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Waiting until a disaster strikes is simply too late for disaster recovery. Having a plan in place early saves time, money, and headaches.Disaster recovery (DR) plans are a critical component of business continuity planning. However, even though DR could be considered a subset of business continuity planning, DR plans can themselves encompass many different elements.

So, when preparing to adopt a business continuity disaster recovery (BCDR) plan, it’s vital to have a strong disaster recovery plan template that addresses the most critical needs of your business.

A DR plan template can help you focus your efforts on the items that are most important to your business so they aren’t missing from your DR solution.

Which elements are the most important to your business? The answer will vary based on the size of your business and the nature of your industry, but here are a few must-haves for any DR plan template:

A Thorough Analysis of Current and Projected Computing Needs

One of the most critical elements of any DR plan is having a secondary set of offsite computing resources to take over the load when the primary production environment is rendered unavailable.

Without spare resources, there’s nothing to handle the load and recovery cannot happen.

Whether your company’s DR plan is handled purely internally or through a third party, a comprehensive analysis of your computing resource needs is necessary. An accurate assessment of your computing resource needs allows for the reservation of just the right amount of spare resources—not too much or too little.

Clearly-Defined Roles and Responsibilities

Every DR plan template should include documentation defining what everyone’s responsibilities are in the event of a disaster—from the lowest-rung employee all the way to the CEO.

By outlining what every employee should do in a disaster as well as who’s accountable for what based on their role, you can minimize confusion in a disaster and help speed along recovery efforts.

Guidelines for Acceptable RTOs and RPOs

Timing is critical in DR for business continuity. Faster recovery and more recent recovery points are always better than slower, less frequent backups.How long can your business go without access to its mission-critical apps and data? How much data can you afford to lose when a disaster strikes?

Recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery point objectives (RPOs) directly affect how heavily a disaster event impacts your business. Distant RPOs mean more data lost in a disaster, and long RTOs mean that mission-critical data and apps are unavailable for longer.

Establishing what’s acceptable for your business in terms of RTOs and RPOs is vital for planning efforts, and may require a comprehensive cost analysis of what production environment downtime costs your business. A downtime cost analysis can help you determine what your business could survive in a disaster.

Testing for the DR Plan

Simply having a DR plan isn’t enough—there need to be guidelines for testing your DR solution built into the plan.

Testing can take multiple forms. For example, there is low-impact testing to verify if the data on the primary production server was faithfully transferred to the replication target. More comprehensive tests would actually spin up the replication target’s resources to verify how long it would take to take over if the primary environment goes down.

By testing the DR plan, you can verify both RTOs and RPOs for your solution.

Failover System Redundancy

If any one aspect of the DR plan were to suffer a glitch or outage, would your business’ plan still work? Whatever DR solution you use needs to have redundancy for its failover systems. Adding redundancy prevents single points of failure from rendering a DR plan useless.

A solid DR plan template should address redundancy for failover systems to avoid potential problems later on.

Reducing gaps in your DR plan template can help prevent severe problems later on. The above items are just a few of the things that any DR plan template should include. For more help with disaster recovery planning, check out some of our other resources:

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery