Written by: Daniel Haurey on 03/14/24

Last week, we walked through the first two pillars of a successful business continuity strategy, including particulars about data backup and disaster recovery planning. Now let’s address responding to a disaster and the crucial last step, restoring the data and assets you need to restart operations—the step where backup and disaster recovery processes shine.

Keep in mind that all along the way, validation and testing are a must. Here’s why: According to a 2021 study by Veeam, only 57% of backups are successful and 61% of restoration efforts are successful. The research showed that on average, a business only successfully recovers its critical data 35% of the time.  Let’s not be one of those organizations!

When Disaster Strikes, You Need a Clear Incident Response Plan

As you design this element of your business continuity plan, be sure to involve your organization’s stakeholders and your managed IT services provider to ensure the blueprint can be executed in real life and considers every point of view. It can be challenging to communicate during emergencies and managing crisis situations takes a cool head, so the more specific and tailored to your organization the plans are, the better your team will be prepared for success. Take advantage of your MSP’s experience to incorporate proven best practices into your planning. Other vendor partners you may want to include: cyber insurance providers, outsourced human resource support, and any agencies you may use for business communications.

Incident response plan: Have a step-by-step design for how you will identify, contain, and respond to incidents when they occur. Your incident response plan should be tailored to the different types of threats you identified in the first step. It should include instructions for notifying key personnel, assessing the damage, and activating the business continuity plan.

Get started by downloading this incident response template

Communications plan: Communicating with internal and external stakeholders during a disaster can be incredibly challenging. This document should include plans for connecting with employees, customers, vendors, and the media. Remember that you’ll need access to customer lists, and contact information for both employees and customers as well as key vendors to communicate effectively. Consider how you’ll maintain and access backups of that information, which is easily overlooked during planning. Create communication plan templates that can be used not just by marketing professionals, but by anyone who might be available.

Crisis management team: Identify a crisis management team to make critical decisions and oversee the response and recovery efforts. Meet regularly with that group to review and test your business continuity response plan. Be certain to clearly define each person’s role and responsibilities, and then communicate those details throughout your organization repeatedly. Don’t overlook a protocol for when and how a crisis management team is activated.

When the Worst Happens, Recovery Is the Focus of Business Continuity

The last but critical element of a business continuity strategy is recovery. While your data backup plan sits at the preparedness end of business continuity, the disaster recovery portion comes into play during the restoration step. Yes, your critical data may be safe, but if your team cannot access or use it, it doesn’t matter. Remember that failure rate from Veeam’s research? Testing is imperative at this step, as is close alignment with your outsourced IT provider.

Data restoration best practices: Have a detailed outline for restoring your data from backups promptly. This includes testing your backup and recovery procedures regularly to ensure they work as expected. Don’t overlook protecting your data throughout this process, both flowing out to backup systems and returning to your environment. Be realistic about recovery and restoration—it rarely is a quick and painless process, so set expectations accordingly. Keep security front of mind, and consider working with your MSP to create a 3-2-1 redundancy that makes recovery and restoration more reliable, even in the most dire of circumstances.

System recovery procedures: Remember assessing your data and systems and setting priorities for their recovery? This is where your well-defined plan for restoring your critical systems and infrastructure to a functional state takes the main stage. Recovery and restoration can involve using redundant systems, restoring data from backups, or rebuilding from scratch—something called a “bare-metal restore.” In the case of a natural disaster, restoring and recovering your critical systems may include a plan for a temporary office or tech site away from your usual brick-and-mortar location

Testing disaster preparedness: We can’t stress this step enough. Regularly test your business continuity plan and recovery procedures to identify and address any weaknesses. Conduct full-scale exercises periodically to simulate real-world scenarios and make sure your team is prepared. Be sure to loop in vendor partners, and certainly include your managed IT services provider, who likely will lead the charge when it comes to technical backup and recovery solution selection and restoration processes.

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By focusing on these four pillars of business continuity strategy, you can build a comprehensive BDR plan that supports that strategy and helps minimize the impact of disruptions during all levels of disruption events.

Next week: What’s the difference between BDR and business continuity?