Disaster Recovery Planning in the Context of COVID-19

by Mar 17, 2020Business Continuity

As businesses rapidly adapt to the COVID-19 outbreak, the need for comprehensive disaster recovery planning has never been more vital. The global pandemic has forced many organizations to rethink their operations, adopting new telecommuting policies and building out infrastructure to support it.

This is where recovery plans are being put to the test.

Businesses that are best positioned to adapt are those that already have contingency plans. Notice, for example, how many companies were ready to instantly enable employees to work remotely, collaborate and access data from anywhere.

But also, from a wider perspective, COVID-19 serves as an important reminder that companies need to have plans in place for disasters of all kinds. In this post, we outline what some of that fundamental planning should look like, within the context of COVID-19 and beyond.

 

Objective: Keep the Business Running

The underlying objective of every disaster recovery plan (DRP) is to ensure the business can recover quickly from a disaster. Research shows that roughly 40-60% of small businesses never reopen their doors after a disaster. The odds worsen for each additional day the business remains closed.

Maintaining continuity is a must. Every organization, regardless of size, must develop a thorough recovery plan that identifies the steps and systems for responding to every type of disaster.

 

Remote workers

The urgency of social distancing during a viral outbreak has led many businesses to let their employees work from home. But a number of other disasters can easily create the same situation. If a business’s location is destroyed by fire, for example, or becomes inaccessible for other reasons, then there needs to be a backup plan. Businesses need to think about how their operations can be carried out from elsewhere, and by whom.

 

Things to consider:

  • Which operations are critical to maintaining continuity?
  • Can those operations be executed remotely?
  • If so, which staff must be able to perform those tasks from home?
  • How will the company support this? Will computers be provided? Internet access?
  • What network changes need to be made to allow the remote connections?

 

Collaboration and data access

Continuing on the need for telecommuting, businesses must consider how to make those remote operations as efficient and productive as possible. Remote teams must be able to work effectively and collaborate easily. Cloud file-sharing solutions, such as Datto Workplace, are massively important for streamlining this collaboration by enabling staff to access data through a single, secure online platform.

 

Things to consider:

  • How will remote workers access, store or share their data with each other?
  • Will that data be synced to a single storage location? If so, where or via what system?
  • How important is the need for teams to collaborate? Which solutions can enable that collaboration and also make the work more efficient?

 

Business relocation

Beyond letting employees work from home, businesses also need to consider the possibility that they may need to completely move operations to another location. This need will obviously depend on numerous factors that are unique to the business’s operations and industry. But since 90% of small

companies fail within a year if they don’t resume operations within 5 days after a disaster, then it’s best to have some kind of relocation planning in place.

 

Things to consider:

  • Can operations be moved to a business’s secondary location, if one exists?
  • If so, how? What kinds of redundancy will need to be in place? How will assets such as computers, equipment and office furniture be quickly expanded at the secondary location?
  • If there is no secondary location already available, what planning can be done to quickly secure one when the need arises?
  • Who will oversee the relocation? Who will manage supplies? Who will stock the toilet paper?

 

Lockdown contingencies

Entire cities and nations around the world are being locked down because of COVID-19. These restrictions can be devastating for businesses as they restrict movement and force non-essential companies to close indefinitely. For some companies, this can mean a major disruption at all ends of the business. For example, manufacturing companies may no longer be able to maintain supply lines, and the demand side will also shrink at the same time. The consequences are catastrophic – but it doesn’t mean the business is doomed to permanent failure. Every lifeline needs to be considered to ensure survival.

 

Things to consider:

  • Again, can operations be sustained from employees’ homes or via other ways?
  • Which streams of financial support should be pursued? Is government assistance available? Loans? Insurance? Bankruptcy protection? Industry lobbying initiatives? Who will oversee these efforts?
  • How quickly should layoffs occur, and how broad should they be? What specific metrics should guide those decisions?
  • For small businesses, can partnerships or emergency initiatives be made with the local business community?

 

Data backup

Regardless of where work is being performed, whether on-site or remotely, your data backups absolutely must continue. A loss of data, at a time when the business is already vulnerable, could very well be the nail in the coffin. Additionally, remember that things like cyberattacks and accidental file deletions don’t stop during a pandemic! If anything, they increase (and we’re already seeing reports of disgusting phishing scams attempting to exploit the panic about coronavirus). If you’ve already deployed a robust data backup system, then you should be able to continue your backups at the same frequency and with no interruption.

 

Things to consider:

  • If employees work from home, how will their data be backed up? Will they be saving files over the network? Will each device be an endpoint?
  • How will backup testing continue during times of turmoil at the organization? Who will oversee it?
  • Are backups being stored in multiple locations, i.e. on-site, cloud or data center?
  • In the event of widespread data loss, how quickly can data be restored?

 

Communication

In times of uncertainty, nobody wants confusion. It’s the role of leadership to ensure clear communication, internally and externally. Internally, communication is critical to a successful recovery. Also, the right messaging can help to boost morale. Externally, it’s important that your communications teams are addressing all concerns to appropriate parties, whether it be customers, vendors, government officials or media.

 

Things to consider:

  • How will teams communicate with each other, particularly if primary lines of communication are disrupted?
  • How will employees receive status updates?
  • Who will handle the external communication?

 

Recovery teams

There must be a team to manage the disaster recovery planning and oversee recovery efforts. This team should be identified long before a disaster happens. Applicable personnel should be designated within the DRP. Having a disaster recovery team will help to ensure that all recovery protocols are carried out according to plan. In turn, this ensures the recovery is swift, smooth and streamlined.

 

Things to consider:

  • Who will be on the recovery team?
  • Should the team be comprised of personnel from every department?
  • How will members receive training on critical business systems across the organization?

 

Workforce contingencies

What if your employees are unable to work at all? In a pandemic, workforces can be severely disrupted if workers become ill. But other types of disasters can be just as problematic. In a hurricane or other natural disaster, workers may be evacuated from the area and unable to return for weeks or even months. Businesses need to have a plan for how they’ll respond to these shortages.

 

Things to consider:

  • Are employees adequately trained on other department responsibilities? Can they easily take on other workers’ tasks if those workers can’t come in?
  • How quickly can open positions be filled? Which advertising methods should be used to restore workforce gaps as swiftly as possible?
  • If inexperienced personnel need to be hired, how can they be quickly trained to take over critical processes?

 

IT infrastructure

We mentioned the importance of having a plan for supporting remote workers with the appropriate IT scale-outs. But the reality is, your infrastructure needs to be prepared for every possible disaster. Hardware failure, network outages, physical destruction from fire – every scenario needs to be considered and identified as part of a thorough IT risk assessment.

 

Things to consider:

  • In the event of on-site IT system failure, how will the affected components be restored?
  • If repair or replacement is possible, how quickly will that happen?
  • What kinds of redundancies (network, telecommunications, server hardware, etc.) can be put in place now, so that a switchover is quicker and more seamless after a disaster?

 

Updates, reviews & reassessment

As the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, many businesses are surely already noticing weaknesses in their disaster recovery planning (as well as strengths). This should be documented accordingly so that the DR plan can be further improved. Additionally, most disaster recovery plans become quickly outdated as personnel leave the company and other business changes take place. It’s imperative that your disaster recovery teams continually reassess the planning, not just after a disaster but periodically throughout the year.

 

Things to consider:

  • How often should the DRP be reviewed and updated?
  • Following a disaster, what gaps could be filled that would ensure a stronger recovery in the future?
  • What has worked best during previous events, and how can those processes be duplicated or reinforced across other areas of the business?

 

Need some guidance for disaster recovery planning for coronavirus?

If you need assistance with your disaster recovery planning as it relates to data protection, backups, file-sharing solutions or IT infrastructure, please reach out to our business continuity experts at Invenio IT. Call (646) 395-1170, email success@invenioIT.com or request a free demo of our recommended backup solutions.

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Tracy Rock is the Director of Marketing at Invenio IT. Tracy is responsible for all media-related initiatives as well as external communications—including, branding, public relations, promotions, advertising and social media. She is one busy lady and we are lucky to have her!