Businesses rely heavily on technology, and technology disruption for a few days or even a few hours can result in significant financial loss. According to an ITIC  survey, more than 95 percent of large enterprises with more than 1,000 employees say that a single hour of downtime costs their company more than $100,000 per year on average.
According to another study by Emerson Network Power and Ponemon Institute , the average cost of data center downtime was $7,908 a minute in 2013—or $690,204 per outage. In addition, 91 percent of data centers experienced an unplanned outage during a 24-month period.
If your company is small to mid-size and does not have a sizeable data center, your organization might be at an even greater risk. According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety , an estimated 25 percent of businesses do not reopen following a major disaster.
If you do not have a disaster recovery plan in place, your company could be a statistic.
Your ability to develop a comprehensive plan to prepare for potential disasters will minimize disruptions and help you maintain normal business operations.
In this article we will discuss:
- Why you need a disaster recovery (DR) plan
- What a disaster recovery plan is and how it is different from a business continuity plan
- What you need to include in an effective disaster recovery plan
- How to avoid five common disaster recovery mistakes.
IT Disaster Recovery vs. Business Continuity
A business continuity plan is a road map that “describes the processes and procedures an organization must put in place to ensure that mission-critical functions can continue during and after a disaster.”  A business continuity plan not only comes into play during times of disaster, but also when other unforeseen events occur, such as a major security breach, illness or death of a company executive, pandemic, civil unrest, etc.
A disaster recovery plan is a sub-component of your business continuity plan. It outlines the process, policies, and procedures to prepare for recovery and continuation of the business and infrastructure operations in the event of a power outage, equipment failure, fire, flood, or other disruptive incident.
An IT disaster recovery plan is a major sub-component of your business continuity plan and disaster recovery plan. It is an outline that defines the steps to continue IT operations and resume IT systems, including the network, servers, desktops, databases, applications, and any other component of the IT infrastructure.
Your disaster recovery plan should include the following steps:
- Establish a planning group
- Perform a risk assessment and prepare an inventory of IT assets
- Establish priorities
- Develop recovery strategies
- Develop documentation, verification criteria, and procedures
- Test the plan
- Implement the plan
- Maintain the IT infrastructure
Your plan should address all aspects of your infrastructure and provide a step-by-step response process.
Every Organization Needs an IT DR Plan
Disasters come unannounced, which is why it is important to get an IT DR plan in place as soon as possible. A fully functioning plan will help minimize risk exposure, reduce disruption, and ensure economic stability, as well as reduce insurance premiums and potential liability. Most important, a well-executed plan can save your organization thousands—even hundreds of thousands—of dollars in the event of a disaster.
To determine how much a disaster can cost your organization, consider the cost of system downtime—the impact on employee productivity, loss of billable hours, missed sales from a down ecommerce website, penalties for failure to meet regulatory compliance obligations. Data is a valuable asset—customer data; financial, human resource, and R&D documents; and emails are all irreplaceable. Each document represents minutes or hours of work, and retrieving it is essential. In a worst-case scenario, your disaster recovery plan may save your company.
Avoid These Common Disaster Recovery Mistakes
Recovering from a disaster is never easy, but with the right plan, you can restore your systems—and peace of mind—with as few missteps as possible. Avoiding these five common mistakes will help make your disaster recovery solution a success.
Focusing on single IT technology, like SAN to SAN Replication. Single technology will rarely address all types of disaster recovery needs. An effective solution will provide your organization with flexible options for disaster recovery. Be sure to take the following considerations into account as well:
- Virtualization environments
- Application-specific agents
- Snapshot storage requirements
- Server activation and documentation
- Backup and recovery
Remote Colocation/Location Choice. Choosing a disaster recovery location is critical to the success of any DR project. When choosing a location, make sure it is not too close to your production site and is capable of remote activation in the event of an emergency. Not all facilities are the same, so check to make sure that your facility is in line with all governance, risk, and compliance standards. For example, facilities should be SSAE 16 SOC Type II certified in the United States and ISO/IEC 24762 certified in the United Kingdom.
Hardware/Software Drift. Your disaster recovery site represents a working replica of your production environment, and, as such, you need to maintain it on an ongoing basis. Be sure to keep software licenses, patch levels, and upgrades in sync. If you decide to use old hardware, be sure to calculate the extra maintenance costs necessary to keep the DR hardware up to date and in parallel with your production site.
Failed Testing. Designing a disaster recovery testing scenario can be a project in itself. If your test fails, you need extra time to analyze the failure and design a solution, so be sure to take that into account. Evaluate these costs when deciding whether to create your DR solution in-house or outsource it to a disaster recovery provider.
Underestimating Resources. Even if you have a talented IT staff and enough resources to execute a disaster recovery plan, will these resources be available when you need them? Careful planning and frequent meetings help ensure access to your resources in the event of a disaster.
A disaster recovery plan can make the difference between bankruptcy and the survival of your organization. Consider the myriad reasons it is important to have a DR plan in place: minimizing lost sales, lost revenue, and disruptions to operations; limiting legal liability; lowering insurance premiums; and protecting your organization’s assets. Creating a disaster recovery plan is the first step toward protecting your company from natural and man-made disasters.
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 “2013-2014 Technology Trends and Deployment Survey,” ITIC,
 “Understanding the Cost of Data Center Downtime,” Emerson Network Power and Ponemon Institute, http://www.emersonnetworkpower.com/documentation/en-us/brands/liebert/documents/white papers/data-center-uptime_24661-r05-11.pdf
 “Emergency Preparedness,” U.S. Small Business Administration, http://www.sba.gov/content/disaster-planning