After a disaster has struck is not the right time for you to be figuring out what to do. As with most things in life, the best solution to possible disaster is a healthy dose of prevention. By proactively managing the most common threats— system failure, facility damage, data theft, cyber attacks, etc.—with comprehensive disaster recovery practices, you can mitigate much of the risk to business continuity. This guest blog from our partners at Green Cloud details 5 steps to take when planning your disaster recovery solution.

Without a solid plan, you are rolling the dice on irreversible damage to your business. You may not realize it, but you need a robust disaster recovery plan. A proactive DR plan should be included in any solution —and there are plenty of viable solutions out there—but what are the fundamentals of a good disaster recovery plan?

STEP 1: Assess Risk

Before designing a DR plan, you should conduct a thorough risk assessment to analyze the systems being utilized and identify any potential threats to your mission-critical operations. In addition, you should evaluate not only the physical facility for risk indicators (e.g., is it located in a disaster-prone area?) but also the recovery facility for factors such as regional proximity to your customer, levels of security and redundancy, etc.

STEP 2: Define RPO and RTO

This step is critical because it is where you determine what kind of DR plan you require. If your organization can withstand significant downtime while you recover, then there isn’t much of an issue that even the most basic plan can’t address. After all, the name of the game here is how quickly you can get back up-and-running again. If time isn’t a factor, then a simple solution will do. If, however, like many organizations, no amount of downtime is tolerable, then a more immediate solution is required.

Carefully assess your acceptable Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO) to determine the applications that will satisfy both, and refer often to these two goals to help prioritize what your plan requires to survive a business disaster.

STEP 3: Communicate with Personnel / Assign Tasks

Developing a good communication plan among your staff is an important, but often overlooked step. Determine who needs to do what in the event of a disaster. How they access their data and resume activities during an interruption in business continuity should be determined beforehand and communicated to all employees, to avoid the inevitable confusion that sets in during a disaster. Make sure you assign proper roles and responsibilities to critical staff members because decision paralysis often hampers the internal “first-response” team.

STEP 4: Manage Sensitive Data

Every organization has sensitive data, whether it be proprietary resources, sensitive employee records, or customer account information. A good DR plan should ensure that all confidential data and information is regularly backed up, properly secured, and immediately recoverable when the plan is activated.

STEP 5: Test the Plan Regularly

Once you have a DR plan in place, you should test it regularly. Failure to test on a consistent basis will likely result in creeping inefficiencies or even failure if a disaster occurs. The more comprehensive the test, the better it will work and the more successful you will be in getting back on track if the business is interrupted.

Every company is unique, every solution is different, and there are too many variables to cover all possibilities. But a good risk plan starts with these fundamentals. By addressing a strong disaster recovery plan as part of your solution, you do more to help your company’s recovery efforts than any amount of hardware or software can do on its own. Follow these basic steps, and you can be confident that you’re prepared if and when disaster strikes.