What Is a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP)?

A Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) is a detailed, step-by-step strategy to restore the ordinary business operations of an organization’s IT infrastructure following a disaster scenario that affects the primary business site.

When disaster strikes, the DRP becomes an essential playbook for restoring critical business servers, guiding the recovery team through the process to minimize disruption to operations and ensure the continuity of cloud services.

A disaster recovery plan should include the end-to-end process of how your business should respond during a crisis. It is a prepared document incorporating a clearly defined business continuity strategy. The DRP explains what strictly your business classifies as a disaster and outlines the critical in-scope assets relevant to an overall business continuity plan. The RDP documents which employees are vital to the disaster recovery strategy and explain the communication passage throughout the disaster recovery plans.

Furthermore, the DRP explains how to recover the business, such as failing over critical IT systems to a secondary location or recovering from backups. Once service is restored, it is essential to revisit the whole network disaster recovery plan, understand the lessons learned, and develop a fail-back strategy to restore services to their primary location.

This is a high-level summary of how disaster recovery plans work, but join us in this article as we delve into the fascinating world of technology recovery strategies, disaster recovery, business continuity, and disaster restoration.

Types of Disaster Recovery Plan

There are several types of disaster recovery plans, and understanding these can help businesses choose the most cost-effective solution and strategy to prevent data loss and minimize business impact analysis and downtime.

  • Data Backup: The simplest form of an IT disaster recovery plan involves storing business data either offsite or at a secondary location. The backup data becomes a recovery point objective to minimize the impact of catastrophic events. It’s essential to ensure that all critical servers are backed up using a predefined backup schedule.
  • Hot Sites: These are typically facilities designed to maintain up-to-date copies of data at all times, such as a data center. Hot sites are used to maintain highly available data replicas of critical servers, using server and storage replication, and businesses can failover services to the hot site rapidly.
  • Cold Sites: These are secondary, less frequently used facilities with essential infrastructure that businesses can switch to in the event of a natural disaster or significant business disruption. The alternate site will typically provide office space and leased server infrastructure during a disaster. Server recovery generally is a slower process, usually from backups.
  • Disaster Recovery as a Service: DRaaS is a cloud-based solution capable of seamlessly migrating business services to the cloud.
  • Backup as a Service (BaaS): Like DRaaS, this cloud-based solution focuses on backing up an organization’s data, ensuring data availability during a disaster.
  • Physical Fortification of Data Center: This strategy involves using physical disaster recovery tools, such as fire suppression tools and backup power sources, to protect the data center from disasters. However, this strategy is not effective against cyberattacks.
  • Virtualization involves backing up data or replicating an organization’s entire virtual computing environment offsite. VMware vSphere replication is a standard tool used in this scenario, and it’s often used in private clouds.
  • Point-in-Time Copies: This strategy involves taking a snapshot of a database or application at a given moment. The image can then be restored, provided it’s stored offsite or on a virtual machine unaffected by the disaster.
  • Instant Recovery: Similar to point-in-time copies, instant recovery takes a snapshot of an entire virtual machine. This can then be restored to recover systems and data.

How Does Disaster Recovery Differ from a Simple Backup?

While backups are crucial when a disaster occurs, they are not a complete solution. Backups involve storing copies of data, which can be used to restore lost data. However, a disaster recovery plan goes beyond just data recovery.

A DRP incorporates recovery objectives, recovery time objectives, recovery point objectives, and business continuity planning. It outlines the steps to recover data and return the entire system to normal business operations, including critical systems, business processes, and other aspects of the IT infrastructure.

What to Include in a Disaster Recovery Plan

#1: Define What a Disaster Recovery Scenario Is

A Disaster Recovery (DR) scenario refers to a catastrophic event that disrupts the regular operation of critical assets of the business. These disruptive events could range from cyber attacks to power outages, natural disasters, human error, hardware failure, or equipment failure.

A DR scenario typically results in losing access to business applications, data streams, critical documents, and other system components, significantly jeopardizing your business operations.

#2: Know When to Declare a Disaster

Understanding when to declare a disaster is crucial to minimizing downtime and loss of data. A disaster should be reported when the disruption to your normal operations exceeds the acceptable threshold defined in your disaster recovery plan.

Declaring a disaster requires accurate timing and should only be declared by authorized persons predefined in the DRP.

#3: How to Invoke Disaster Recovery?

Invoking a disaster recovery plan involves activating your technology and internal disaster recovery strategies. This could include switching to a disaster recovery site, starting backup systems, or rerouting network traffic.

The disaster recovery plan should clearly define the process, and everyone involved should know the steps to take.

#4: Communication

During a DR scenario, clear and efficient communication is critical. The disaster recovery incident management plan should include a list of key personnel to be contacted, their roles and responsibilities, and the methods of communication to be used. This may involve liaising with external entities such as data security services or technology partners.

#5: Key Roles and Responsibilities

The recovery management team is the backbone of the disaster recovery process. Their roles and responsibilities should be clearly outlined in the disaster recovery plan. This includes managing communications and internal recovery strategies, overseeing the functionality of the disaster recovery site, and maintaining the continuity of business applications and services.

#6: Run Books

Your disaster recovery plan should include detailed steps to maintain business operations during a disaster. These might involve relocating to a disaster recovery center, switching to redundant systems, implementing manual processes, or utilizing cloud-based applications.

#7: Set a Recovery Time Objective

The Recovery Time Objective (RTO) is the maximum acceptable time your business or government agencies can operate without the disrupted service.

Your disaster recovery plan should detail your RTO for each critical service and the strategies to achieve these objectives.

#8: Set a Recovery Point Objective

The Recovery Point Objective (RPO) for backup data is the maximum acceptable amount of data loss measured in time. In other words, the age of the files must be recovered from backup storage for normal operations to resume if a computer, system, or network goes down.

Your disaster recovery plan should state your RPO for each critical or sensitive data set.

#9: Define the Disaster Recovery Process

Your disaster recovery plan should include clearly defined disaster recovery procedures and processes illustrated with a flowchart of activities. This will serve as a visual guide for the disaster recovery team and ensure a systematic approach to disaster recovery. Tech teams should be able to follow predefined run-books to complete the required disaster recovery tasks.

#10: Root Cause Analysis

After the immediate disaster response procedures and the disaster is under control, it’s essential to conduct a root cause business impact analysis to identify what caused the disaster and how it can be prevented in the future. Lessons learned from risk analysis should be incorporated into an updated disaster recovery plan template to ensure continuous improvement.

#11: Continuously Test and Evolve the DR Plan

The disaster recovery plan should not be a static document. Regular testing and updating of the plan are necessary to account for changes in technology, personnel, and business needs after natural disasters. A disaster recovery testing strategy is critical to successful DR.

Updating your disaster recovery plan to reflect any deficiencies, errors, and omissions identified during the DR process is crucial.

What to Include in a Business Continuity Plan

Write a Mission Statement for the Plan:

Describe the business continuity plan’s objectives, including when it needs to be completed and the budget for disaster and recovery preparation.

Set Up Governance:

Describe the business continuity team, including names or titles, role designations, and contact information. Define roles, lines of authority and succession, and accountability.

Write the Plan Procedures and Appendices:

This is the core of your plan and should include procedures, agreements, and resources. The goal should be specific, potentially using diagrams and illustrations. Remember to include checklists and work instructions, and note who on the team is responsible for knowing plan details.

Detail a Training Program:

Determine the curriculum and timelines for initial and refresher training. Specify which roles will actively lead training and who must receive training.

Set Procedures for Testing Recovery and Response:

Create test guidelines and schedules for testing. To review the plan, consider reaching out to people who did not write the plan. Put together the forms and checklists that attendees will use during tests.

Establish a Process for Capturing Insights:

Build debriefs into your processes; these meetings should occur after training sessions and as after-action reports for incidents.

Disaster Recovery Plan Examples

Examples of disaster recovery plans can be found in various industries. For instance, check out the Atlantic.Net DRP for healthcare workloads.

Scope and Objectives of DR Planning

The scope of disaster recovery planning is broad, encompassing all aspects of the organization’s IT infrastructure. Its primary objective is to minimize the impact of a disaster on business operations and to ensure the swift recovery of critical systems and data.

Another critical objective of disaster planning is to protect sensitive data, ensuring it remains secure even during a disaster.

Business Continuity vs. Disaster Recovery Plans: Do You Need Both?

Business continuity planning and disaster recovery planning are closely related but serve different purposes. Business continuity planning is about maintaining operations during a disaster, while a cloud disaster recovery plan focuses on restoring IT infrastructure and systems after a severe disaster.

Both are critical to an organization’s resilience and should be part of a comprehensive risk assessment and management strategy.

The Risks of Not Having a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan

The risks of not having Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plans are far-reaching. From lost revenue during downtime to reputational damage due to data loss, the impact can be catastrophic. In worst-case disaster scenarios, companies without such a plan may never recover from a significant event.

How Is Business Continuity Planning Different from Disaster Recovery Planning?

While they are often used interchangeably, business continuity planning, enterprise resource management, and disaster recovery planning are distinct but interconnected components of a comprehensive approach to dealing with disruptions.

A business continuity plan is about maintaining the essential functions of a business during and after a disaster. It encompasses everything from managing human resources to maintaining supply chains and information technology systems and ensuring that business operations continue to function.

On the other hand, disaster recovery is a more focused subset of the business continuity plan. It deals explicitly with restoring IT infrastructure and systems, such as data centers and networks, after a disruption.

This might involve strategies like data backup and disaster recovery sites, hardware and software restoration, and the implementation of alternate work sites for IT operations.

Atlantic.Net Disaster Recovery Service

Available in multiple geographically disparate locations, our advanced technology can fail servicer from a primary data center location to a secondary site, ensuring your data is protected and readily available during a disaster.

Our state-of-the-art facilities are built to withstand even the most severe natural disasters and offer unparalleled security. We can meet heavy traffic demands with facilities in eight data center locations and provide offsite storage hosting.

Take the first step towards virtualized disaster recovery plan to protect your business from the unforeseen. Contact Atlantic.Net today and give your business the disaster recovery solution it deserves.