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The threat could be external or internal, a malicious hacker or a busted water pipe. Your core business functions could make you a prime target for sabotage, or your office could sit squarely on a fault line. All organizations face threats. What separates the prepared from the unprepared? An IT disaster recovery plan.

An IT disaster recovery plan ensures that your assets and hardware (and especially your data) are protected in the event of a natural disaster or emergency. A good plan also goes further than that, streamlining the steps to help your entire organization get back up and running as quickly as possible. Are you ready for a worst-case scenario? We’ve outlined the critical elements every IT disaster recovery plan should include.

Have a disaster recovery team in place year-round.

Nobody can predict when a disaster will strike. That’s why it’s important to identify team members who will prepare the disaster recovery plan and take charge in an emergency. Each person should have clearly defined roles and responsibilities, with up-to-date contact information for any time of day (with backup personnel in place, too). It’s good practice to also include your cloud service provider as part of your disaster recovery team.

Assess your organization’s disaster risks.

If your physical location (or data center) is not located near the ocean, your risk of damage by hurricane is quite minimal, but there are myriad natural disasters, man-made emergencies, and technology failures that can make an impact. Each may have a slightly different recovery strategy, so it’s best to imagine these varying scenarios before they occur.

Take inventory of your hardware, software, and system infrastructure.

Prepare exhaustive documentation of all hardware (like servers, computers, and wireless devices), software, and systems your organization relies on for daily operations. Couple entries with vendor technical support contacts. Prioritize which applications should be recovered first, like payroll and payment processing. Be proactive by suggesting the placement of physical equipment off the floor, away from windows, and in secure locations.

Specify data redundancy and off-site storage measures.

Organizations have different data priority levels. Each level (high, medium, and low) will need a specific plan for how the data is kept, stored, and backed-up to ensure mission-critical information is always available. Instant data accessibility is enabled by cloud-based backups (ideally located in a different geographic region, so as not to be effected by the same disaster).

When you can, automate.

Cloud computing allows for much of the disaster recovery process to be automated, from failover to failback operations. This reduces the load on critical team members to perform tedious tasks, minimizing downtime and speeding-up the recovery process. Data continuity and business resiliency is a critical aspect of organizational preparedness.

What is your tolerance for downtime?

A recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO) should be defined for every set of applications or data priority level. These determine how long your business can operate without access to key information or infrastructure. Set the tightest objectives (as close to zero as possible) for the systems your business can’t survive without. Your disaster recovery plan should focus on restoring these first.

Communicate openly, honestly, and frequently.

An intelligently designed communications plan is an essential element of successful disaster recovery. How will you communicate with employees, customers, and stakeholders – immediately as the disaster unfolds and ongoing during the recovery process? Who will take point on regular updates? What if you don’t have access to your usual communication channels or vehicles? These questions should be addressed in your plan.

Prepare a space where employees can go during an emergency.

If your primary office or business location is unavailable, you’ll need to pinpoint where employees should report, while also ensuring they have the right equipment, space, and communication tools on-hand to continue their work. Many organizations can rely on employees teleworking from home; others cannot. Make sure everyone in the organization is familiar with where to go and how to access your information systems from a different location.

Test, then update your plan and test again.

Any number of steps in your IT disaster recovery plan can fail in some way. It’s important to regularly test your plan against several scenarios, including unreliable internet connections, out-of-date contacts, newer versions of software, or complete communications blackout. Continual evaluation, recalibration, and optimization of the plan is crucial to being fully prepared when a real disaster is at hand.

No IT disaster recovery plan is ever perfect for the eventual scenario that will arise, but the important point is to keep making it better, faster, and more comprehensive. Even the above steps are by no means exhaustive. You’ll need to work with your organizational leaders and cloud technology specialists to prepare a unique plan that suits your mission needs, especially as threats and potential disasters evolve.

Through it all, GovDataHosting is here to help. Rather than scrambling to pick up the pieces, tackle the risk of a potential disaster head-on with a well-thought-out business continuity and disaster recovery plan, aided by our leading cloud technology specialists for high impact systems and data.

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