How to Build an Effective Backup and Recovery Plan

A backup and recovery plan can be implemented with minimal cost but offer significant benefits. Here are some best practices for building such a plan.

How often have you been told that your data is the most valuable asset of your organization?

Businesses are at risk of data loss due to human error, cybercrime, natural disasters… the list goes on.

A data backup and recovery plan is one way to protect this data. Backup solutions allow a business to quickly recover from an event or disaster that may cause downtime or loss of important company information. Backup and recovery plans can be implemented with minimal cost but offer significant benefits.

A backup and recovery plan is a must-have for any business that wants to guarantee business continuity should the worst happen. Below, we explain how to go about creating an effective backup and recovery plan.

Importance of a Data Recovery Policy and Strategy

Just as an organization will have a policy on human resources, procurement, ethics and other processes, a data recovery policy and strategy must guide how it protects its data and responds to data loss events.

However, despite its importance, it is surprising that few companies have a data recovery strategy in place. According to a study that surveyed 500 C-Suite members from organizations across the US, almost half (46%) did not have a documented company-wide disaster recovery policy.

This is a startling statistic, given that the same study found that data loss events are more common than most people think. 73% of respondents reported experiencing data failure within the last 12 months. 50% had experienced the event within the previous six months.

An earlier study by Avast underscores the importance of data recovery planning. 43% of organizations lacking a data recovery policy and strategy go out of business after a major data loss event.

Data Disaster Recovery Plan

There are five major elements of a typical disaster recovery plan:

1. Infrastructure Inventory

The first step to creating an effective backup and recovery plan is to create a detailed inventory of your company’s hardware, software, applications, databases and other IT infrastructure. This allows you to determine what IT assets you have on your network infrastructure.

Then, with this picture in mind, you can determine what critical resources are needed to keep your business running.

2. Determine Critical Resources, Applications & Documents

Once you have a detailed inventory of all the IT assets on your network infrastructure, you must prioritize them according to their respective criticality or importance in keeping your business running.

Critical resources are those that, if they were lost, would put the organization at risk of losing data and customers. These include critical software applications such as accounting software, customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and databases containing sensitive client information like credit card numbers.

It also includes servers that host these applications and databases, including active directory domain controllers where user credentials are stored.

This step is crucial because backup files are notoriously large, even for small organizations. Sorting out the critical stuff saves critical storage space and is cost-effective in the long run. It is also an excellent opportunity to rid your databases of files that are no longer essential.

3. Establish Roles and Responsibilities

In the event of a disaster, everyone in your organization must know what their role will be. Therefore, a backup and recovery plan should also include details on who has which responsibilities. For instance, who’s responsible for restoring data from backup? Who can authorize personnel with unsupervised access to restore files? What process do you follow when granting such people permission privileges?

These are just some examples of roles and responsibilities that every backup and recovery plan must define clearly to avoid confusion during an emergency.

4. Set Your Recovery Goals

It’s essential to have a backup and recovery plan, but it is even more critical to set goals for your plan. For instance, how long do you want your data backup solution’s recovery time objective (RTO) to be? How often should backups run, i.e., what is your recovery point objective (RPO)? Your RTO and RPO determine your recovery goals and the cost of execution.

The more aggressive the recovery, the higher the price.

Companies typically fall into one of three recovery categories:

  • Maximum Tolerance Category: In this category, organizations choose not to risk any downtime regardless of whether it’s caused by natural disasters like earthquakes or manmade events like cyber-attacks.

In short, they opt for maximum tolerance at all times. Such companies will go out of their way to ensure that their backup and recovery plan or solution never fails. This is the most expensive category but comes with peace of mind knowing you’ll be back up in no time after a disaster strikes.

  • Maximum Availability Category: Companies who opt for maximum availability will still experience some downtime due to accidents like a fire or flood; however, they will use every resource possible to reduce this time as much as possible so services can resume quickly afterward.

They, too, are willing to pay top dollar if it means not having any unexpected outages during normal operations. At times, there may be very brief periods where service is unavailable because of an outage occurring elsewhere on your network infrastructure, which was unforeseen by administrators leading into its occurrence.

  • Maximum Cost Category: As its name implies, companies who opt for maximum cost will always choose the least expensive route possible regardless of if it means longer periods of downtime or reduced services during normal operations. This is also known as hot/cold standby.

Data backups are created at certain intervals but not automatically tested regularly, so any restoration activities must be performed manually by personnel with unsupervised access privileges instead of automated, which is preferred from an efficiency and security standpoint.

5. Identify a Remote Data Backup Solution

Finally, ensure the backup data is stored at a remote site. This ensures business continuity in case of a natural disaster, ransomware attack, or other malicious events. The gold standard for remote backups is currently cloud-based solutions that perform automatic backups.

UnisonBDR from Central Data Storage (CDS) automates your backups and configures them to run on a regular schedule. In the event of a data loss event, we ensure your mission-critical data is up and running within two hours and perform a full system restore within 24 hours.

For more information on how CDS can assist your data backup and recovery planning, download the 5-Step Guide to Creating Your Disaster Recovery Plan or try UnisonBDR today!

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