Successful business owners know how important it is to have a plan in place for when unexpected events shut down normal operations. Modern enterprises face many types of disasters, including pandemics, cyberattacks, large-scale power outages and natural disasters. Last year, companies around the world spent close to USD 219 billion on cybersecurity and security solutions, a 12% increase from the previous year according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) (link resides outside ibm.com.)
Leaders know they need to be prepared but the number of solutions and scenarios to consider can be overwhelming. In this article, we’re going to look at some common threats and how disaster recovery plans (DRPs) and solutions can optimize preparedness.
Let’s start with some commonly used terms:
- Disaster recovery (DR): Disaster recovery (DR) refers to an enterprise’s ability to recover from an unplanned event that impacts normal business operations. Strong DR planning helps businesses protect critical data and restore normal processes in a matter of days, hours and even minutes.
- Disaster recovery plan (DRP): A disaster recovery plan (DRP) is a document that clearly outlines how an enterprise will recover from an unexpected event. Alongside business continuity plans (BCPs), DRPs help businesses prepare for different scenarios, such as natural disasters, widespread power outages, ransomware attacks and malware attacks.
- Failover/failback: Failover is a widely used tactic where enterprises move valuable data or capabilities to a secondary system when a primary one fails due to an unexpected event. Failback is the process where operations are switched back to the original system once the threat has been mitigated. Failover and failback both use data replication and are widely used in DR strategies for data centers and communication networks.
- Virtualized recovery plans (VRPs): A virtualized recovery plan is on-demand software as a service (SaaS) that relies on virtual machine (VM) instances that can be ready to operate within a couple of minutes of an interruption. Virtual machines (VM) and their accompanying apps are representations, or emulations, of physical computers that provide critical application recovery through high availability (HA), or a system’s capacity to run workloads continuously without failing.
- Recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO): RTO and RPO refer to the amount of time it takes to restore business operations after an unplanned incident and the amount of data businesses can lose during an attack and still recover. Establishing your RTO and RPO are critical steps in your recovery process. Some enterprises tolerate zero RPO by constantly performing data backup to a remote data center to ensure data integrity in case of a massive breach. Others set a tolerable RPO of a few minutes (or even hours) because they’re confident they can recover from whatever was lost during that short amount of time.
The benefits of business disaster recovery
Disasters can cause all kinds of problems for businesses. From a flood that shuts down access to critical physical assets to a cyberattack that compromises data protection or IT infrastructure, disaster recovery plans help ensure business continuity regardless of the threat. Here are some of the most common benefits for companies that invest in disaster recovery solutions:
- Business continuity: Business continuity and business continuity disaster recovery (BCDR) help ensure organizations return to normal operations after an unplanned event. Creating a business continuity strategy helps restore critical off- and on-premises business functions after an unexpected event and restore stakeholder, client and investor confidence.
- Reduced costs: According to IBM’s recent Cost of Data Breach Report, the average cost of a data breach last year was USD 4.45 million—a 15% increase over the last 3 years. Enterprises without DR plans are taking an unnecessary risk, as the costs and penalties incurred by a successful attack could far outweigh the money saved by not investing in one.
- Less downtime: Today’s top-performing enterprises often rely on complex technology for their most critical business operations. When an unplanned incident disrupts critical technologies, such as communication networks or infrastructure, it can cost companies millions. Additionally, the high-profile nature of many cyberattacks or human-error-related interruptions and the frequently analyzed length of network downtimes often cause customers and investors to flee.
- Enhanced compliance capabilities: Many successful businesses operate in heavily regulated sectors like healthcare and personal finance. These sectors impose heavy fines and penalties for data breaches given the critical and personal nature of the data that is at stake. Business disaster recovery solutions help shorten response and recovery lifecycles for an enterprise facing an unplanned incident, critical in sectors where the amount of financial penalty is often tied to the duration and severity of a breach.
How business disaster recovery works
Business disaster recovery strategy plays a critical role in the event your organization faces an interruption due to an unplanned event. The following is a widely used, five-step process to help your organization prepare to face a variety of threats:
- Conduct business impact analysis: Start by assessing each threat your company could face and its potential impact on your business operations. Consider how each potential threat might impact your critical services, cause loss of revenue, downtime or reputational repair (public relations).
- Analyze risks: Now that you have a list of the risks your company faces, you can try to gauge the likelihood of each one. Risk analysis is a process where you rank each risk according to its potential impact and likelihood, then prioritize accordingly.
- Create an asset inventory: Asset inventories help identify hardware, software, IT infrastructure and anything else you might need to function. Once you’ve identified all your assets, group them into three categories—critical, important and unimportant:
- Critical: Assets that are required for normal business operations.
- Important: Assets that are used at least once a day and, if disrupted, would have an impact on business operations but not shut them down entirely.
- Unimportant: Assets your business uses infrequently that are not essential for normal operations.
- Establish roles and responsibilities: Clearly outline responsibilities so your team members will know what’s expected of them in the event of a disaster. Examples of commonly assigned roles include an incident reporter whose job it is to communicate with stakeholders throughout a disaster, an asset manager who ensures the safety of assets during an incident, and a DRP supervisor who manages team members and makes sure they perform the tasks they’ve been assigned.
- Rehearse and refine: Business disaster recovery requires constant practice and refinement to be effective. Regularly update your plans according to how your teams perform. Always keep an eye on how your organization changes over time and make sure to add any new assets you may have acquired since you formed your DRP to ensure they’re protected going forward.
Business disaster recovery use cases
Depending on an enterprise’s size, industry and priorities for disaster recovery, there are many different plans to consider. After performing business impact analysis (BIA) and risk analysis (RA), an enterprise might decide it needs different DR plans in place for different assets, such as its warehouses, data centers, critical equipment or others.
Regardless of what you need to protect, the overall goal of a good DRP should be the restoration of normal business processes as quickly and safely as possible. Here are five business disaster recovery use cases to help better understand the importance of choosing the right solution and creating a strong plan.
Natural disasters (flood, earthquake, fire, etc.)
Natural disasters like as floods, fires and earthquakes can threaten human lives and valuable buildings, equipment and software. Imagine arriving at work to discover a hurricane in another part of the world has laid waste to a warehouse where you keep your most valuable equipment. According to Forbes, 40% of small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) (link resides outside ibm.com) never reopen after a natural disaster. Strong disaster recovery plans (DRPs) help companies face a variety of natural disasters and ensure their most critical infrastructure, including their employees, remain safe.
One practice that is growing in popularity for natural disaster recovery plans is geo-redundancy. This method, where important company assets are moved offsite and even distributed across multiple locations, helps reduce the odds that the same unplanned event will impact multiple locations.
Due to its high-profile and costly nature, a cyberattack is one of the most devastating and expensive kinds of interruption a business can face. To recover from a cyberattack, enterprises often turn to a Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) provider. Companies that take a DRaaS approach to creating a DRP are essentially outsourcing their DRP to a service provider. The DRaaS provider hosts and manages the necessary infrastructure for recovery, then creates and manages response plans and ensures a swift resumption of business-critical operations after the attack.
According to a recent report by Global Market Insights (GMI) (link resides outside ibm.com), the market size for DRaaS was USD 11.5 billion in 2022 and was poised to grow by 22% percent in 2023. DRaaS providers can help companies with a broad range of problems caused by cyberattacks, including restoring access to impacted systems, reducing downtime, restoring investor confidence and ensuring compliance in heavily regulated sectors.
Cloud or local server outages
For damage mitigation from a cloud provider or local server provider outage, many enterprises use a failover/failback process. In the event of an outage in a cloud, multicloud or local server, a system running failover/failback as part of its DRP will immediately be switched over to a backup environment. In this environment, business operations can continue to run cloud services indefinitely. In some cases, users won’t even know they aren’t using their typical cloud computing environment. When the primary server is back up and running, operations switch back and the secondary server switches off. This seamless transfer helps prevent data loss and keeps valuable services online throughout the interruption.
Network connectivity failures
Along with cyberattacks, a network going down can cost millions in downtime and generate damaging news cycles for companies. Putting sound network recovery plans in place helps businesses bounce back from a variety of critical interruptions, including internet access, cellular communications, local area networks (LAN) and wide area networks (WAN).
With so many businesses relying on networked services for their core business operations, network recovery plans and solutions must clearly document the procedures and responsibilities necessary to restore service. Like cyberattack DRPs, network failure DRPs are increasingly being outsourced to DRaaS providers with specialized resources and expertise.
Data center crashes
A data center going down can cause all kinds of problems for an enterprise. Some common threats to data storage include power outages, overstretched personnel that can result in human error, and difficulty following compliance requirements. Data center disaster recovery plans focus on the security of the facility and the employees’ ability to get back up and running after an unplanned incident.
Data center DRPs assess risk and analyze key components, such as physical environment, connectivity, power sources and security. Since data centers face a wide range of potential threats, their DRPs tend to be broader in scope than others.
Protect yourself with business disaster recovery solutions
In today’s fast-moving, highly competitive business environment, even a minor outage can be a game-changer for an enterprise. The demand for scalable, capable and affordable backup and recovery solutions has never been greater. Veeam on IBM Cloud provides predictable backup and fast recovery for your entire hybrid cloud—letting you more easily move on-premises workloads and backups to the cloud for disaster recovery.