Data loss, security breaches, and unforeseen disasters are becoming common cases in the modern business world. All company information, i.e. data, must be protected and available at all times so that business activities can continue unhindered even in the time of the corona crisis.
Companies often don’t pay the needed attention to data recovery strategies and IT systems. Only when the problem occurs, the consequences of minimizing the risks arising from the vulnerability of IT infrastructures can be seen.
In this blog post, we’ll introduce you to the differences between a backup plan and a disaster recovery plan.
What’s the Difference Between a Backup Plan and a Disaster Recovery Plan?
Disaster Recovery Plan
A disaster recovery plan (DRP) is included in a business continuity plan (BCP). Let’s in brief explain what a business continuity plan is. A large number of companies have recognized the role of technology in the context of acquiring and maintaining a competitive position in the market. However, there’s a less tempting side to the story, and it concerns the vulnerability of the IT infrastructure and the importance of a well-defined disaster recovery plan.
BCP is basically a process of building up a system of prevention and recovery from potential threats to a company. Such a plan ensures that personnel and the company’s assets are protected and able to promptly function in case of a disaster.
Now, back to a disaster recovery plan. It refers to strategic planning aimed at saving a company after an unforeseen disaster or human error. It covers the aspect of recovering the IT system itself: data preservation, launching key applications, and recovery of the company’s infrastructure and technological components – activities before, during, and after the disaster.
The creation of a disaster recovery plan includes a number of activities such as consideration of all components of the IT system, prioritization according to the effects on business, evaluation of implementation options, development of a detailed responsibility plan, etc.
A very important parameter for defining the best DRP solution is the correct decision about the required recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO). It’s a business decision that IT managers should consider well with the rest of their team, taking into account the characteristics of the business.
It’s extremely important to stress that a detailed disaster recovery plan isn’t only needed in situations where a disaster occurs. It can be used for testing surroundings but also in situations of migration or regular maintenance of the system since it contains all applications and services.
Backup is a process in which a copy of data is created in another place – server, disk, and the like. In the event of a disaster, the secondary file that was created can be used to recover the data, of course, if the backup is done in a timely manner. The primary purpose is to recover data that has been potentially lost due to an unforeseen error or disaster. A better option is certainly to have multiple forms of backup solutions, not just one.
Data backup is a crucial thing in these situations and an integral part of every business’s IT strategy. However, data backup isn’t the same as a disaster recovery plan.
What can also help your business to back up its data, assuming it has its own website, is web hosting service. MySQL hosting providers include the backup feature as one of the most respected features in their plans. MySQL hosting services offer simple ways for you to self-manage your backups according to your own needs. You can even backup domain configuration, data, and email. A simple restore option will save you time and stress in the event of a disaster by which we mean losing whatever you stored on the database – from custom tables to your website’s content.
Disaster recovery solutions and backup go hand in hand to make a business continuity plan complete. However, there’s a visible difference between them. Simply put, backup is copying and storing data, while a disaster recovery plan is actually a strategy that guarantees recovery not only of data but of the entire IT system and infrastructure of the company.
Given the importance that the IT system has for business today, a defined disaster recovery solution and plan represent very important aspects of business security. DRP implies that if something happens to the primary IT environment, the alternative environment can support the smooth operation of the company almost immediately.
Backup doesn’t work on the same principle. It doesn’t provide the necessary physical resources to restore data to the network but only refers to a copy of the data that’s in one or more places.
Planning a backup is much simpler because the goal is to recover data and reach a recovery point objective. On the other hand, disaster recovery involves a comprehensive strategy called a disaster recovery strategy.
Steps in Creating a Disaster Recovery Plan
Step #1: List All the It Assets You Own and Perform a Risk Assessment
The logical start to creating a DRP involves listing and analyzing important data that’s critical to your business, as well as a list of hardware and systems that your company owns and manages. In this way, you can clearly define the elements of your business IT environment and determine what IT management is responsible for.
Common IT tools are:
- Different types of applications and programs
- Data (e.g. contact details of business partners, confidential data of customers and users, etc.)
- Network devices and access points
- Specific equipment and devices for data storage and similar
It’s recommended that you list all the elements, their physical location, which network they belong to, as well as how they depend on other elements. The listing is followed by a risk assessment.
For each of the elements you’ve included in your list, name potential threats and risks:
- Real threats for each element of the infrastructure
- The probability that a certain disaster will actually happen
- The possible degrees of damage from certain disasters
Step #2: Organize the Elements by Criticality Factor
It’s important to establish a unique evaluation system before grouping. Depending on what your company is doing, data can play a more or less important role in the post-disaster crisis management process.
For example, if you’re a disaster-ridden e-commerce company with thousands of scheduled orders, the key to continuing your business is information about your customers who made payments, as well as accurate information about when the payment was made, which is the expected delivery time that must be complied with, as well as which purchased product belongs to which customer.
When classifying all elements according to importance, it’s necessary to give a descriptive assessment of how critical each element is for further business.
It’s enough to determine 3 levels of importance according to this factor:
- Level 1: The element is necessary to achieve the strategic goal of the business but it isn’t necessary for the first phase of disaster recovery
- Level 2: The element is necessary to achieve the strategic goal of the business and the company can continue to operate although in a damaged state and reduced business volume
- Level 3: The element is critical for performing all essential business operations and without it, it isn’t possible to continue doing business
Step #3: Build a Budget and Choose the Right Allies
Forming a budget within a disaster recovery plan takes time, but it’s necessary for the most effective management of the company in a crisis situation. One of the useful tricks to forming a budget is to first list the things that are of the greatest value (i.e., large items like software and hardware maintenance, employee salaries, data storage space, etc.) and then enter lower costs.
According to some research, unplanned downtime can cost companies between $ 926 and $ 17,244 per minute, while in the IT sector is $ 5,600 per minute, which is a huge figure and underscores the importance of prevention quite well. Other statistics say that companies typically allocate between 2% and 8% of the total budget for disaster recovery although experts recommend as much as 15%. It all depends on the risk you’re exposed to. In any case, the easiest way to define the figures is to rely on your previous fiscal year, i.e. usual income and expenses.
Nowadays, cloud services are gaining more and more importance in the context of prevention and designing an effective and affordable disaster recovery plan. With the cloud, data is stored off-site from where it can be safely downloaded in the event of a disaster. The level of protection of IT systems is high, and there are no hidden or wasted costs: companies pay only what they actually spend, which makes investing in a cloud a wise business decision.
Step #4: Define RTO and RPO
Recovery time objective (RPO) implies a predefined maximum time period for the implementation of a disaster recovery plan. Of course, this is a rough estimate, but you mustn’t be reduced to speculation.
When defining the recovery period, it’s necessary to keep in mind the usual revenues that depend on certain elements affected by the disaster and make an assessment when the losses become very dangerous – so much so that they threaten the existence of the company.
This is quite a challenge: What’s an acceptable period of business suspension that your company can afford without irreversibly leaving a negative mark on finances, market position, or even leading to bankruptcy?
Recovery point objective (RPO) refers to an acceptable amount of data that a company can lose without seriously disrupting the business rhythm. The frequency of backups in order to save all key data depends on this defined value. If the company suffers a serious system crash, the recovery point allows you to restore data saved as part of the most recent backup. It also defines how old the files that must be recovered are.
Step #5: Define Strategic Activities and Assign Responsibilities
Now, it’s time to define the exact protocol, i.e. strategic activities, as follows:
- Response strategy
- Recovery strategy
For both strategies, it’s necessary to define clear steps in order to react calmly in the event of a disaster. Let’s look at this in a simplified example of data on the number of the company’s liabilities, an element that will most certainly be found in your chart. As the key data concerning finances are in question, they must be stored somewhere, so we’ll put the server crash as a potential risk.
We can put a server backup as a response strategy and the steps would include the following:
- Confirming that the server has failed
- Confirming that the data is securely saved on the backup
- Transferring data to a temporary server
As a recovery strategy, we can put the repair or replacement of the primary server that failed, and the steps would include the following:
- Determining the reason for the server crash
- Installing a new server
- Testing the new server
- Transferring data to a new server
Step #6: Document, Test, and Evaluate Your Plan
The last step involves clearly documenting the DRP, as well as testing it. This is followed by an evaluation and possible revisions of what you’ve noted. Try to continuously test your plan through employee training in order to reach an excellent level of teamwork but also to identify the shortcomings of your plan and therefore improve it.
In addition, your business will change over time, as will the IT resources you use and manage, and the DRP must follow any changes. Plan evaluation is best done through practice. Here, too, take the time to educate employees about the importance of planning and the key role they play as members of your team.