Do I need a Disaster Recovery Plan?

One question many small- and medium-sized business owners often ask themselves is “Do I need an IT disaster recovery plan?” and if so “What I do I need to put in place?”

Simply put this is the equivalent of driving your car without insurance, you are running the risk of a costly disaster. That cost can sometimes be as serious as the closure of your business, and there are many surveys by organisations such as Gartner and the British Chambers of Commerce to confirm this.

It doesn’t have to be elaborate but you do need to have one and it should be flexible and scalable. There are also two main areas to consider the technology (IT) that forms your recovery plan and your physical documented recovery plan. Both of which are in place to achieve one key objective, getting your business delivering product and or service again as quickly as possible.

Your physical plan is creating a checklist of what needs to be done by whom in what situations. Your IT disaster recovery (DR) plan deals with your IT infrastructure, including its, power sources, backup systems, physical and virtual locations and security.

Taking the example of a server failure below we have outlined these two areas of a DR plan:

Required Technology

  1. Disaster Recovery Server (Physical), once it has been established by your IT service provider that the server failure cannot be resolved the business is switched over to the onsite DR server. This will have been taking regular real time copies of your working server. This solution can have your business, all its software, packages and data back up and running in as little as 1-2 hours.
  2. In the event no DR server is in place an onsite and offsite cloud backup would be required to restore data to a working device. At this stage it is important to understand what data is critical to the business and to what device this data should be restored to. In this scenario the business will lose some key functions such as remote access, potentially key data bases or software, which would otherwise be available with option one. As expected scenario 2 is a little cheaper to run.

If your server fails, these should be the steps you implement internally on your DR document:

  1. Figure out how widespread the server outage is and contact your IT provider.
  2. Contact remote employees on their mobiles to inform them of the outage.
  3. Dedicate an employee (pre agreed) to assist the IT provider with remote corrective measures, such as running diagnostics, checking the power supply and trying to restart the server.
  4. Continue corrective measure updates with the IT provider, working with employees to manage expectations of downtime.
  5. Set out appropriate actions that will get the business working, either execute the DR server or in the scenario 2 situation start to download critical data to another key piece of hardware (your physical DR document should detail what data to download first and pre determine the hardware) . It is important to predetermine the hardware as this will need to be of a higher specification then other standard equipment in the business and it will need to be well maintained.
  6. The final stages of the documented plan should outline how hardware will be replaced (warranty, insurance or purchase) and be clear on any costs.  It is also important to document and plan for the time required to put the business back on to new server hardware.

In the event that the disaster is more serious, so for example; Power or Broadband outage, Fire, Flood or Building damage, then it is highly advised that a DR server is in place with a cloud element. In one of these situations the business can implement a plan that allows for remote working, however other areas of the infrastructure need to be considered such as telephony.

In summary; today’s business can ill afford downtime and in order to make money they need to be delivering service or selling products. DR is now more obtainable and affordable for the small business owner thanks to the developments in cloud computing.

At some point in the future your business will suffer a small or large scale disaster so if you are reading this and you don’t currently have a resilient solution in place, or don’t know what downtime costs your business then this is the time to ask those questions, failure to do so could have devastating results.