Murphy’s Law states that what can go wrong will go wrong. For IT professionals, that worst type of wrong occurs when a disaster strikes. Disasters in the world of IT professionals range from natural such as a fire that destroys hardware to a series of ransomware attacks that cripple an entire network. How do you address the inevitable disaster, whether it strikes tomorrow or five years from now?
The answer lies in creating an efficient and comprehensive Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP).
What is a Disaster Recovery Plan?
A disaster recovery plan represents a structured, well-documented approach that automatically implements measures that respond to a disaster. Creating a DRP is a vital component of developing a business continuity plan (BCP), which companies use to recover after an unplanned incident that causes some type of adverse impact that hinders the performance of an organization. The backbone of a BCP is the high-functioning IT infrastructure that helps an organization recover lost data and restore the operational capabilities of a company even if the company operates at a bare minimum level.
Creating a DRP limits the negative impact of a disaster to help an organization continue to perform essential functions. The team of IT professionals creating a DRP analyzes business processes and requirements to ensure operational continuity. Initially, disaster recovery plans involved responding to natural disasters, including earthquakes, hurricanes, and severe winter weather. As hackers became more sophisticated in their approaches to stealing proprietary data, companies have focused more on creating DRPs that target cybersecurity risks.
Although your organization has some flexibility when it comes to developing an effective DRP, the CIO responsible for overseeing the creation of a DRP should follow a few common steps.
Identify Impacted Resources
The first step on how CIOs can create a disaster recovery plan involves identifying every resource and infrastructure component that can be negatively impacted by a cyberattack or natural disaster. Identifying the key points of interconnections prevents a disaster from shutting down an entire IT platform. Choosing the members of an incident response team ensures the approval of a budget, as well as the strategies and policies required to carry out a successful DRP.
The leader of the incident response team should assume the role of crisis management coordinator, which is a responsibility that implements the DRP and coordinates the activities of each member of the team.
Assess Vulnerable Hardware and Software
As a CIO, one of your primary duties is to protect the IT infrastructure from the damage caused by a disaster. This means identifying the weakest points of the IT system. You must detect and assess the extent of each vulnerable IT component, and then take steps to minimize the damage when a disaster strikes. The worst-case scenario when disaster strikes is the disaster causes a series of cascading failures to multiple hardware and software components.
One of the most effective ways to assess vulnerabilities is to review the outcomes of previous disasters that provide teaching moments to prevent future disasters from compromising your organization’s IT infrastructure.
Determine What Constitutes a Disaster?
How will your organization define a disaster? For example, a bank might define a disaster differently than a chain of grocery stores. The bank’s definition of a disaster might be the loss of sensitive customer banking data, while the chain of grocery stores might define a disaster as a severe weather event that causes power outages that eventually lead to significant product losses.
When you determine the severity of an event that qualifies as a disaster, consider several factors that include the company budget, damage to hardware, the extent of insurance coverage, and the performance of backup systems.
Create Short and Long-Term Plans
When disaster strikes your organization, the CIO must respond with a sense of urgency to minimize the damage. A short-term DRP should assess the scope and severity of the damage caused by an event, as well as immediately implement the processes that address the damage caused by a disaster. Obtaining access to critical operational functions represents the most important element of a short-term DRP.
After taking care of emergency issues, the next step involves implementing a long-term DRP. After the immediate threats pass, the long-term SRP should start recovering and replacing lost data and hardware functions. A CIO’s long-term DRP should consist of implementing security enhancements to prevent a similar disaster from causing considerable damage in the future. Make sure to provide your IT team with manuals that contain the instructions for implementing the measures of both a short and long-term DRP.
Disaster Recovery: The Bottom Line
“Be prepared” should be a CIOs motto when addressing disasters. Conducting several different tests can help you create the most successful DRP for your organization. Tests should include reviews, scenario simulations, and full recovery disaster simulations that involve an offsite recovery of all IT systems.