6 Key Elements of a Disaster Recovery Plan

disaster recovery plan board meeting

71% of CEOs and board members do not expect their organization to fully recover within an hour of a disaster, with 17% expecting recovery to take one day. 

Unfortunately, the average recovery time for any type of disaster is much more than 24 hours. Ransomware attacks cost companies 16.2 days of downtime, for example, while natural disasters typically result in a seven-month recovery. 

Disasters, whether they are natural, man-made, or technological, have profound impacts on organizations and the people connected to those organizations—that’s why they’re called disasters. The root of the word disaster dates back to ancient Greece and literally means “bad star” in reference to calamities blamed on the position of planets. 

Despite disasters happening every single day, too many organizations do not have a disaster recovery plan in place. 

A plan can make all the difference. 

Beginning with a Business Impact Analysis, and including a Business Continuity plan and Disaster Recovery plan, an organization can greatly increase their resilience against any threat. 

An organization with a DR plan is far more likely to recover quickly and efficiently from a disaster. Such a plan ensures minimal disruption to critical operations, preserves vital data, and maintains customer trust and business reputation. 

It also provides a clear roadmap for response and recovery, reducing panic and confusion during crises. 

A Disaster Recovery plan is not just a safeguard against potential losses. It's a strategic tool that enhances an organization's resilience, adaptability, and long-term stability. 

Key Takeaways  

1. Risk Assessment and Management 

Identify and prepare for risks specific to your business, including natural disasters and cyber threats. 

2. Clear Organizational Roles and Responsibilities 

Assign and define roles within a dedicated disaster recovery team to ensure a coordinated response. 

3. Prioritization of Business Functions 

Determine which business operations are critical for survival and recovery. 

4. An Effective Communication Strategy 

Develop a strategy to communicate with employees, customers, and stakeholders during and after a disaster. 

5. Backup Management 

Implement reliable backup systems for data and applications, ensuring quick and efficient recovery. 

6. Consider a DRaaS Provider 

DRaaS can be a strategic, cost-effective solution for disaster recovery. 

1. Risk Assessment and Management 

Risk assessment and management are pivotal in crafting an effective disaster recovery plan. Using various data sources, including advanced technologies such as big data and IoT, is vital for a comprehensive risk analysis. 

This multi-faceted approach results in a deeper understanding of potential threats and operational weaknesses.

  • Diverse Data Integration: Gather and analyze data from multiple sources, including internal systems, customer feedback, market trends, and external risk evaluations. Big data and IoT are instrumental in uncovering hidden risks and vulnerabilities.
  • Data Analysis for Risk Identification: Employ advanced analytics tools to interpret the data, identify potential risks, evaluate their impact, and prioritize them based on severity and likelihood.
  • Scenario Planning: Use your data-driven insights to develop various disruption scenarios. Understanding the potential impact of each scenario is crucial for effective planning and response strategies. 

2. Clear Organizational Roles and Responsibilities 

Assigning clear organizational roles and responsibilities is a critical step in ensuring a swift and coordinated response to crises. 

This process involves carefully defining and assigning specific roles within a dedicated Disaster Recovery team. By delineating these roles, each team member gains clarity on their responsibilities and actions during a disaster. This strategic planning is key to mitigating confusion and overlaps in duties. 

  • Define a Disaster Recovery Team: Assemble a team with diverse expertise, representing different departments and different organization levels. Clarify the purpose and importance of this team within the context of disaster recovery.
  • Assign Specific Roles and Responsibilities: Designate roles such as Disaster Recovery Manager, IT Specialist, Communications Coordinator, and Business Continuity Leader, each with clear duties and decision-making authority.
  • Develop a Communication Plan: Implement a structured communication protocol to facilitate effective information flow among team members and to external stakeholders.
  • Regular Training and Simulation Drills: Conduct comprehensive training sessions and regular drills to ensure team members are well-prepared for various disaster scenarios. 

3. Prioritization of Business Functions 

Identifying and prioritizing critical business functions is a vital aspect of DR planning. This process ensures that the most essential operations are maintained during a crisis, facilitating quicker and more effective recovery.

  • Identify Critical Functions: Analyze your business processes to determine which functions are essential for survival. Consider factors like revenue generation, legal obligations, and customer service.
  • Assess Impact: Evaluate the impact of losing each function. Understand how a disruption in these areas would affect your business.
  • Rank Priorities: Rank these functions based on their criticality. The aim is to understand which functions must be restored first to minimize operational and financial impacts.
  • Develop Recovery Strategies: For each critical function, develop specific recovery strategies. This includes allocating resources and outlining steps to resume operations swiftly.

4. An Effective Communication Strategy 

A well-defined communication strategy is critical in developing a DR plan. This strategy not only guides how you communicate with employees, customers, and stakeholders during and after a disaster but also plays a crucial role in maintaining trust and business continuity.

  • Define Communication Channels: Establish clear channels for disseminating information to employees, customers, and stakeholders. This may include emails, social media, and emergency notification systems.
  • Develop Clear Messaging: Create templates for communication that can be quickly adapted to different disaster scenarios. Ensure the messaging is clear, concise, and consistent across all channels.
  • Designate Spokespersons: Identify and train key personnel who will act as spokespersons during a crisis. They should be prepared to address the media, employees, and stakeholders effectively.
  • Post-Disaster Communication: Plan for communication strategies post-disaster, focusing on recovery updates and steps being taken to resume normal operations.

    5. Backup Management 

    Effective backup management is a fundamental component of DR planning. Implementing reliable backup systems is essential to ensure data and applications can be swiftly restored, minimizing downtime and data loss. However, please understand that a backup is NOT a substitute for a plan. Backups are just a part of an overall resiliently mature organization.

    • Identify Critical Data and Applications: Determine which data and applications are crucial for business operations and need prioritization in backup processes.
    • Choose Appropriate Backup Solutions: Select backup solutions that align with your business needs, considering factors like storage capacity, recovery time objectives, and security requirements. Solutions could be on-premises, in the cloud, or a combination of the two.
    • Regular Backup Schedules: Establish and maintain regular backup schedules to ensure up-to-date data protection.
    • Test and Verify Backups: Regularly test backup systems to ensure data integrity and successful recovery capabilities. 

    6. Give Strong Consideration to Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) 

    Opting for Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) can be a strategic move for businesses seeking robust disaster recovery solutions. DRaaS offers many differing solutions, ensuring data protection and swift recovery for all types of organizations. DRaaS can offer a comprehensive, cost-effective solution for disaster recovery, providing peace of mind and business continuity assurance.

    • Evaluate Service Providers: Research and compare different DRaaS providers. Assess their reliability, security standards, and recovery time objectives.
    • Integration with Existing Infrastructure: Ensure the DRaaS solution is compatible with your current IT infrastructure and processes.
    • Cost-Benefit Analysis: Consider the cost of DRaaS against the potential losses from downtime and data breaches, ensuring it aligns with your business objectives. 

    The Power of a Disaster Recovery Plan 

    Having a dynamic disaster recovery plan is not a luxury but a necessity. This plan is crucial for maintaining operations and protecting vital data during unforeseen events. By incorporating these 6 elements and continuously refining your approach, you can safeguard your organization against disruptions.  

    HBS: Your Partner in Disaster Recovery Planning 

    Crafting an effective disaster recovery plan can be complex, but you're not alone in this journey. HBS offers expert assistance in developing and optimizing disaster recovery plans tailored to your unique needs. Our team is committed to enhancing your organizational resilience. Contact HBS today for personalized guidance and take a proactive step towards securing your business's future. 

    author avatar
    Carly Westpfahl