disaster management plan

How to build a disaster management plan

Computers and IT systems are integral to every part of a business, with downtime and disruptions likely to cause productivity losses and economic damage. Whether it’s a natural event, a cyber attack, or simple human error, when disaster strikes, solutions are needed fast. In the context of IT, a disaster management plan is a set of strategies and procedures that attempt to restore hardware, software, and data in order to ensure fast and effective business recovery.

Benefits of a disaster management plan

An IT disaster management plan should always be developed to ensure fast and effective recovery. While data backup is an important part of this process, additional measures need to be taken to ensure compliance and the continuity of critical business systems. When implemented alongside a continuity plan using accurate information from a business impact analysis, disaster management has the ability to reduce data losses, minimize downtime, and promote a healthy business reputation.

Actionable steps to ensure containment and recovery

Managing an IT disaster is a complex and challenging task, with many issues to consider and lots on the line if something goes wrong. Success depends on organization and management before, during, and after the disaster takes place. While being able to react effectively to a situation is crucial, proactive measures are just as important. From carrying out a business impact analysis and documenting risk assessment through to containment and recovery, let’s take a look at the steps you need to take.

1. Business impact analysis

A comprehensive business impact analysis lies at the heart of every successful disaster management plan. It’s no use waiting until disaster strikes. An impact analysis will allow you to research the potential impact of disaster events. Businesses that understand how much they have to lose are much less likely to fail when a disruption occurs.

An analysis is responsible for identifying critical business functions, measuring impact events, and defining recovery strategies. Generally carried out before a risk assessment, this analysis defines critical systems and quantifies internal and external risks that may affect business data and processes.

2. Risk assessment

Once a business impact analysis has been conducted, it’s time to carry out an IT risk assessment. While these two processes are linked, a risk assessment is more concerned with describing potential threats and measuring their likely impact on business processes and resources. A business impact analysis defines your potential losses, and a risk assessment identifies and quantifies actual disaster events. Successful disaster management requires both of these steps, with businesses able to dedicate resources more effectively when they link specific disasters with specific outcomes.

3. Respond quickly and contain

While planning and organization are all well and good, action is more important than anything else when disaster strikes. Having the ability to respond quickly and effectively is critical before additional problems develop. Check on people first if a natural disaster strikes, review physical damage to computer and network resources, and ensure open communication channels at all times. The extent of data loss often depends on how quickly you respond and contain the threat.

4. Recover and minimize downtime

When the actual threat has been neutralized, it’s important to stay calm and recover quickly according to your established plan. It’s important to stay productive if possible, with some businesses able to carry out manual operations, communicate via telephone rather than computer, or initialize cloud-based backup solutions.

According to Wikibon, enterprise cloud spending is predicted to grow by 16 percent annually between 2016 and 2026. It’s important to distinguish between internal recovery and cloud-based recovery, and get access to critical business systems as quickly as possible. Downtime represents the most significant cost of disaster events, at an average of $5,600 per minute according to Gartner.

5. Protect your business reputation

An IT disaster has the potential to adversely affect your reputation, especially if it’s linked to cybercrime or network security breaches. It’s important to be proactive after a disruption event and do everything you can to protect your reputation. Regular and ongoing communication with customers and other stakeholders plays a big role at this stage, so keep people in the loop and be honest about the situation. With the right preparation and the ability to respond quickly when disaster occurs, any business can face their challenges head-on and emerge with something resembling a smile.