Disaster recovery (DR) is the term used to refer to the tools and practices utilized to put a business back on its feet after a disaster has taken the business offline, or even caused destruction of a company’s physical location. These disasters can be natural, such as a flood destroying company servers, or occur through the Internet, such as when a hacker compromises vital customer data online.
In either case, disasters can be devastating for businesses, sometimes taking months to get back online or causing an organization to shut down permanently. There are a number of reasons why all businesses need a DR plan.
How Disasters Impact the Bottom Line
In order to fully understand the importance of DR, businesses must consider what applications and systems might become unavailable in the event of a disaster. For example, if a hard drive housing a customer database fails and there is no backup in place, how will the business continue to service clients? If a server crashes and there is no plan to bring it back online, how long will customers suffer a lack of service? In these two scenarios, revenue is lost both directly and indirectly. Such situations can potentially cause a business to go bankrupt.
Preparing for Disaster
Fortunately, there are many things that businesses can do to minimize the damage that a disaster can cause. A DR plan outlines how the company will respond to a disaster to either minimize downtime or eliminate it entirely. The plan should account for the loss of any critical services and hardware, such as servers, desktops, storage applications, and data centers. In ideal scenarios, a failover environment or appliance is in place to take over when day-to-day equipment or services fail.
Measuring the Effectiveness of the DR Plan
Once a DR plan is designed, it needs to be tested so that the organization can understand how long downtime might last. A recovery time objective is the maximum desired length of time between a failure and the return of normal IT operations. The amount of time will vary, but as a best practice, any application that is customer facing should have minimal downtime.
Another consideration is how much data can be lost in terms of time; this is known as a recovery point objective. For example, if an e-commerce server stops saving order information, it is very likely that the company will want as short an amount of time to pass as possible before that server comes back online. This means that system backups need to be performed at regular intervals to allow for the server to be recovered with a minimal number of transactions lost.
A disaster can be debilitating for any business. But with preparation and the right DR plan in place, businesses can ensure that a disaster’s impact is minimized.