Recovery Planning for IT Disasters

Your business relies on information technology for quick and effective information processing and communication. You rely on electronic mail, Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) telephone systems, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) for transmitting orders and payments, servers for processing and storing large amounts of data, and desktop computers, laptops, and  wireless devices to create, process, manage, and share information. So, what do you do when your technology suddenly stops working?

Every business should have an information technology disaster recovery plan (IT DRP) along with a business continuity plan. This should include a business impact analysis that contains your priorities and recovery time objectives for information technology. Your information recovery strategies should include detailed plans on how to restore hardware, applications, and data in a timely manner in order to keep interruptions to your business at a minimum.

Businesses of all sizes, large and small, create and manage large volumes of important electronic data every single day. This information can be essential to the survival of your business and to keep it continually running smoothly. Hardware failure causing data loss or data corruption, malware, hackers, or simple human error can all have a significant impact, which means that having a data backup plan and a strategy for restoring your electronic information is essential to keeping your business up and running.

IT Recovery Strategies

If you have a business, you need to create a recovery strategy for your Information Technology (IT) system, applications, and data. This includes a recovery strategy for your networks, servers, desktops, laptops, wireless devices, data, and connectivity. It is essential to identify IT resources that are required to support your time-sensitive business functions and processes in your recovery strategy. The recovery time an IT resource should match the recovery time objective you created for the business function that depends on that IT resource.

All information technology systems require hardware, software, data, and connectivity to work properly. If just one component of the system is not working correctly, the entire system may not function as it should. Your recovery strategy should be created in anticipation of the loss of one or more of the following essential components:

  • Computer room environment (secure computer room with climate control, conditioned and backup power supply, etc.)
  • Hardware (networks, servers, desktop and laptop computers, wireless devices and peripherals)
  • Connectivity to a service provider (fiber, cable, wireless, etc.)
  • Software applications (electronic data interchange, electronic mail, enterprise resource management, office productivity, etc.)
  • Data and restoration

Some business applications are unable to tolerate any downtime, so they utilize dual data centers that handle all data processing needs, which run parallel to data that is mirrored and synchronized between two data centers. Only larger companies can afford this option as it is an extremely expensive solution. Small and medium sized businesses that have critical business applications and data need other solutions.

Internal Recovery Strategies

Many businesses operate at multiple facilities. Alternate facilities have hardware that is configured to run similar hardware and software applications whenever there is a need. If your data is backed up off-site or mirrored between two sites, it can easily be restored to the alternate site if there is an interruption, and then business functions can continue as normal.

Vendor-Supported Recovery Strategies

Certain vendors can provide a "hot site" for data recovery due to an IT disaster. These sites are fully-configured data centers equipped with commonly used hardware and software. Vendor subscribers can also provide their own unique hardware or software to the hot site either at the time of an IT disaster or before to store it in case an IT disaster occurs.

These vendors are capable of hosting and managing data streams, data security services, and business applications that can all be accessed at the primary business site or an alternative site just through the use of a web browser. If the vendor detects an outage at the client's site, the vendor will automatically hold the data until the client's system is restored. These same vendors are also capable of enhancing cyber security by detecting malware threats.

Developing an IT Disaster Recovery Plan

It is essential that businesses of all sizes develop an IT disaster recovery plan. Begin by creating an inventory of your hardware (e.g. servers, desktops, laptops, and wireless devices), software applications, and data. Your plan should also include a detailed strategy to ensure that all of your critical information is safely backed up.

Next, identify your business's critical software applications and data, and the hardware that is required to run them. By using standardized hardware, replicating and reimaging new hardware will be easier. Have copies of program software readily available for installation on replacement equipment if needed. Be sure to prioritize your hardware and software restoration.

Your business continuity plan should include your IT disaster recovery plan. It is extremely important to periodically test your plan to make sure that it will work when you need it.

Data Backup

Businesses usually generate a large amount of data, which means your data files are changing throughout the workday. Data loss can occur due to corruption, hardware failure, hackers, malware, and human error causing significant disruptions in your business operations.

Data backup and recovery should be the focus of your business continuity and information technology disaster recovery plans. Creating a strategy for backing up your data begins with the identification of what data needs to be backed up, selecting and implementing hardware and software backup procedures, scheduling and actually conducting data backups, and validating that your data was backed up correctly.

Developing the Data Backup Plan

First, identify the data on your network servers, desktop computers, laptops, and wireless devices that needs to be backed up. Next, identify hard copy records and important information that needs to be saved and scan them to create digital formats. Then be sure to back up all data stored on your servers on a regularly scheduled basis.

Options for Data Backup

There are several options available for backing up your data. Tapes, cartridges, and large capacity USB drives with integrated data backup software can all be effective means of backing up your business' data. Your plan should include how frequently you should back up your data, information on security, and having secure off-site data storage. Backup data should contain the same level of security measures as the original data.

Many vendors offer business online data backup services, such as using the cloud. This particular service is a cost-effective solution for businesses with an internet connection and easy to implement as software that is installed on the client's server or computer is automatically backed up.

Your business' data should be backed up frequently in case of data loss. Your business impact analysis should evaluate the potential for lost data and indicate a recovery point objective. Confirm and compare data restoration times with the IT and business function recovery time objectives.

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