Essential Components of a Successful DR Strategy

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Building a successful disaster recovery (DR) strategy for your business is anything but an easy task. Today’s businesses are complex — often utilizing multiple platforms as well a mixture of hybrid cloud processes. A successful DR strategy enables you to minimize the downtime and lost data by enabling you to restore access to your critical applications and services as quickly as possible. Let’s have a deeper look at some of the essential components of a successful DR strategy.

Start with the business priorities and requirements

To create your DR strategy, you first need to take into account all the different aspects of the company’s recovery requirements. First, you need to identify your critical business processes. Make a list of the applications and services that your business requires along with the cost of downtime (lost sales and inability to operate the business) and identify any legal or compliance requirements. Next, make an estimate of the time required to restore the services and identify key operational personnel including the non-IT staff who are needed to run the business systems and the IT staff require to restore the services.

Define your RPO and RTOs

Next, understand what the Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) and Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs) are for your critical applications and services. Your RTOs and RPOs will essentially drive your data protection technologies. RTO defines the time period that you have to recover your services – essentially answering the question how long can this application be down. RPO defines how much data loss your organization can tolerate for a specific application – in other words, how much data can I afford to lose. Organizations with higher RTOs and RPOs may be able to make an acceptable DR plan using standard backup and recovery technologies while businesses with much lower RTO and RPO tolerances may need to implement a real-time or near real-time replication solution.

Develop a sound technological protection plan

Once you’ve defined your RTOs and RPOs you can select the data protection technologies that will best fulfill your organization’s recovery requirements for the data, servers, applications, and services that are critical to your business. Backup, replication, and snapshots are typically the key data protection technologies that you will use for DR. You need to make sure all your essential applications, VMs and data are all being backed up and that you are using an offsite storage location to provide site protection. The cloud can provide a cost-effective and efficient way of storing offsite data that can be well suited for DR.

Communicate the plan’s goals and everyone’s responsibilities

Understanding your requirements and picking your data protection technologies are important but communication of your DR strategy throughout all levels of the organization is certainly just as important. Communication of your DR strategy needs to start and the top of the organization and move through all of the different people that will be involved. Working with a broad audience within the company enables you to get buy-in to your DR plan and helps communicate its requirements. The CEO and different department heads need to be involved to prioritize functional requirements and assign team members. You need to meet with and train the appropriate people – both inside and outside of IT. You also need to create runbooks or instructions that describe the steps of the plan and cover the procedures for handling a DR event.

Test your DR plan

Finally, the most critical component of all successful DR plans is regular testing. A DR plan is no plan at all if you don’t test it. Without regular testing, you’ll never know if your DR strategy will work when you really need it. You certainly don’t want to find out your plan doesn’t work after a disaster has already happened. Regular testing of the ability to restore and start your VMs, applications, and services at your recovery site or in the cloud is essential. At the very least you should test your DR plan yearly. More frequent tests of various components like the ability to restore your backups or start and run your VM replicas is a best practice.  Regular testing also helps to keep your DR plan current. Business processes change and evolve over time and your DR plan needs to evolve with them in order to remain effective.