IT disasters can strike at any time, so being prepared for them beforehand is critical. Regardless of when the disaster strikes, it is never a good time. Downtime is expensive and important documents can be lost. In fact, 40 to 60% of businesses don’t recover from major disasters. Luckily, a managed services provider can help you plan for the worst, limiting the risk of a disaster and drastically increasing the likelihood that your business will come out on the other side.
Assess the Disaster Risks
You can’t plan for a disaster which you don’t know exists. For this reason, the first step is always to identify and assess the risks posed to your business. It’s important to learn about what you should be preparing for in the first place. For example, you probably have a plan in place in case of fire because that’s a known and expected risk. But do you ever think about the fact that your business is more likely to experience a severe malware attack than a fire?
Additionally, you shouldn’t treat IT disasters as an afterthought. They often have the same, very real consequences as environmental disasters. Perhaps you have a plan in place for your employees to still be able to access their work in the event that they can’t get into the physical location of your business. What about if your employees can’t access your company network? The outcome of both scenarios is that your work would stall, but it’s likely that you’ve only accounted for the former.
And just as is the case for any other type of disaster, those which apply to the IT field can come in various levels of severity. They may be seemingly minor, such as a temporary power outage, or they may be as severe as a widespread breach of your systems by a virus. In either case, your business will suffer without a plan in place.
Identify Recovery Objectives
After your risks are identified, but before your plan is created, you need to identify your recovery objectives. These objectives will vary depending on the specific disaster they pertain to. For example, if you lose power then your primary objective would be to have your power restored. From there, a plan can then be made which details all the various steps which will eventually lead you to that goal.
However, objectives can also be tiered. For every disaster there will not only be one objective you need to accomplish. And it’s at this stage that you should not only identify your objectives, but rank them as well. Some objectives are more important than others, and some need to be achieved in a specific order. After a malware attack, you may have two primary objectives: cleansing your PCs of any remaining malware and connecting your PCs back to your network. In this example, making sure your PCs are malware-free should happen before you connect them all to the network once again.
Create a Response Plan
By now you have identified the risks to your business and the objectives you wish to accomplish in the event each of those risks become disasters. It’s finally time to create a response plan. But, there are actually two kinds of response plans you’ll need to create for each potential disaster: an emergency response plan and a business continuity plan.
Emergency response plans explain exactly what you need to do during and immediately after a disaster. If a fire breaks out, a standard emergency response plan would instruct anyone in the building to evacuate via the predetermined escape routes, contact the fire department, and account for all employees. The same idea applies to IT emergency response plans. Who is in charge of what during an emergency? Is there anything you should do to immediately limit the effects of the disaster? Who needs to be called and in what order (highest to lowest priority)?
Business continuity plans are for after the immediate threat of the disaster has been resolved. Your emergency response plan has (hopefully) gone off without an issue, and now it’s time to work towards getting your business back on track. This is the time for restoring backups, testing and retesting every part of your system, and contacting clients to inform them of your resumed operations. Think of it as the rebuilding and reopening phase after the fire has been put out.
Review and Revise
New IT disasters are always cropping up, and some old IT disasters can’t be totally avoided no matter how prepared you are. But that doesn’t mean you can stop preparing. It’s important to revisit your disaster response plans every couple of months — they may need to be updated. And if you are struck by an IT disaster, once your business has recovered you should review and revise your plans accordingly. The best way to learn about IT disasters is to experience one.
When disaster struck, did your plan hold up? Does it need to be adjusted so that it can work more effectively the next time around? Was there anything that you noticed you hadn’t planned for the first time around? Now is the time to reinforce the plans you already have in place.
When preparing for an IT disaster there are four steps you need to take. You need to assess the risks, identify your objectives, create your plans, and then continuously review and revise the first three steps. Only then will your business be in the best position possible to avoid or survive a potentially destructive disaster. And an experienced managed services provider can help.
IT Services Group Disaster Recovery Planning
If you haven’t previously considered IT disaster recovery planning, or if you aren’t satisfied with your current recovery plans, IT Services Group can help. Contact ITSG today to learn more about how we use state of the art backup systems to help your business weather any storm.