The recent pandemic has shown that disruptions in daily business can happen quickly and without warning. Whether as a result of a pandemic, natural disaster or network disruptions due to cybersecurity incidents, you need to ensure that your business can keep running through operational difficulties. One way to help your business keep going is by developing a disaster recovery plan.

What is a disaster recovery plan?

A disaster recovery plan, also known as a DRP, is a formal business document that outlines in detail the actions and assets needed in the event of a disaster. It includes the required processes, assets, employees and services.

DRPs have become a staple in modern business. They can play a vital role in keeping a business going long term when they are designed and used correctly. Every business is unique, but there is a basic template. Here are the critical elements of a disaster recovery plan template and why they’re essential.

Disaster Recovery Plan Template

1. Asset Management

At the beginning of drafting your DRP, you need to take stock and document all of your critical hardware and software for the business. This includes all layers of your information technology (IT) systems, including hardware, software, network components and relevant business databases. Even outside of drafting a DRP, auditing and documenting all business assets is a best business practice that can lead to improved scalability and added discernibility into total operating expenses.

2. Identifying RTO and RPO

When preparing for and deploying your disaster recovery initiative, it’s vital to establish your business’s Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO). 

The RTO is a pre-established deadline for a business to recover their systems after an outage. You could measure this in hours, days or even weeks.

The RPO relates to a business’ loss tolerance. This is measured by the amount of data that can be lost and is deemed acceptable before causing impactful damage to the group.

Both RTO and RPO are important metrics to understand as various sections of your disaster recovery plan use them for reference. RTOs and RPOs are also subject to change regularly, so it’s important that a business audits these targets often and updates their DRPs as needed.

3. Collect and Audit SLA Agreements

Over time, many businesses will begin working with third-party service providers. When developing your disaster recovery plan, identifying and recording all service level agreements (SLA) between service providers and suppliers is essential. In the event of a network outage, it’s crucial to have a thorough idea of who is responsible for what when recovering systems and restoring backups. This is true whether it is an on-premise or cloud-based outage. Making an SLA is also an important step when ensuring your service providers can meet your business’s RTO and RPO standards.

4. Choose and Establish a Disaster Recovery Site

Next, businesses will want to find a disaster recovery site to manage company backups and support infrastructure. Disaster recovery sites are typically built in remote locations and are used to help restore IT infrastructure and other mission-critical operations during a long-term outage. There are various types of disaster recovery sites to choose from, so find one that supports your own business priorities.

5. Establish Personnel Roles

When establishing a disaster recovery plan within your organization, you should identify each person’s role within the group or outside for disaster recovery processes. To do this, designate and qualify a person or a team to declare certain cases in an emergency as needed. This will be a critical first step when starting the DRP process and streamlining communication levels once recovery efforts are underway. Clearly define role assignments for each person, and train them on their involvement with the DRP process.

6. Build a Communication Plan

Creating a thorough communication plan prior to disaster recovery efforts is vital to the return of normal work. This starts by carefully naming and recording all departments and employees involved. Next, define procedures on how to contact each of the employees and their departments. You should include vendors, partners and customers.

7. Outline Disaster Recovery Protocols

Lastly, outline all of your disaster recovery protocols. These will reference other sections of the DRP. They allow you to list step-by-step instructions for resuming work according to the RTO and RPO. 

8. Perform Regular Testing

Don’t forget to audit and test your DRP to make sure it is effective. For many growing businesses, infrastructure needs and service agreements change. Therefore, it’s vital to ensure your DRP remains factual and efficient over time. A regular routine of audits and DRP tests will ensure that your disaster recovery efforts keep working as the business grows and changes.  

Developing a disaster recovery plan now is a significant step forward to ensuring your business’s long-term viability. Take a close look at your own business needs before following any specific disaster recovery plan template. In many cases, disaster recovery service experts can help consult during the DRP building process. By investing the time now to build a thorough and regularly-updated disaster recovery plan, you’ll ensure your business can weather whatever storm comes your way. 

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