IT Disaster Recovery Planning: A Checklist

JANUARY 27TH, 2020
Disasters are weird. Some give you fair warning and time to prepare. When a hurricane or tornado is spotted in your area, you know you're up against something that could potentially take out everything in its path. Others literally strike out of the blue and immediately thrust you into response mode. With no warning, your hard drive might fail and make the threat of downtime a scary reality. Sound planning will make sure you're ready no matter what shape a disaster takes. And this disaster recovery (DR) checklist will help you implement that plan in an easy-to-follow format.

1. Define Your Recovery Objectives

Recovery is the most important element of DR planning. Well before a disaster strikes, define your recovery time and recovery point objectives. Consider the following when mapping out your recovery goals:
  • Identify critical systems and the order in which they should be recovered.
  • Understand when to recover individual files versus full system recovery.
  • Does recovering from a restore point make more sense than recovering from backup copies?
  • Determine how much downtime you can afford to endure in a worst-case scenario
  • Estimate a time-frame for how fast your data and systems need to be recovered.

2. Designate a Recovery Method

The right way to recover varies depending on your recovery objectives. Luckily, you have a few options at your disposal, including the following:

3. Test Your Plan

Testing makes sure your backups can actually be restored following a disaster—when you need them most! According to a survey conducted by Forrester, 43 percent of respondents reported they test their DR plan once a year. Another 38 percent admitted to testing infrequently or not at all. In general, disaster recovery testing should cover the following:
  • A regular schedule that outlines how often tests should be conducted
  • Drills that simulate the recovery process in real-time exercises
  • Evaluation of test results to identify potential problems with the recovery process and determine what led to failures
  • Thorough analysis to determine what worked, what didn't work, and which parts of the plan need to be redesigned or tested again

4. Identify the Problem and Measure Its Impact

No two disasters are the same. When a disaster occurs, before taking one action or another, take time to answer the following questions:
  • Is the incident limited to a single system, or is your entire network affected?
  • Have any files been damaged or deleted?
  • Are any of your systems down?
  • Has the disaster compromised your physical data center or place of business?

5. Review the Process

Following a disaster and once business operations have resumed, review the implementation of your disaster recovery plan from top to bottom. This is your opportunity to assess how well your team responded and highlight areas that could possibly be improved. Questions to ask in the follow-up assessment should include:
  • What caused the disaster?
  • Did your team follow the plan accordingly?
  • Are there any ongoing issues that need to be addressed?
  • How can you improve your plan for future DR scenarios?

Document Your Disaster Recovery Checklist

A disaster recovery checklist is a starting point for creating an organized blueprint for responding to a crisis. More than anything, it assures that no stone is left unturned along your road to recovery. Document it, keep it handy, and it could be instrumental in making sure your business is up and running with minimal disruptions when the next disaster rolls around.

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