Is your disaster recovery strategy foolproof?

No one wants to imagine what it would be like if an emergency situation impacted his or her business. Unfortunately, this is exactly what organizational leaders must do if they hope to get through various scenarios and recover quickly. According to a survey by Nationwide Insurance, more than 75 percent of small business owners don't have a disaster plan. To make matters worse, 52 percent estimate that it would take a minimum of three months to restore operations following a disaster. Here are a few tips to ensure your disaster recovery strategy is foolproof:

1. Take stock of hardware and software

If a machine or application goes offline, how would that impact your ability to operate? Business leaders must evaluate each piece of hardware and software to determine what items are mission-critical to support. This level of detail will help prioritize what elements are restored first and which ones can wait. CIO suggested keeping vendor contact information on hand at all times to quickly reach out for guidance. Managed service providers typically offer round the clock assistance, ensuring peace of mind during pivotal situations.

Businesses must take stock of essential hardware and software.Businesses must take stock of essential hardware and software.

Keep in mind that any infrastructure changes must be reflected within your disaster recovery strategy. If these adjustments aren't accounted for, your business could be left without essential functions and prolong recovery time. Evaluate and adapt your plan every six months to accommodate any modifications.

2. Determine your disaster tolerance

Not all scenarios are the same. They all have different implications, severity levels and means of recovering. As The Business Journals contributor Heinan Landa noted, there are five event levels, ranging from inconvenient to catastrophic. It will be important to determine your tolerance threshold for each category based on how much downtime you can afford and your tolerance for lost data. This evaluation will help determine the best course to take to recover quickly and how your employees should respond to particular situations.

The tolerance level should take into account the variety of situations that can happen to your specific business. These scenarios could come as a result of your industry, location, dependence on technology and budget. You must set boundaries that follow these characteristics to ensure you have the processes and solutions in place to restore operations quickly.

"Running a drill provides critical insight into your DR plan."

3. Test your strategy

While it's great to have a disaster recovery plan established, you can't set it and forget about it. Effective disaster recovery requires training employees and testing the strategy regularly to identify any gaps. Of the organizations that have a DR plan, 40 percent test it once annually, according to CIO Insight. Another 22 percent test it rarely and 6 percent don't test it at all. These numbers are continuing to improve, but a number of businesses still aren't testing out their DR strategy as much as they should be.

Running a drill provides critical insight to demonstrate just how effective your DR plan is. If there are any issues or gaps, make changes to the strategy to cover them – and then run the test again. Evaluating your plan on a regular basis will account for infrastructure and personnel changes and provide peace of mind that any adjustments to the plan will be effective.

Disaster recovery isn't the coolest topic for business leaders, but it's one of the most vital discussions to have to protect your organization. By taking inventory of critical systems, determining your disaster tolerance and testing your strategy regularly, you will be able to foolproof your DR plan. You can have peace of mind that you're prepared for emergency events and are able to restore operations quickly.