What is a Disaster Recovery Plan?

A Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) is a plan that outlines how a business should continue its operations in the event of a disaster or an emergency.

A disaster recovery plan goes by many different names. You might see it referred to as:

  • Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP)
  • Business Process Contingency Plan (BPCP)
  • Business Continuity Plan (BCP)

The Disaster Recovery Plan will be designed to provide a set of instructions and processes for a business to follow when something happens that makes normal operations impossible. At its most basic level, it is a “just in case” plan that provides the minimal steps a business needs in order to stay afloat when things go wrong.

Although a Disaster Recovery Plan could cover any area of business, its most common use is in the areas of business that rely on an IT infrastructure to operate, and will normally include backing up critical data to off-site storage locations.

What’s Inside a Disaster Recovery Plan?

The contents of a Disaster Recovery Plan will vary depending on the business, but will normally contain much more than simply “what to do if a disaster strikes”. For example, a Disaster Recovery Plan might include:

  • The precautions a business has already taken to minimise the impact of a disaster
  • Guidelines to follow in order to prevent a specific disaster from occurring
  • The names and positions of people responsible for maintaining and enforcing disaster prevention

Of course, all Disaster Recovery Plans tend to include instructions on what a business should do in the event of specific types of emergency (such as a server meltdown), including how the IT department can recover enough data and system functionality for the business to continue operating, even if at a minimal level.

An example of a precaution outlined and executed within a Disaster Recovery Plan could be an off-site data backup containing all essential business critical information and data. Depending on the kind of critical functions a business needs to operate, a Disaster Recovery Plan could even include employee relocation instructions and arrangements.

No matter what is included in the Disaster Recovery Plan, it is important that every employee is made aware of what it contains, how it affects them, and what their role should be in the event of a disaster.

How to Create a Disaster Recovery Plan

Disaster recovery planning is a standard part of business continuity planning and is often started during the earliest stages of business incorporation, with the plan being reviewed and assessed as systems evolve and infrastructure becomes more complex. However, this is not always the case, and a Disaster Recovery Plan is sometimes introduced only when the business sees a need for it.

Creating a Disaster Recovery Plan will normally begin with a proposal submitted to upper-level management. Once the proposal is received, upper-level management will generally conduct a business impact analysis (BIA) which outlines the business functions that are most critical to operations, and what each of these functions requires in order to operate again after disaster strikes. Whoever is responsible for the Disaster Recovery Plan, will then review these critical functions and requirements, and develop a way to ensure they can continue running in the event of a disaster, as well as ways to prevent a disaster from affecting them in the first place.

Developing a Disaster Recovery Plan is very important, but it is also important to test it, and train your staff on how to implement it. You might like to think of it as similar to your fire safety procedures – you have your alarms, you have a plan in case of a fire, and from time to time you run a drill to make sure people know how to execute it.

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