Cloud costs
April 6, 2023
min read

Disaster Recovery 101


Whether you’re a retail business using point-of-sale software or a hospital storing patients’ records electronically, your organization relies on software. So what happens when you have unexpected downtime or, worse, a catastrophic event that causes you to lose data? Do you have a plan in place to recover this lost data, restore your systems, and resume normal operations? Disaster recovery is no longer optional, it’s a must-have for any organization. 

In this blog, we’ll share more about disaster recovery plans and best practices for creating and executing one. 

What is Disaster Recovery?

First, let’s talk about what a “disaster” actually is. In the world of IT, a disaster can include:

  • Cyberattacks, like malware or ransomware
  • Outages from either power issues or equipment failure
  • Natural disasters
  • Fires
  • Epidemics, such as COVID-19
  • Software bugs

When these disasters occur, they can cause loss of service or loss of data that can significantly impact your business operations. Worse, they can potentially damage your organization’s reputation and negatively affect the trust your customers have in your security policies, as the recent incidents at Southwest Airlines and others have shown.

With that in mind, disaster recovery is precisely what it sounds like: a plan to recover anything that was lost during an unexpected or catastrophic event in your software. Gartner defines it as:

  1. The use of alternative network circuits to re-establish communications channels in the event that the primary channels are disconnected or malfunctioning, and
  2. The methods and procedures for returning a data center to full operation after a catastrophic interruption (e.g., including recovery of lost data)

Recovering Data

A good disaster recovery plan should also include a data center disaster recovery plan. This plan should include backup and replication strategies to ensure data is stored offsite and can be quickly recovered, as well as the necessary personnel — such as a dedicated disaster recovery team — and equipment to restore operations. One of the most common ways companies do this is through disaster recovery sites. 

Disaster recovery sites are secondary physical locations that are used to store critical data and systems in the event of a disaster. They provide a secure and reliable environment for businesses to keep their data safe and protected from disasters, such as natural disasters, cyberattacks, or power outages. These sites are equipped with advanced technology, such as firewalls, encryption, and backup systems to ensure that data is kept safe even if an incident occurs. Additionally, some disaster recovery sites also provide businesses with access to experts who can help them recover quickly from any kind of disaster.

Do I Need a Cloud Disaster Recovery Plan?

Yes, you need a disaster recovery plan even if you’re a cloud-based company and your applications and data all reside in the cloud. Cloud disaster recovery (CDR) is a process of protecting, backing up, and restoring data on cloud-based systems. A CDR plan includes data protection to insulate critical applications from potential disasters. With CDR, businesses can help ensure that their important information is safe and secure in the cloud. Furthermore, CDR can help businesses reduce downtime during a disaster by quickly restoring lost data or applications in the cloud.

Disaster Recovery vs. Business Continuity

Disaster recovery is an important part of ensuring business continuity in the event of a natural disaster, cyber attack, or other emergencies. Disaster recovery is the way that you can restore business continuity, so both concepts are essential for maintaining operations in the face of unexpected events. Business continuity and disaster recovery are related, but different concepts.

  • Disaster recovery focuses on restoring services to their original state after an incident has occurred. This includes activities such as data backups, system restorations, and infrastructure repairs.
  • Business continuity involves the development of plans and procedures to ensure that critical business operations remain available during and after a disaster. This includes steps such as identifying risks, establishing response plans, and training personnel. 

Why is a Disaster Recovery Plan Important?

Disasters can happen anytime and anywhere, so it’s important to have a plan in place to ensure your business can continue operations in the event of an emergency. Having a well-defined plan will help you minimize downtime and keep your business running smoothly. Disasters not only impact your customers but also your bottom line. A 2022 report by the Uptime Institute found that:

  • One in five organizations experienced a “serious” or “severe” outage (i.e., one with large financial losses, reputational damage, compliance breaches, and/or loss of life) in the past three years
  • More than 60% of failures create at least $100,000 in total losses
  • About 40% of organizations have experienced an outage due to human error
  • 63% of outages were caused by third-party providers, such as cloud, hosting, and telecommunication vendors
  • About a third of outages last more than 24 hours

Disaster Recovery Planning: Best Practices

Disaster recovery planning requires a strategy. To ensure that your organization is prepared for any emergency, it is important to follow best practices when planning and executing a disaster recovery strategy. This includes:

  • Performing regular risk assessments to identify potential threats
  • Listing resources (in the order of criticality) and potential failure points associated with them
  • Simulating the potential failures
  • Verifying theoretical recovery paths, which can be automated or manual 
  • Investing in reliable hardware and software solutions
  • Testing regularly to ensure that backups are working properly
  • Training staff on how to respond in an emergency

Following these best practices can help protect your organization from costly downtime and data loss in the event of a disaster.

How Does Chaos Engineering Fit Into a Disaster Recovery Strategy?

One emerging technology that supports disaster recovery is chaos engineering. What is chaos engineering? It’s a discipline of software engineering that focuses on testing the reliability and fault tolerance of a system by intentionally injecting failure into systems to gauge resiliency. It’s used to identify potential issues or weaknesses in the system before they become major problems. Like any scientific method, chaos engineering focuses on experiments/hypotheses and then compares the results to a control (a steady state). 

The quintessential chaos engineering example in a distributed system is taking down random services to see how items respond and what issues could impact users. By using chaos engineering, organizations can better prepare for disasters and ensure their systems are resilient enough to handle unexpected events. 

The goal of chaos engineering is to build robust systems that can quickly recover from disasters with minimal disruption. Through rigorous testing, organizations can identify areas where their systems may be vulnerable and take steps to strengthen them, thus allowing for faster recovery times in the event of a disaster. There are many other benefits of chaos engineering as well, including improvements to user experience, incident response time, and application performance monitoring. Engineers can then remove the distractions of incident response, post-mortem reports, and fixing system failures to focus on development. 

Harness Chaos Engineering is the only solution that offers both on-premise and SaaS solutions, enabling users to run chaos experiments however they need to deploy their software. Learn more about how Harness Chaos Engineering strengthens your disaster recovery plan, and if you are ready to see how your organization can adopt this practice and start improving reliability, request a demo today!

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Chaos Engineering