Hello and welcome to this edition of “What Is: ____” our bi-monthly(-ish) edition of our blog where we take complicated IT concepts and explain them to business owners in a way that even the least computer-literate person can understand.
This time around, we’re looking at a concept that becomes more and more important every year: IT disaster recovery. Disaster recovery is quickly becoming one of the most important aspects of an IT plan for two reasons – first, our entire lives are becoming more and more digital by the minute, and two, downtime is becoming more and more expensive as the day goes by.
In this article, we’ll cover IT disaster recovery for businesses – what it is, how it works, and what you need to do to make sure your business is fit and ready for when disaster inevitably strikes.
What Is IT Disaster Recovery?
IT disaster recovery is the system of strategies, tactics, plans, personnel, and actions implemented by organizations in situations where a disaster has struck. In these situations, your business is either facing significant downtime or even potential cybersecurity risks.
The financial implications of IT downtime are staggering. The basic costs of downtime, as calculated by business IT leaders Gartner, show that downtime can cripple or even kill businesses entirely.
- Small companies can incur costs of $8,000 per hour of downtime.
- Mid-size organizations face potential losses of $74,000 per hour.
- Large enterprises could lose over $700,000 per hour!
Enter disaster recovery (DR).
Disaster recovery is how businesses mitigate the risk of downtime. At its core, it’s a series of plans and methodologies unique to every company that covers how to get your IT systems back online – down to the last bit or byte. It’s a holistic plan of action that outlines how to restore data, systems, and IT infrastructure following a disaster.
IT disaster recovery is also more than just a plan, though – it’s also the people. You need a team of seasoned IT professionals who can put that plan into action. Whether that’s something you do in-house or outsource is up to you!
Common Disaster Recovery Situations
What qualifies as a disaster in IT?
Well, it can be anything, really – any situation that compromises your IT systems is a disaster.
IT disasters can range from a tornado destroying your servers to an intern spilling your coffee on your hard drive. They can cause international problems for millions of people or it can be an issue so small no one notices for years.
The reality is almost anything can be an IT disaster in today’s era of increasingly fragile IT. That said, there are some main areas we should pay attention to. The most common disasters affecting IT are as follows:
- Natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes)
- Technological issues (server crashes, power outages)
- Cybersecurity incidents (hacks, data breaches)
- Global events (remember COVID?)
Key Components of IT Disaster Recovery
While every DR plan will be different based on your company’s IT footprint, your size, your objectives, and even your physical location, there are some key areas that all DR plans must need.
- Recovery Objectives: Clearly defined Recovery Time Objectives (RTO) and Recovery Point Objectives (RPO) are essential. RTO defines your DR’s maximum acceptable downtime, while RPO indicates the maximum data loss acceptable. In both instances, you must know these numbers to be able to defend them.
- Inventory of Hardware and Software: A complete inventory of all IT assets is essential for so many reasons, especially in DR. This includes not just hardware and software, but also peripherals and cloud services. Track it all down and inventory it.
- Documented Business Objectives: Documenting the business objectives helps in prioritizing systems and applications during recovery. The best way to classify your objectives in crisis situations are: mission-critical, essential, and non-essential. This allows your team to prioritize the most important things.
- Backup and Data Protection: Regular backups of critical data and systems, both on-site and off-site, are vital. This should include full, incremental, and differential backups, along with robust data encryption and access controls.
- Recovery Strategies and Solutions: The plan should outline specific recovery strategies such as hot sites, cold sites, or cloud-based solutions. As with everything else, this depends on your business’s unique needs like budget, recovery objectives, and system criticality.
- Communication and Notification Procedures: Effective communication is crucial during a disaster, which is why having a crisis management team is so very important. TheDR plan should include all information pertaining to communication: which communication channels to use, contact lists of all stakeholders, and specific, detailed protocols for internal and external communications, so no time is wasted.
- Testing and Optimization: An untested plan is a worthless plan when it comes to IT. Regular testing and updating of the DR plan are necessary to identify and fix gaps, and not just once – routinely.
Key Roles For Effective IT Disaster Recovery
The responsibility for disaster recovery primarily falls on a dedicated disaster recovery team. In most cases, this will be an external organization, but you may also either call upon members of your current IT team or hire new IT professionals for just this job. At any rate, you need to assemble a specific task force of specialists to attack your DR plan.
In either case, it’s important to properly assign roles to your team in a way that clarifies their duties and responsibilities when disaster strikes. At the very least, we recommend splitting up your disaster recovery team’s resources based on these three main areas:
- Crisis Management: These are your ship’s captains in troubled waters, who are responsible for guiding your IT through the disaster recovery process. They’re the ones who ensure the immediate implementation of the DR plan, communicating with the various stakeholders, taking the appropriate next steps, and overseeing the overall recovery process.
- Business Continuity Team: This team makes sure the DR plan is carried out in a way that minimizes downtime and ensures the continuous operation of your business. They do everything they can to keep the business running to avoid losses.
- Impact Recovery and Assessment Team: This is the team that assesses the damages the disaster has caused and, based on your overarching disaster recovery plan, creates the plan to recover as many resources as possible for the organization.
Disaster Recovery as a Managed IT Service
These days, more and more businesses are off-loading their IT – 90% of Forbes 1000 companies outsource their IT to MSPs – and disaster recovery in particular is no exception.
By partnering with MSPs, businesses without much manpower or budget can leverage the highly specialized expertise and resources of seasoned IT professionals. DR services are often called Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), and it’s one of the areas that it makes the most sense to hire an outsourced IT partner to take on.
A DR plan is – by its nature – something that requires specialized knowledge but few man-hours to actually accomplish. With flexible plans that can cover full DR plans and the manpower to jump in when disaster strikes, it’s no wonder most businesses are offloading their disaster recovery to MSPs.
The DRaaS market has been experiencing significant growth and is expected to continue its upward trajectory. This growth is primarily driven by the rising need for data backup and recovery solutions amidst increasing instances of unplanned system downtime and cyber threats
A big allure of DRaaS services is the breadth and depth of support. MSPs can offer recovery and backup services, real-time replication services, data protection services, professional services, training, education, and consulting services. Basically, if you need anything related to disaster recovery, an MSP can help you.
Managed vs. In-House Disaster Recovery
Managed Disaster Recovery (Cloud-Based or DRaaS)
- Cost-Effectiveness: Managed DR services, particularly DRaaS, can offer substantial savings in terms of capital outlay and operational costs. Traditional in-house DR solutions require significant investment in infrastructure and ongoing maintenance, which can run into the millions for things like setting up and operating a secondary failover site. In contrast, MSPs can drastically undercut these costs, with a simple monthly service charge based on the data and applications covered and specific recovery objectives.
- Expertise and Scalability: Managed services provide access to specialized experts and support professionals who can aid in complex DR planning. Businesses, especially small and midsize ones, can leverage full backup and recovery environments that are totally out of scope for their budget.
Planning and Compatibility: While MSP reduces the need for physical infrastructure, it doesn’t eliminate the need for rigorous planning. Businesses must still assess their environment, prioritize resources, establish target recovery objectives, and ensure continuous monitoring and testing. There can also be compatibility issues with certain infrastructures, which requires even more vetting of DRaaS providers.
Location Risk: If your MSP’s data center is located in the same geographic region as your primary data center, it could be susceptible to the same disasters, nullifying the DR plan entirely.
In-House Disaster Recovery
Control and Oversight: In-house disaster recovery provides complete control over DR strategies, allowing businesses direct oversight of their recovery processes and data management. This can be particularly important for companies with specific compliance or security requirements.
Customization: In-house solutions can be tailored precisely to the specific needs and complexities of your business’s IT infrastructure.
- High Costs: Establishing and maintaining an in-house DR solution involves significant – and we mean significant – investment in infrastructure, skilled personnel, and maintenance. This includes costs for leasing space, commissioning hardware, replication, and security software, as well as ongoing expenses like power and cooling. Oh, and you also need to recruit, vet, interview, hire, and pay staff to constantly maintain your critical systems.
- Complexity and Resource Intensity: In-house DR requires a high level of expertise and continuous updates to the DR plan. It also demands significant internal resources for regular testing and optimization to ensure the plan remains effective and aligned with business needs. And that’s not even getting to the 24/7 monitoring and maintenance that is essential to a successful DR plan.
- Data Transfer and Storage: Both managed and in-house DR solutions face challenges in transferring large volumes of data. Managed DR providers often use disks for initial data transfers, a method that might also have to be adopted for cloud-based solutions.
IT Disaster Recovery Statistics And Trends
Before we wrap up, here’s some interesting insights into where things are headed:
- We Need More Plans!: Only about 54% of organizations have a comprehensive, company-wide DR plan in place, despite the high stakes involved in IT disasters. Come on, guys!
- Take It Off Our Plate: Most companies are going the MSP route for their IT DR. The global DRaaS market is expected to grow to reach $26.73 billion by 2026 from $5.79 billion in 2021.
- People Are Losing Data: 60% of data backups are incomplete, and backup restores have a 50% failure rate. The average downtime following a ransomware attack is about 136 business hours, significantly impacting operations.
- Hardware Failures and Human Error: These are leading causes of IT disruptions, but it’s mostly us. Human errors accounted for 64% of downtime events. Yeah.
- Here Come The Hacks: Ransomware attacks are increasingly common, with 37% of organizations affected in 2022. The financial impact of ransomware downtime reached nearly $160 billion in the same year.
- We Are Evaporating (Get It?): Everything is getting sucked up into the cloud these days. Cloud backups in particular are becoming increasingly popular, with 84% of businesses using cloud backup for their DR.
Get Busy DR’ing Or Get Busy Dying
Thanks again for joining us on this bi-monthly(-ish) edition of “What Is___”.
When it comes to your IT infrastructure, going in without a plan is a death sentence for any business attempting to continue operating into 2025 and beyond. There’s simply too great a need for constant access to your business, around the clock, for you to leave the integrity of your IT up to chance.
The costs of your IT systems going down are absolutely astronomical – and it’s only going to get more expensive. Pairing with an MSP is the best option for businesses to get a bulletproof DR plan up and running – and have someone to call when and if you need to use it.
The long and short of it is this: an effective business has an effective disaster recovery plan in place. Period. End of story.