Creating and Testing Your Disaster Plans for Business Continuity

By VaultTek | August 30, 2023

Disaster planning is essential for businesses, as it helps them proactively prepare for unexpected events like natural disasters, cyber attacks, and pandemics. Moreover, chances are high that you will experience a disruption due to hardware failure and human error. By having a disaster recovery plan in place, businesses can minimize disruptions to operations, protect data, and recover faster from the emergency situation. Regular testing and updating of plans allow businesses to stay prepared and adapt to new threats. Investing time and resources in disaster planning now can save businesses recovery time, money, and prevent damage to their reputation in the long run.

How Does Disaster Recovering Planning Differ from Business Continuity Planning?

Disaster recovery planning focuses on restoring IT systems and data after a disaster, while business continuity planning is a more comprehensive strategy, aiming to maintain all critical business functions during and after a disaster. Both plans are crucial for quick recovery and uninterrupted operations.

A disaster recovery plan is a documented process that outlines the steps to recover from a catastrophic event. It includes procedures for restoring critical business functions, essential records, data backups, communication, and testing. Regularly reviewing, updating, and testing the plan is crucial for its effectiveness.

A business continuity plan is a document that outlines procedures to ensure critical business functions can continue during and after a disaster. It includes emergency response procedures, communication plans, strategies for data backup and recovery, and employee safety protocols. Developing a business continuity plan involves identifying potential risks and creating solutions to mitigate them. Just like your disaster recovery plan, regularly reviewing and updating the business continuity plan is essential for its effectiveness.

Which Comes First: Business Continuity or Disaster Recovery?

In general, business continuity planning takes precedence as it is a strategic plan that focuses on the procedures and roles relied on for maintaining operations during a disruption. While disaster recovery planning focuses on the tactical items needed to restore data, systems, and operations after a disaster. A typical business continuity plan includes emergency management, business impact analysis, and the formation of recovery teams. A well-developed business continuity plan should be in place before a disaster occurs, and then the disaster recovery plan is developed to align with it.

Key Components for Disaster Recovery Planning

Disaster recovery planning involves assessing risks and implementing tactical processes to address potential risks, minimize disruptions to operations, recover faster, and protect data. Moreover, it demonstrates a proactive commitment to customer service and reputation protection.

When creating a disaster recovery plan, it’s important to consider various events including natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes based on physical locations. Additionally, cyber attacks, power outages, equipment failures, and business interruptions due to pandemics or terrorist attacks should also be accounted for.

To ensure a comprehensive disaster recovery plan, it is crucial to include these five key elements at minimum:

  • One – Contact Information: First and foremost, the plan should provide contact information for key personnel and stakeholders, allowing for efficient communication during recovery efforts.
  • Two – Roles and Responsibilities: Outlining specific roles and responsibilities will help ensure that everyone involved knows their tasks and can work together effectively.
  • Three – Step-by-Step Plan: Include the step-by-step recovery process in order of critical systems and essential records, ensuring that the most valuable information and data can be restored promptly.
  • Four – Data Protection: Backup strategies, both on-site and off-site, should be part of the plan to safeguard against data loss and information on the frequency, storage location, and third-party contact for backups should be readily available.
  • Five – Review and Test: Finally, testing and regularly updating the plan will help maintain its effectiveness over time as people, roles, and systems change.

Disaster Recovery Planning Includes Backup for Data Protection

Having a robust backup solution is crucial for effective disaster recovery. By using both on-site and cloud backup, businesses can ensure that their data is easily accessible and secure while also protecting against the risks that could compromise on-site backups. Implementing automated backup solutions streamlines the process and enhances reliability and efficiency. Strategic suggestions for a successful plan include:

  • Different Devices: If copies are kept on the same system or hardware device and there is damage or worse, both copies are at risk of data loss. For increased digital records protection, keep backup copies on separate devices that are not connected through a shared network.
  • Ease of Use: Data backup should be simple, secure, and efficient.
  • Offline Copy: One copy of your data backup should be secured offline as a protective measure against ransomware or other malware event.
  • Off-site/Geographic Locations: Should a disaster impact your on-site location or region, backups stored within or near the same locality increases the risk of all sets of digital records being compromised. Utilizing diverse geographic locations for off-site backups mitigates locality risks and provides even more layers of protection.
  • Proactive Planning: Having a crisis response plan in place empowers you to act decisively and recover quicker.
  • Security: Security should be embedded into your backup process, helping to ensure protection from attackers at every stage.
  • Speed to Recovery: To increase your data protection further, have an on-site backup system as your first layer of records protection and the quickest data recovery when needed.

Testing Your Disaster Recovery Plan

By implementing proper disaster planning and testing that plan thoroughly, businesses can significantly minimize the impact of disruptions to their operations. Testing disaster recovery plans has several benefits:

  • Helps identify weaknesses and gaps in the plan
  • Evaluates the plan’s effectiveness and efficiency
  • Validates backup systems and data recovery processes
  • Enhances the organization’s ability to respond and recover from disruptions
  • Provides an opportunity to refine and improve the plan

Testing methods include full-scale testing, where the overall readiness is assessed; partial testing, which focuses on specific components or systems; parallel testing, running production and recovery systems simultaneously; checklist testing, following predefined steps; and simulation testing, recreating realistic disaster scenarios. At the minimum, employees should be trained regularly on the plan to ensure understanding of potential risks, preparedness review, and reinforcement of communication procedures.

One of the most effective ways to test any or all parts of your disaster recovery plan is to tabletop test it. Tabletop testing is a coordinated response exercise, where stakeholders go through a simulation of a disaster scenario that could happen to your organization. A common outline for a tabletop testing looks like this:

  • Select overall plan or partial function to be tested
  • Choose and gather key participants from departments
  • Establish ground rules for participants to follow
  • Develop the specific disaster scenario you’ll use for testing
  • Review assumptions involving available resources, such as phone, internet, and staffing
  • Conduct the exercise taking it step-by-step through each response and procedure outlined in the plan as it is currently written
  • Document, discuss, and propose advice on the results of the test
  • Update the disaster plan process by applying lessons learned

By allowing key stakeholders to discuss and walk through simulated disaster scenarios, it helps identify gaps, challenges, and areas for improvement. Tabletop testing also facilitates collaboration and communication among team members, ensuring everyone understands their roles and responsibilities and allows for a thorough evaluation of the response effectiveness.

Proactive Data Protection and Faster Recovery

It’s not if a disaster will occur, it’s when. Failure to adhere to the disaster recovery plan can result in extended downtime, data loss, financial losses, reputation damage, and potential legal consequences. By implementing well-structured business continuity and disaster recovery plans, businesses can minimize downtime, protect valuable data, and swiftly recover from disruptions.

The VaultTek data protection solution provides multiple layers of data defense with our triple-redundant backup system: one on-site backup and two separate backups at remote U.S.-based data centers. The convenience of having an on-premise backup with the added security of replication offsite means your recovery process can start immediately.

When disaster strikes, you’ll have peace of mind that your data is protected, and our personalized approach means our team of experts are there to manage, monitor, and support you through the recovery process.