IT disasters and recovery | What they look like with and without a plan

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When IT systems fail, companies lose profits until systems come back online. If data backups aren't set up or fail, data vanishes, deleting hours, days, or even years of work and information.

So, what can organizations do to minimize downtime and protect data in a crisis?

Your company's internal IT department or external IT provider can help create an IT disaster and recovery system. If your business faces an IT crisis and IT downtime, you have the necessary strategy and tools to get back online within a determined time frame.

If created well with knowledge of all your organization's IT assets and systems, it can drastically reduce downtime, saving you time, money, and stress.

However, facing an IT crisis without a recovery system or plan can devastate a business.

WEBIT Services has helped hundreds of clients develop and execute effective IT strategies for over 25 years. It is passionate about education and assisting companies to make informed IT-related decisions and investments.

By reading this article, you will learn the definition of an IT disaster, what IT disaster recovery does, and what disaster recovery looks like with and without a plan.

What is an IT disaster?

An IT disaster can be defined as anything that brings your critical IT systems offline. If it causes your IT systems (and your business) to shut down, it's considered an "IT disaster."

IT disasters are not "disruptions," brief pauses in productivity due to an IT interruption or error. For example, a disruption would be the power blipping off in a thunderstorm. An IT disaster, on the other hand, would be mission-critical technology failing because of a power outage.

IT disaster can typically be grouped into one of the following events:

  1. Hardware or software failure
  2. Network failure
  3. Deleting critical data
  4. Cyberattacks and malicious acts
  5. Facility Damage

1. Hardware or software failure

When mission-critical hardware or software malfunctions or dies, it halts productivity.

For example, if a server malfunctions, your entire IT network can go down until it is repaired or replaced.

In addition, you cannot accomplish mission-critical tasks if a vital software application is suddenly unavailable.

2. Network failure

Network failure means you cannot access critical data, or your devices cannot "talk" to each other on your network. You are isolated to the data on your computer and not connected to the rest of your network, applications, and shared data.

Examples of network failure include internet service or firewall failures.

3. Deleting critical data

Does your business have crucial information it needs to accomplish goals? Does it have records that you can't risk losing?

This data might include client records or product designs. If this data is lost, your business can't complete tasks.

4. Cyberattacks and malicious acts

Cyberattacks and malicious acts damage your network, data, and reputation.

Cyberattacks employ malware programs to steal data, lock your network, or damage your IT system.

Malicious acts can include IT or data theft or damaging equipment.

5. Facility Damage

Natural disasters can lead to IT disasters. If facility damage includes damage to vital IT equipment, this is also considered an IT disaster.

What is IT disaster and recovery?

When crisis strikes, you need a way to restore your data and systems, so your business productivity continues.

An IT disaster recovery uses knowledge of your mission-critical systems and backups to bring you back online within a realistic time frame (recovery time objective, known as RTO). These processes will utilize either backups, IT continuity, or a combination of the two to restore the system.

The specifics of an IT disaster recovery process will vary based on the event, but generally, the same concepts apply to all disasters.

To recover IT functionality, you will:

  • Evaluate what must occur to restore functionality.
  • Purchase and activate replacement technology, if necessary.
  • Restore data and systems using backups.

While this sounds simple, recovery can be complex, particularly if an incident response or IT disaster recovery plan is not in place.

If you have a plan and are prepared for possible IT disasters, your recovery will be much faster than if you had not prepared.

When IT disaster strikes

When you are faced with an actual or hypothetical IT disaster, you must ask the following questions:

  1. Who do I need to talk to about solving this problem?
  2. What is causing this IT disaster?
  3. What mission-critical system or systems are affected?
  4. What is required to restore functionality?
  5. Do I have what I need to restore functionality?
  6. How long can my business be offline before unacceptable losses occur?

Facing an IT disaster with an IT disaster recovery plan

Creating a recovery plan means you've already answered the six questions above.

  1. You have already spoken with your lawyer, insurance, and IT provider or IT team and have set up your emergency contacts.
  2. Your plan includes various disasters and responses.
  3. You've identified your mission-critical systems.
  4. You've identified what these mission-critical systems require to get back online.
  5. You have working backups and, if possible, duplicate critical hardware.
  6. You've established an RTO and have the necessary tools and planning to achieve that goal.

When a disaster strikes, you know who to contact and what next steps to take. Addressing legal and insurance concerns before a crisis ensures you have the coverage and damage control needed to recover.

With readily available, working backups, your system can be back online and data restored in days or even hours (depending on your RTO and the complexity of your system).

Secure data backups can protect your data from file deletion, application failure, equipment damage, and cyberattacks.

If you have duplicate equipment (where possible and affordable), you don't have to wait days or weeks for a replacement.

While IT disasters are never painless, an incident response plan and recovery system minimizes downtime, damage, and loss.

Facing an IT disaster without an IT disaster recovery plan

Without a disaster plan, you are trying to answer all the questions in real time while facing an uncooperative system.

  1. If you haven't spoken with your lawyer, insurance, or IT provider before the disaster, how do you know if you are enrolled in necessary services or coverage? Once a disaster strikes, it may be too late for them to perform damage control.
  2. If possible, you must identify the disaster, locate its source, and determine how to contain it.
  3. You may not know which systems are critical and how they interact together.
  4. You do not know in detail how to respond to specific disasters. For example, a cyberattack response may share recovery steps with a natural disaster response, but they are different problems with different solutions.
  5. You may or may not have a backup system with working backups. In addition, you do not have duplicate mission-critical hardware on-hand, so it must be ordered.
  6. You do not know how long you can afford to be down or how quickly you can realistically be back online.

Without an IT disaster recovery system or plan, recovery may take weeks, months, or even years.

Without a backup system, deleted or corrupted data may be lost forever. If possible, systems, applications, and data must be rebuilt from scratch. However, some data files cannot be replicated.

For example, historical patient x-rays or scans cannot be replicated. You can take new x-rays, but you can't recreate an x-ray from ten years ago. It's lost. In this circumstance, patients may sue.

Without duplicate hardware, new hardware must be ordered from vendors. If the hardware is customized (as many servers are), this extends the process. In addition, the hardware may not be replaced for months if supply chains are affected.

IT disasters with significant downtime or losses can also affect your company's reputation. For instance, can patients trust you if their records are deleted or stolen? Can you recreate your company's exclusive design?

IT disasters are not a mild inconvenience. On the contrary, they can wreak havoc or even bankrupt unprepared businesses.

Next steps to creating IT disaster recovery

IT disasters are events that knock your system offline and halt productivity. They can usually be summarized as one of more of the following:

  1. Hardware or software failure
  2. Network failure
  3. Deleting critical data
  4. Cyberattacks and malicious acts
  5. Facility Damage

IT recovery systems and IT incident response plans address each of these IT disasters to protect your business from unacceptable losses.

Before a disaster strikes, businesses should address the following questions to create an effective IT recovery system and plan:

  1. Who do I need to talk to about solving this problem?
  2. What is causing this IT disaster?
  3. What mission-critical system or systems are affected?
  4. What is required to restore functionality?
  5. Do I have what I need to restore functionality?
  6. How long can my business be offline before unacceptable losses occur?

If you're unsure how to answer these questions, consult your IT provider or internal IT team. They can help provide guidance and develop this system to help protect your data and prevent lost data and profits.

It is a red flag if your IT provider or team is unwilling to discuss IT disasters or recovery. These topics are crucial in today's technological landscape and must be addressed before disaster strikes.

WEBIT Services has served hundreds of satisfied clients in the Chicago area for over 25 years.

If you are looking for a new IT provider or want to develop a backup and recovery system, schedule a free 30-minute consultation to see how WEBIT Services can help.

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