Any business can suffer from a disaster. This could be related to any area of the business however in today’s increasingly digital world an IT disaster is rapidly becoming a more prevalent threat to businesses.

An IT disaster can be anything, from a critical system failure to a natural disaster causing infrastructure to be destroyed. This type of disaster has the potential to hinder or halt business operations for its duration or permanently if the correct safeguards are not put in place.

What can be done to mitigate an IT disaster?

The best way to mitigate this is by having a carefully considered disaster recovery plan.
A disaster recovery plan is a comprehensive document tailored to a specific business that describes how to restore operations quickly and keep critical IT functions running during or after a disaster has occurred.

A disaster recovery plan should have three main categories to plan against:

  1. Minimising Downtime – Downtime can be catastrophic for businesses. It causes a complete stop to business operations, resulting in potential loss of revenue, damaged reputation, and customer dissatisfaction.
  2. Protecting Data – Many businesses are nothing without the data that they store. IT system failure or destruction through a disaster can cause this to be lost permanently.
  3. Meeting Regulatory Requirements – Many industries have strict requirements for data security and data protection. If not prepared effectively, these requirements can be breached in a disaster, which can mean severe consequences for the business.

Implementing an effective disaster recovery plan requires a considerable amount of work reviewing the systems in place and how they operate normally, before assessing the impact of their unavailability.

To minimise downtime many disaster recovery plans will aim to mitigate any opportunity for a single point of failure. Many businesses rely on specific business software, often hosted on a server or specific desktop. If no other device within the business has the ability to run this software quickly after the initial failure, there could be significant downtime.

What’s the backup?

Many businesses protect their data with backup solutions. Many are doing this with cloud storage solutions, such as Microsoft OneDrive and SharePoint or by backing their local servers to an onsite and offsite location. Ensuring this is done effectively and regularly is a critical part of any disaster recovery plan and must be implemented before a disaster happens.
Meeting regulatory requirements should be part of a business’s day to day plan as well as a disaster recovery plan. Ensuring data security and integrity within a business’s day to day operational plan will ensure compliance most of the time, however, in the event of a disaster, it is important to minimise the possibility of data leaking during the recovery process.

Common mistakes in IT disaster recovery planning

  1. Inadequate Risk Assessment – This could be due to inadequate time allocation or key information being forgotten about. Understanding common failure points and potential risks, such as cyber threats, human error, or hardware failure is all crucial to developing a thorough disaster recovery plan.
  2. Lack of testing – A plan may have critical flaws, and ideas that were good in theory may not be in practice. Knowing this by testing the plan before an actual disaster will help a more effective plan be in place should a disaster occur.
  3. Failure to update – To maintain an effective disaster recovery plan is not a one-time job. Regular maintenance of a disaster recovery plan is critical, flaws that were unnoticed will never be spotted and any change to infrastructure, such as systems retired, software changed, or team members changed will render parts of the plan irrelevant and details missed.
  4. Forgetting communication protocols – In a disaster, stakeholders may be panicked or confused by what is happening. Ensuring effective communication channels allows all stakeholders to know where to go when they would like information and also allows less distraction for the IT team working through the issues. Stakeholders should be aware of this before a disaster, so they know what to expect if one was to occur. An effective communication channel for the IT team is also needed to ensure that they can communicate to finish the job.
  5. Single backup points – Reliance on a single backup point can be very risky. Implementing multiple backup solutions, both on and off site allow for a greater chance of recovery should data be lost.

How likely is a disaster to happen to my business?

Every business is at risk, regardless of their infrastructure. It is therefore critical to ensure that an effective disaster recovery plan is implemented.

Remember in 2017 when the Wannacry ransomware hit the NHS and ground the service to a halt?
Lots of computer based systems across the NHS were completely unavailable and paper records were required for at least 3 days after the attack hit. For some hospitals and GP surgeries, Phone systems were down and staff had to use personal mobile phones for communication. The knock on effect of this attack was huge, the disruption came with a huge cost (estimated £92 million). It also took weeks for the full service level to be available again and a backlog of appointments people required as their original was cancelled or never booked due to the system’s unavailability.
Whilst the attack was enabled due to systems not being updated, there was a large delay period due to there being no clear plan of what to do in the event of a large scale Cyber Attack. The lack of planned redundancy and backup communication channels allowed the disruption to last for as long as it did.

The NHS isn’t the only large business to be plagued by a disaster. In 2014 Samsung had a major fire in their South Korean database. The fire wiped out infrastructure, rendering it and any data it contained useless. Unfortunately for Samsung, it was discovered that they did not have any remote backup for this data so the data was lost for good.
This also left certain Samsung devices that needed to connect to these servers, such as smartphones, tablets and smart TVs unable to access certain services for a frustratingly long time for customers.

These incidents highlight the importance of disaster recovery planning for your business, neglecting this area can cause irreversible data loss and potentially catastrophic levels of downtime causing the business operation to cease, sometimes permanently. The time investment into a strong and effective disaster recovery plan can save a business. Get in touch to have our team of experts help you create a robust IT disaster recovery plan.

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