According to research by Gartner, on average, IT downtime costs $5,600 a minute. That's why so many businesses use managed IT services to keep their systems up and running.
But what happens in the event of a flood? An earthquake? A cyber attack?
Planning how to cope with these disasters is vital if you want to keep downtime to a minimum. It's not a situation where you want to wait and see if something happens before you decide how to act.
These strategies make up your IT disaster recovery plan. If you already have one, keep revisiting it to make sure it still meets your needs.
If you don't, keep reading to learn more about disaster recovery plans.
What Is an IT Disaster Recovery Plan?
An IT disaster recovery plan protects your data and your business. As the name suggests, it protects any and all things related to your IT services in and after a disaster.
You might think those disasters are cyber attacks. While you'd be right, it also includes other issues. Think power failures, natural disasters, flooding, and terrorist attacks.
Start out by working out what could potentially impact on your business. Are you in an area that floods every winter? Do you have frequent power outages?
Then work out how you would deal with that impact if it happened. For some scenarios, you can put a solution in place beforehand.
So let's go back to the flooding example. You might move your servers to an upper floor. Your recovery plan would then cover how else you might be impacted.
You might find you had more impending disasters than you thought you would. Choose which ones are most likely and focus your efforts on them.
Road Test Your Existing Backups
Even if you don't have a dedicated recovery plan, you probably take backups. This is the data you'll need to access to get up and running after a disaster.
Small businesses might make do with running backups to an external hard drive. But what do you do if the office burns down? You've lost your server and your backup.
Cloud storage makes backups much easier to run and manage. It keeps your data off-site. Test how long it would take to rebuild your system using a backup from a data center.
Check that the backups actually happen. It's scary how many companies set up backups and don't check they're working properly.
Don't forget, human error still counts as a disaster. If an employee deletes an important folder by accident? You need to be able to retrieve it quickly.
Work out the Devices You'll Include
If everyone in your business works across a network on a central server? You may decide to only back up the contents of the server.
Do staff members store files on local machines? Then you might want to back up individual machines too. This extends to devices like company iPads and smartphones.
Will you need to buy extra licenses to cover more devices? You may need to buy a different backup solution. Will staff need to run the backups for you, or will it be automated?
At this point, you might like to work out which data is essential to your business. Many providers charge according to storage.
If the price is an issue, don't back something up that you don't actually need.
What Data Will You Need to Recover?
Speaking of what data is essential, what will you be backing up? PDFs or Excel files naturally take up a lot less space.
But if you're a media company that handles photography or videography? A photograph in RAW format might take up 26.6MB per file. A JPEG might be closer to 5MB.
Will your recovery plan include the RAW files or just the JPEGs?
It isn't just file sizes or types you need to think about. Privacy and security are a major factor when it comes to backing up data.
Local backups on external drives might make more sense for sensitive data. While cloud backups promise high security, you still don't control their system.
Remember, cyber-attacks are part of a disaster recovery plan. That doesn't just mean a loss of data. It also means the theft of data.
What risks are there to your business or your customers if data was stolen or shared online?
Focus on the Nature of the Disaster
We've talked about the loss or theft of data and the need for backups. But this assumes your biggest disasters are cyber-attacks.
And we touched on the idea of flooding and how it may impact on your IT services as a whole.
Now we want you to think about the bigger picture. You can have all the backup solutions in the world. But what do you do in the event of a power failure?
A backup can't take place if utilities aren't working. Sure, you can't plan how the power company will get back online after a problem.
But your recovery plan should also consider how a disaster might affect your local area.
For example, local backups would get you up and running faster than cloud backups if your internet was down.
Working out these impacts lets you add different options to your plan. You might run a local backup every night for working files you need to do your job.
But then you run a weekly backup to cloud storage of the entire server.
Having several options lets you run your recovery with a degree of flexibility.
Set up Your Plan Today
At its heart, any IT disaster recovery plan is about peace of mind. It's much like insurance.
You hope you never have to use it. But if you do, you're glad you had it.
They're also a great way to test how robust your systems are. Work with your IT provider to decide what you should include. Then relax. Know that you've done your part towards protecting your business and your data.
Why not check out our other articles for more advice on business tech?