Tips for creating an IT disaster recovery plan

Insureon Staff.
By Linda Rosencrance
April 26, 2019
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If you don't have an IT disaster recovery plan, an unexpected data loss can bring down your entire business. Here's how to put together a recovery plan that ensures your business returns to normal operations as soon as possible.
A pile of burnt computers.

Data loss is a serious risk for businesses of every size in any industry. Today, companies are creating and managing massive amounts of data, the majority of which is crucial to running a business.

The impact of losing data from a cyberattack, malware, hardware failure, human error, or natural disaster can be devastating. A company that suffers an IT disaster might never fully recover. For that reason, it’s critical to have an IT disaster recovery plan in place and a cyber liability insurance policy.

An IT disaster recovery plan should include instructions for how to respond to an unplanned outage. The goal is to have an easy-to-use and repeatable set of steps that allow you to recover your IT assets and return to normal operations as soon as possible.

Here are some tips to help you create an effective plan:

Consider hardware, software, data, and connectivity

When you develop an IT disaster recovery plan, you need to take inventory of all your critical systems because if one fails, the rest of them may not run properly. That means you need to consider these components of your system:

  • Hardware: Servers, desktops and laptops, wireless devices and peripherals, networks
  • Software applications: Email, electronic data interchanges, enterprise resource planning systems, customer relationship management systems, office productivity apps, etc.
  • Data: Client information, credit card numbers, business records, financial transactions
  • Connectivity: Wireless, fiber, cable, etc.

Additionally, you should be able to easily access the technical support information and contact numbers for the vendors of each piece of hardware and application.

Back up your data regularly

Backing up your data is a reliable way to prevent data loss. Determine the files that need to be backed up, where they reside, which contain the most business-critical data, and who’s responsible for ensuring the data is backed up regularly.

Other factors to consider are when and how the backups will be performed. Determine where the restored files will be located once backups and recovery are performed. Also, designate a secondary recovery spot for your data. If possible, choose a location that’s more than 100 miles away from your headquarters to protect against a major disaster like an earthquake.

Analyze potential cyberthreats and your reactions to them

Your IT disaster recovery plan should take into account potential cyberthreats that could take down your business, and include a plan to get back up and running after a breach. You should have the tools and processes in place to enable you to identify and respond to increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks. Review your plan with a cybersecurity expert to make sure there are no gaps.

Assemble an IT disaster recovery team

An IT disaster recovery plan is only as good as the team behind it. It’s critical to put together a team consisting of IT and operations employees who are briefed on the plan and ready to take action when necessary. You should also define the roles and responsibilities of each team member and identify other employees who can fill in as backups. This is especially important when you work with third-party vendors or providers. Each of them should be aware of the responsibilities of the others to ensure the disaster recovery process is as efficient as possible.

Develop a communication plan

If disaster strikes, you should have a plan in place to communicate with your employees. If phones and email aren’t working, you need to have another way to contact your employees and keep them updated throughout an event, such as a freestanding IRC system or a remote office switchboard. Make sure your employees know how they can access the systems necessary to perform their jobs.

In addition, you need an effective and reliable way to communicate with vendors, suppliers, partners, and customers in a timely manner. Establishing a written communication process that you can easily reference will enable you to act quickly after a disaster and ensure everyone is working together to get your business up and running again.

Ensure your service-level agreements (SLAs) cover disasters / emergencies

If you’ve outsourced any of your technology to a third party or if you store your systems in a co-location facility, make sure you have binding agreements with each of the providers that detail the level of service they offer if disaster strikes. This will help guarantee that they start to resolve your problems within a certain time frame. Some SLAs may even include a time frame for getting your systems back up.

Perform data recovery testing

Test your IT disaster recovery plan to determine if it works and check for areas of improvement. You should conduct disaster recovery tests regularly throughout the year and incorporate them into your planned maintenance and staff training. Once you complete a test, you should analyze audit logs and other data to identify what worked as expected, what didn't work, what changes you need to make, and which tasks you need to test again.

Protect your business with the right insurance

As part of your IT disaster recovery plan, it’s vital to have the right insurance in place. For example, commercial property insurance can help pay to fix damages, replace equipment, and get your business back up and running in the event of a disaster.

Business interruption insurance can help your business survive an unexpected catastrophe so you can get back to normal. A business interruption policy can replace your revenue when your business is forced to close for certain reasons. For example, if a fire – or any event covered by your commercial property insurance – forces you to shut your doors, it can help pay ongoing bills until business resumes.

In addition, cyber liability insurance protects your company against liability and expenses due to the loss of data or privacy and security breaches.

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