IT Services | June 28, 2024

12 Key Elements of a Disaster Recovery Plan Checklist

Did you know that about 43% of small businesses fail to reopen after a disaster due to inadequate preparation and data loss? It’s a prime example of why you need a disaster recovery plan checklist to safeguard your business operations.

So what are the essential elements that should be on it?

Let’s take a closer look at the primary needs of your disaster recovery plan!

1. Risk Assessment Checklist

A risk assessment begins with understanding the types of disasters that could occur, such as natural events like floods or earthquakes, and man-made incidents like cyberattacks or power failures.

To conduct a thorough risk assessment, start by listing all the possible threats to your business. Include physical risks like fire and theft, as well as digital risks such as data breaches. Evaluate the likelihood of each threat and its possible consequences.

Next, assess the vulnerabilities within your business. This includes looking at your IT systems, physical premises, and even staff readiness. Identify weaknesses that could be exploited by these threats.

2. Business Impact Analysis

A Business Impact Analysis (BIA) helps you understand the effects of a disaster on your business operations.

Start by listing all your business’s essential functions. These might include customer service, product delivery, financial operations, and IT services.

Once you have this list, assess how a disaster might disrupt each function. Consider factors like downtime, loss of data, and the inability to communicate with customers. By understanding these impacts, you can prioritize which functions need the most protection.

Next, estimate the potential financial losses from these disruptions. This includes direct costs, such as lost sales and increased operational expenses, as well as indirect costs, like damage to your reputation.

3. Recovery Objectives

Defining clear recovery objectives is vital. This involves setting Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO).

RTO is the maximum amount of time your business can afford to be down after a disaster before it causes significant harm. RPO is the maximum age of the data that can be recovered without causing serious damage to your business.

To set your RTO, consider how long each critical function can be offline without severely affecting your operations.

RPO focuses on data loss tolerance. Determine how much data your business can afford to lose during a disaster.

4. Data Backup Procedures

The first step in creating a robust backup plan is to identify all critical data that needs protection. This includes customer records, financial information, and any other data vital to your operations.

Once you know what data to back up, decide on the best methods and tools for the job. There are several types of backups: full, incremental, and differential. Full backups copy all data every time, providing a complete snapshot but requiring significant storage space.

Incremental backups only save changes made since the last backup, making them faster and using less space. Differential backups save changes since the last full backup, providing a middle ground.

5. IT Disaster Recovery Plan

The first step in creating an IT disaster recovery plan is to conduct an inventory of all IT assets. This includes servers, network equipment, software applications, and data storage devices.

Next, prioritize your IT systems based on their importance to your business operations. Identify which systems are critical and need to be restored first.

Backup strategies are a key part of the IT disaster recovery plan. Regular backups ensure that you have current copies of your data available. Decide on the frequency of backups based on your RPO.

Daily backups might be necessary for critical data, while weekly backups could suffice for less important information. Make sure backups are stored off-site or in the cloud to protect against local disasters.

6. Communication Plan

The first step is to establish communication channels that can be used during a disaster. These channels might include phone lines, email, messaging apps, and emergency notification systems.

It’s important to identify key stakeholders who need to be informed during a disaster. This group typically includes employees, management, customers, suppliers, and possibly local authorities.

Each group should have a specific contact person or team responsible for relaying information. Create a detailed contact list with phone numbers, email addresses, and alternative methods of communication for each key stakeholder.

7. Emergency Response Steps

Emergency response steps are the immediate actions taken when a disaster occurs. The first step is to activate the emergency response team.

This team should be trained and ready to respond quickly to any disaster. They will coordinate the initial response, ensuring that everyone knows their role and responsibilities.

Evacuation procedures are a critical part of emergency response. Clearly marked exits and evacuation routes should be established and communicated to all employees.

Regular drills can help ensure everyone knows how to evacuate safely. In case of fire or other immediate threats, quick and orderly evacuation can save lives.

Communication is another key aspect of emergency response. Use your pre-established communication channels to inform all stakeholders about the situation. Provide clear instructions and updates as the situation evolves. This helps reduce panic and ensures everyone is aware of what to do next.

Once the immediate danger has passed, assess the damage. This involves checking the physical premises and IT systems for any impacts. Document the extent of the damage to help with insurance claims and future planning.

8. Resource Management

Resource management involves identifying and allocating the resources needed to respond to and recover from a disaster. These resources include personnel, equipment, and financial assets.

Start by identifying the resources your business will need in the event of a disaster. This includes everything from emergency supplies like food and water to specialized equipment for IT recovery.

Personnel are one of the most critical resources in disaster recovery. Ensure that you have a well-trained team ready to respond.

This team should include individuals with the necessary skills and knowledge to manage the situation. Regular training and drills can help ensure that your team is prepared and knows what to do in an emergency.

Financial resources are also important. Consider setting up a disaster recovery fund or making sure you have access to emergency financing.

9. Employee Training and Awareness

Employees need to know their roles and responsibilities during a disaster. Regular training ensures they are prepared to act quickly and efficiently when a disaster strikes.

Start by developing a comprehensive training program that covers all aspects of your disaster recovery plan. This program should include procedures for evacuation, communication, and specific tasks related to their roles.

Training sessions should be conducted regularly to keep employees’ skills and knowledge up to date. These sessions can include workshops, drills, and seminars.

Drills are particularly effective as they simulate real-life scenarios, allowing employees to practice their response in a controlled environment. For instance, conducting a fire drill helps employees understand evacuation routes and procedures.

10. Vendor and Partner Coordination

Your business likely relies on various external entities, such as suppliers, service providers, and partners. Ensuring these relationships are well-managed and prepared for disaster scenarios is vital for smooth recovery.

Start by identifying all key vendors and partners essential to your operations. This list might include IT service providers, raw material suppliers, and logistics companies.

Establish clear communication channels with these entities. Ensure you have up-to-date contact information and know the primary points of contact for each partner.

Discuss your disaster recovery plan with them and understand their own recovery capabilities. Knowing how quickly they can resume services or provide necessary materials can help you better plan your recovery timelines.

11. Testing and Drills

Testing and drills are essential components of a disaster recovery plan. Regular testing ensures that all aspects of your plan work as intended.

Start by scheduling regular drills that simulate different disaster scenarios. These drills should involve all relevant personnel and cover various types of emergencies, such as fires, natural disasters, and cyberattacks.

During these exercises, employees can practice their roles and responsibilities, ensuring they know exactly what to do in a real crisis. These drills also help identify any weaknesses or gaps in your plan that need to be addressed.

In addition to drills, conduct periodic audits of your disaster recovery plan. This involves reviewing all procedures and resources to ensure they are up-to-date and adequate for current risks.

For example, if your business has recently upgraded its IT infrastructure, your recovery plan should reflect these changes. Regular audits help keep your plan relevant and effective.

12. Plan Maintenance and Review

Maintaining and reviewing your disaster recovery plan is a continuous process. Start by scheduling regular reviews of the entire plan. These reviews should happen at least annually, or more often if significant changes occur within your organization.

During each review, update any changes in your business operations, technology, or infrastructure. Regularly consult with your team to gather feedback on the plan’s effectiveness. Employees involved in the plan’s execution can provide valuable insights into any issues or areas for improvement.

Benefits of a Disaster Recovery Plan Checklist

A comprehensive disaster recovery plan checklist ensures your business can quickly and effectively respond to and recover from any disaster.

At EMPIST, we pride ourselves on innovation and excellence, which allows us to provide top-level Managed IT Services. Our focus is always on proactive support and strategic planning.

Get in touch today to find out about our comprehensive disaster and backup recovery options!