If you’re not convinced that your business needs a disaster recovery solution in place, take a look at these statistics:

The frequency of malware attacks increased by 358% in 2020.

The average cost in time of a malware attack is 50 days.

Small businesses are set back $8,000 for an hour of downtime.

40-60% of them never reopen after data loss.

That’s scary stuff. And it’s important to note that malware, while dangerous, is only one disaster threat. Human error and hardware failure account for roughly 70% of data losses. Natural disasters can crush businesses, too – floods, fires, and more.

This isn’t meant to be alarmist. Rather, it’s meant to encourage you to take the correct precautions. Because here’s the truth: When a disaster hits, having a recovery solution in place can be the difference between staying in business and going under.

We want to make sure you do the former.

At ATB, we’ve helped St. Louis businesses to stay protected with disaster recovery solutions for over two decades. If you want peace of mind that your systems and data won’t be lost for good in the event of an issue, get in touch with us for a free consultation.

Our experts can discuss your needs with you, and make sure you have a solution that will enable you to be up and running quickly in the event of a disaster.

If you want to learn more about disaster recovery, keep reading. On this page, we’ll cover answers to some of the most common questions around the topic, including:

By the end, you’ll have all of the information you need to take the correct precautions for your business.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

What is disaster recovery?

To begin, let’s define our term. Even if you’re not an IT expert, you probably have some expectation of what disaster recovery is based on the name – and you’re probably not far off.

Disaster recovery refers to strategies designed to mitigate the effects of significant negative events. In an IT context, this means that disaster recovery is purposed with helping organizations to quickly recover from unexpected technology system failures.

As TechTarget explains, “the goal of DR is for a business to continue operating as close to normal as possible.”

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.

What’s the difference between disaster recovery and business continuity?

If you’re interested in learning about disaster recovery, there’s a good chance that you’ve run into the term “business continuity,” too. These two terms are often used interchangeably, but they are distinct.

To keep things clear, let’s unpack their relationship to each other.

Business continuity is concerned with keeping businesses running in the event of a disruption.

As UCF puts it, business continuity is focused on “keeping the shop open even in unusual or unfavorable circumstances, while focuses on returning it to normal as expediently as possible.”

VMWare argues that disaster recovery is a subsection of business continuity – to keep the business running requires that data and systems be recovered.

Perhaps the easiest way to distinguish between disaster recovery and business continuity is to evaluate tactical examples of each: If an office fire wipes out an on-site server, the process of accessing backed-up data is disaster recovery. If too many client requests overload a server, the process of offloading processing to another server to maintain functionality is business continuity.

Admittedly, these terms are a little confusing, and, depending on your perspective, they do have some gray areas of overlap. If you’re unsure whether your business needs disaster recovery, business continuity, or both, get in touch with one of our experts, and we can talk through your needs so that you arrive at the ideal solution.

How to create an IT disaster recovery plan

With disaster recovery defined, let’s get practical. Here’s how to create a disaster recovery plan for your IT systems.

1. Audit your needs and your risks.

The first step of nearly any good plan is to evaluate what will be needed. In this case, you’ll want to audit both your organization’s needs and your risks.

In terms of needs, there are two key pieces to review: 1) what you’ll need to back up to make disaster recovery possible, and 2) how fast you’ll need to be able to access it.

In terms of risks, you’ll want to assess how likely it is that a disaster affects a system and what the loss would be if a system was to go down.

Answering these questions will allow your organization to set recovery time objectives (RTOs). RTOs define how long a system can be down without causing significant damage to an organization – in other words, how long a system has to go from loss to recovery.

2. Identify data storage solutions.

The first step in your disaster recovery plan should help to outline the technical specifications that your solution will require. The second step will be to select solutions that meet your technical requirements.

There are a variety of data storage and recovery systems 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. A disaster recovery consultant can be helpful as you evaluate the best fit for your organization.

3. Define roles and processes in the event of a disaster.

The processes and people that facilitate disaster recovery are just as important as the technical pieces of the solution.

Your disaster recovery plan should identify the action steps that will be taken and the person who will be responsible for each component of your response. You should answer questions like:

  • When will the plan begin?
  • What steps will be taken in the event of different types of disasters?
  • Who will be responsible for different steps?
  • What systems will be prioritized and in what order will systems be restored?
  • When will the plan end?
  • How will the plan be tested and updated?

At a minimum, you should designate someone to be the crisis management coordinator or administrator. This person will be responsible for initiating the recovery plan, coordinating work, and communicating with the team throughout the process of recovery.

4. Implement the disaster recovery solution.

Once the components above are completed, it’s time to implement your disaster recovery plan. This involves deploying the technical solution and confirming documentation of processes and roles.

5. Test and optimize.

Finally, disaster recovery plans should be regularly tested to ensure their effectiveness. You need to know your plan will work – and you need to keep it updated and optimized.

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 hit RTOs.

If there are any issues in your recovery, you’ll fix them and incorporate your insights into your plan going forward.

What are common disaster recovery mistakes?

Okay – we’ve laid out what the outline of your disaster recovery plan should look like. Now, let’s talk about what you should avoid. Too many organizations make these disaster recovery mistakes:

Not having a disaster recovery plan.

This one’s straightforward and surprisingly common. If you don’t have a plan in place, you won’t be prepared to respond to a disaster. Have a plan in place.

Not assigning disaster recovery responsibilities.

Some organizations get hung up on the technical components of the plan – the amount of storage needed, the integrations to replicate data, and the platforms being used. That’s all critical – but if disaster strikes and nobody’s at the helm, the ship’s going down no matter how well-built it is. Give as much weight to role assignments as you do to technical solutions.

Not training the workforce.

On a similar note, employees and users should have training on disaster recovery (and cybersecurity in general). This will drastically reduce the potential for chaos.

Underestimating recovery needs.

Some organizations opt for what they consider the bare minimum – “We only need to back up data once a week,” or “We can probably afford to have our systems down for three or four days.”

The truth is that it’s better to be overprepared than underprepared in the event of a disaster.

Not testing your disaster recovery plan.

Finally, it’s common for organizations to push through a disaster recovery initiative, but then lose focus over time and grow complacent about testing.

Having an outdated disaster recovery plan can be the same thing as having no disaster recovery plan. Be consistent in your testing so that your plan will be consistently effective.

How should you test a disaster recovery plan?

We’ve been clear that testing a disaster recovery plan is a vital part of any disaster recovery initiative. Now, let’s get a little more detailed in discussing how to test your plan.

There are a variety of ways to test a plan. The easiest (and least time-consuming) is to have a designated group read through the plan and offer feedback. This is typically referred to as a “paper test.” It’s a good exercise, but it’s less likely to uncover unforeseen challenges, since you’re not actually putting the plan into action.

A more illuminating test is to actually simulate a disaster and implement backup systems to see if they’re effective (without disconnecting primary systems). Groups should communicate as if a real disaster has occurred and seek to mitigate damages to the organization. This will enable you to see if the processes you’ve defined work.  It will also enable you to evaluate whether your systems are adequately backed up and accessible.

The most intense (and potentially insightful) way to test a disaster recovery plan is to cut off primary systems and put backups into action. You will certainly uncover any unnoted challenges via this method – however, those challenges might actually impact your business. This kind of test requires careful planning and technical assistance to ensure that systems can be reconnected as needed.

How often should you update a disaster recovery plan?

The simplest answer to this question is probably, “More often than you currently are.”

The standard answer is that you should test and update your disaster recovery plan on at least an annual basis.

In truth, the frequency at which you test and update your disaster recovery plan will vary based on your organization. Basically, the faster your organization changes, the more often you’ll want to test and update your plan.

For example, if your organization has experienced rapid growth over the past two quarters, you’d be wise to review your disaster recovery plan, even if review isn’t scheduled for another six months.

What is the cost of disaster recovery?

If you’re ready to implement disaster recovery, a logical next question is, “How much does it cost?”

Unfortunately, this question is difficult to answer without more specifics – kind of like asking “How much does a vacation cost?” without defining what the vacation will involve. It’s going to cost more if you’re flying to New Zealand and renting a mansion than it will if you’re going to the lake for a weekend; it’s going to cost more if you’re backing up 500 TB of data than if you’re backing up 10.

Details are needed for the question to be meaningful.

That said, we can provide an overview of the factors that impact disaster recovery costs. These include:

How much data you’re backing up. The more data you have, the more expensive a disaster recovery solution will be.

How frequently you’re backing data up. The more frequently you’re backing data up, the more costly your solution will be.

The speed at which data needs to be accessed in the event of a disaster. The faster you need to access data, the more your solution will likely cost.

The platforms you use. Different technical solutions have different price points. Enterprise solutions (like Veritas or IBM) tend to offer more capabilities at a higher cost than SMB solutions (like Carbonite).

The level of service you need. Some organizations are satisfied to only have technical solutions in place, but many also require access to service experts to complete restoration processes.

With all of this said, the best way to price out your disaster recovery solution is to talk to an expert. If you’d like a more exact pricing estimate, our friendly technicians can help.

Finally, it’s also helpful to frame the cost of a disaster recovery solution against the cost of a disaster with no recovery solution in place. As we’ve mentioned, small businesses are set back, on average, $8,000 per hour of downtime. Enterprises are set back as much as $540,00 per hour. Disaster recovery plans can potentially save days and weeks of downtime.

The investment is typically worth the cost.

How can my business implement disaster recovery?

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering how you can implement a recovery solution for your organization.

We’ve found that the best way for most organizations to implement a disaster recovery solution is to work an experienced IT provider. This has several major benefits:

First, IT providers have disaster recovery expertise that many businesses lack internally. That includes knowledge of technical solutions and experience in carrying out processes.

Second, IT providers can ensure help is accessible in the event of a disaster. There’s a chance that internal resources are out of office when a disaster strikes – 24/7 IT providers are always on call.

Third, IT providers provide consistency. If you delegate disaster recovery to an internal resource, what happens when that person leaves your company? Working with a provider can ensure responsibility doesn’t rest with one individual.

Ready to implement a disaster recovery solution?

Get in touch with us.

At ATB, we’ve been helping St. Louis businesses to implement disaster recovery solutions for over two decades. Our experts can help you to design a solution that meets your needs.

And the reality is that nearly all businesses need a disaster recovery solution in place.

From technical considerations to process consulting, we can help you to create a disaster recovery solution that will enable your business to quickly recover from crises. If you’re ready to reduce your risk and get peace of mind, schedule a free consultation with us.

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