The term “disaster recovery” refers to strategies designed to mitigate the effects of significant negative events.
That’s the high-level definition – but if you’re responsible for business data, you should have a deeper understanding of what disaster recovery is.
Let’s unpack it by answering a couple of common questions.
What does disaster recovery include?
Disaster recovery is a term that’s both broader and narrower than you might expect.
It’s broader than you might expect because it can include more than just strategies to recover from cyberattacks.
As IT consultants, we’ve found that there’s a common perception that “disaster recovery” deals primarily with how to recover from cyberattacks.
That’s too narrow. While disaster recovery certainly should account for cyber events, in its broadest sense, disaster recovery transcends the world of technology entirely – it can incorporate any plan of emergency response.
As disasterrecovery.org explains, “disaster recovery can broadly be described as the implementation of a plan of action in times of emergencies or natural calamities.”
That means that disaster recovery could apply to:
- Major market changes where functionality is lost
- Natural disasters (fires, floods, etc.)
- User error (accidentally losing or deleting data)
But, with that said, disaster recovery most often refers to action plans involving the restoration of technology platforms – like workstations, networks, databases, or software platforms. (For proof of this, just google “disaster recovery” and note how many of the results focus on technology restoration rather than physical or other modes of operational recovery.)
Disaster recovery is also narrower than you might expect because it’s actually a subsection of a larger practice: business continuity.
In fact, most organizations approach disaster recovery as part of a business continuity strategy.
Tech Target defines business continuity as “an organization’s ability to maintain essential functions during and after a disaster has occurred.” Disaster recovery is only one part of this; ensuring ongoing functionality in the wake of a disaster involves more than simply getting back online.
So, that’s what disaster recovery includes: any kind of process to recover functionality as part of a larger strategy to remain functional (business continuity).
With our term properly placed, let’s get a little more tactical. At practice-level, disaster recovery typically includes:
- Technology solutions to back up data and business systems
- A plan for how recovery will happen in the event of an emergency
- Tests to ensure that technology solutions and the plan are working
How does disaster recovery work?
To answer this question, let’s stick to discussing disaster recovery in an IT context.
Disaster recovery works by enabling organizations to quickly recover from unexpected technology system failures. As noted above, there are three primary pieces to this:
Implementing backup solutions.
In IT, this goal is commonly accomplished by replicating data and relevant systems off-site to areas that are unlikely to be affected by an on-site disaster. That way, if systems do go down, backups can be accessed and functionality can be restored – hopefully, without much (or even any) downtime.
There are a variety of backup solutions on the market, with differing price points, storage capacities, and other features. Some of these include:
And that’s just a small sampling of what’s available. You’ll want to do your due diligence as you evaluate the platforms.
Creating a plan for recovery.
Ensuring that off-site backups exist is only the first step – without a plan, they aren’t much good, because there’s no guaranteeing that they’ll be quickly usable.
A disaster recovery plan should include the processes for getting things restored and running as well as the roles involved in responding to a disaster. It should be a living document that lays out the tactical how of emergency response for your business.
Testing to ensure everything works.
Finally, disaster recovery works through ongoing testing.
This will involve running your organization through hypothetical or simulated disaster scenarios and actually carrying out your plan. As you do so, you’ll evaluate the obstacles you face, any hypothetical costs to your organization, and whether you were able to recover to an acceptable level in an acceptable timeframe.
Think of testing as providing crucial practice before a big game. Do it well, and you’ll probably be prepared. Fail to practice, and you’ll probably lose.
Need help with disaster recovery at your organization?
Hopefully, the information presented here has given you a clearer understanding of what disaster recovery is, what it includes, and how it all works.
We’ve been helping St. Louis businesses to implement disaster recovery solutions for over two decades. Schedule a free consultation with one of our experts, and we can review your risk factors and start to spec out a disaster recovery solution that will give you peace of mind and keep your business safe.
The truth is that the loss of technology or data can be devastating. Small businesses are set back $8,000 for an hour of downtime and mid-sized firms are set back even more. Disaster recovery can mitigate the risks that your business will be down for an extended period of time – in other words, it can mitigate the risk that you have a business-ending incident.
It’s worth getting right.