

2. Choose Dependability

The best planning in the world won’t protect you against a faulty backup.  Luckily, the backup methods are much better than the days of tape backups.  There are many products and methods today that bring more dependability to the table.  NAS Servers, USB Hard Drives, Off-site Backups and even replicated servers are all dependable ways of storing your backups. It is best to consult with someone who has done the research to make sure what you use for backups has a proven track record of dependability and success.

3. Prioritize

When building your plan, you need to decide what data and systems are critical to your business.  For example, your correspondence, letterhead and office documents are all important, but your accounting data holds the essence of your entire fiscal livelihood, I would list it as critical.  In your plan, you should outline what is absolutely vital to your business and make sure it is taken care of first no matter what.  You also want to evaluate what is time sensitive, what has to be up and running as soon as possible or your business will suffer. For example, what is on your server is critical so it is to be brought back up first as compared to your conference room computer that is used for presentations; it doesn’t need to be a high priority.

4. Create Multiplicity

Backups are very important in Disaster Recovery Planning.  When developing your plan, it is recommended to have a minimum of 2 or 3 sets of backups. For example, you can have a backup that has been sent to a specific location on your network, perhaps to a NAS (network-attached storage) server or a different system on your network. This is still on the network but outside of your server and workstations. I know that it sounds silly but it is never recommended to store your backup on the same system that you are backing up.  A second backup could be completed on a removeable USB drive and taken off-site daily.  This brings protection from natural events like fire or flood.  A third file backup would be an off-site service where your data is saved in a different area of the country in case of a broader issue like a power outage or a regional disaster. This could eliminate the USB drive backup.

The backup type must also be a part of this equation.  Do you need a complete system backup or just a file backup? A complete system backup is used to completely restore your system so that when the computer goes bad a new computer is put in place and the complete system backup is restored on the new system. A file backup is where the files on a system are backed up and if the system goes out, a new system is put into place and configured on the network, programs are reloaded and then the data files are restored.  The correct answer is both.  The backup to a local NAS server can be set to do complete system backups because they are transferring large amounts of data across your network.  This allows for the speed it takes to transmit gigabytes of data.  In turn, an off-site backup is limited to the speed of your internet connection.  If you have five or six PC’s trying to transmit complete backups through an internet connection with typical upload speeds of 5-10mb would be like trying to push an elephant through a straw.  Often off-site backups are “seeded” by collecting the data files the first time on a usb drive and sending it to the off-site backup provider to load; then only the updates are sent back and forth to be backed up.

5. Automated Scheduling

It is important to make your backups as automated as possible.  Over the years that I have been doing this the one statement that always causes chills up and down my back is “I don’t know when the last time was we even did a backup.”  The bottom line is humans forget. That is why it is important to automate the backups as much as possible.  That being said, it is still very important for someone to check to make sure that they completed successfully and you have a good backup.

6. Test the Restoration

Now that you have this plan, you are automatically backing up to various backups with both file and system backups. What’s left?  That’s easy, do they work?  Can they be restored? How long will it take to be up and running? The whole point of a backup is to be able to use it when you need it.  Part of your Disaster Recovery Plan needs to provide the process of restoring your data and systems.  It should also include scheduled “Fire Drills” where your data is checked and tested to make sure it is not corrupt and can be restored successfully.

If you would like some help setting up and maintaining a Disaster Recovery Plan we encourage you to contact us.  We begin with these six elements when we sit down and work with you to analyze and develop a Disaster Recovery Plan specific to your company. We know what is effective, we know what is dependable and we monitor the backups on a daily basis. If you would like to have the peace of mind of a professionally developed and managed Disaster Recovery Plan, give us a call to schedule an appointment.