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Disaster Management

Planning for the Worst: Creating a Data Recovery Plan

Mark Lukehart

Planning for the Worst: Creating a Data Recovery Plan

At this point, you probably already know how important it is for your organization to protect its most valuable data. However, even the most well-prepared companies can experience unexpected data loss. Natural disasters can damage your property, and even your best employees can still be subject to human error from time to time. Equipment failure can also result in data loss in some cases. 

This is why it is so important to think ahead and develop a disaster recovery plan for your company. Disaster recovery planning can help your business resume normal operations more quickly in the event of an emergency. Data loss can negatively affect your reputation and even result in revenue losses. In this article, we’ll discuss ways to build a data recovery plan and how to use it in the event of an emergency. 

Key Takeaways

  • Organizations of all sizes can benefit from having a data recovery plan in place. 
  • Hot sites are one of the most effective ways to maintain business continuity in the event of an outage or equipment failure. 
  • Separating your backup servers from your main IT network is key to preventing further data losses. 
  • Your data recovery plan should be tested regularly to identify and address any problems. 

What Is a Data Recovery Plan?

A data recovery plan is a set of procedures and best practices to use in the event of an emergency that compromises your company’s data. This plan can also be referred to as an IT disaster recovery plan. Data recovery plans ensure that crucial pieces of internal and consumer data are safeguarded against loss in the event of a disaster. A data recovery plan can also detail critical steps to take immediately after a data loss incident and how to get your company up and running again. 

There are many different types of valuable assets that should be protected as part of your company’s IT strategy. This includes customer data, such as stored payment information, information about past purchases, and more. It’s also extremely important to back up valuable internal data such as existing website copy and design, intellectual property, internal communications, and much more. Research shows that one-third of internal company data across industries is not protected in any way, which makes it much more vulnerable to losses. 

Disasters can happen to any business, often with devastating results. As many as 40 percent of small to mid-sized businesses do not reopen after a disaster. Having a data recovery plan in place can make the difference between getting back online and having to close up shop. 

Three Types of Recovery Sites

A recovery site is a key component of any strong business continuity plan. A recovery site is a designated place that your company can use to restore operations after a severe data breach. There are three different types of disaster recovery sites that you can implement. 

Cold Site

A cold site is a space that is designated for use after a data emergency but does not have the technology in place to resume operations right away. In most cases, a cold site will already have things like power, HVAC systems, and internet connections set up but will not have any hardware installed. Cold sites are the most cost-effective type of recovery site, which makes them popular among small businesses. It will take time to get critical systems up and running in a cold site after an emergency. 

Warm Site

Unlike a cold site, a warm site has some hardware pre-installed. Data is backed up to the warm site at specific intervals, rather than being backed up continuously. A warm site will need some additional setup after a data breach in order to function at full capacity and get the company back up and running again. 

Hot Site

A hot site is designed for immediate use after a data breach. Hot sites conduct continuous data backups and fully mirror your existing IT setup. With a hot site, you can resume work immediately without any loss of data or customer service interruptions. However, hot sites are very expensive to set up and run, so they aren’t always a feasible option for small businesses. 

How Do You Create A Data Recovery Plan?

Unfortunately, security breaches can happen to any company. Putting a data recovery plan in place is the best way to ensure your business operations won’t suffer if this happens. Your entire staff should be familiar with the data recovery plan to prevent confusion in the event of an emergency. Here’s what to consider when putting together your disaster recovery strategy. 


First, you will need to assess your data and determine which assets are necessary for your company to remain fully operational. This will help your team decide what to prioritize in the event of an emergency, which will help get your systems back online faster.  

Before creating your data recovery plan, you’ll need to do a full inventory of all of your IT systems and data. This should include all of your hardware and software in your on-site data center as well as any data that is currently stored in cloud services. With this inventory, you’ll get a clear picture of how much data you have, how your data is structured, and how your systems work together. From there, you can use this information to build an efficient data recovery plan. 


In the event that your data is compromised, you will need to find a safe location to get your business back up and running again. Designating a secure backup data center now will save your team a huge amount of time and effort in the event of an emergency. You will need to determine whether a cold, warm, or hot site makes the most sense for your business. 


You will need to stay in contact with your team members during an emergency. However, your normal channels of communication may be compromised due to equipment failure, power outages, or other issues. This means that you will need to have communication protocols in place for employees to follow. Detailed communication protocols are particularly important if your company has to meet strict industry compliance standards. 

Response Steps

Next, you will need to create a step-by-step plan of what you would actually do in the event of a data emergency. Ideally, you should designate specific employees to work as a disaster recovery team and implement these steps. The exact steps you need to take will depend on your company’s business IT infrastructure and the type of data you are working to restore. 


Finally, it is very important to test your disaster response process and work out any potential problems before an emergency actually happens. This can lessen the impact of a disaster if it does happen and gives you an opportunity to refine the process. 

Schedule regular tests of your data backup systems during windows of acceptable downtime. You may need to update your data recovery plan as your organization grows, so these tests will help you determine what needs to be updated and what problems need to be corrected, if any. 

What Strategies Are Used For Data Recovery?

There are a variety of preventative measures and strategies that you can use to prevent data loss. You will need to assess your organization’s existing IT structure to determine which strategies will be most effective to preserve your data and keep your company up and running. 

Hot Sites

Having a continuously running backup data storage center ensures that you can continue to provide service without any data loss in many high-pressure situations. This is particularly important for high profile organizations who cannot afford much downtime in the event of an emergency. 

Spare Servers

Many companies keep spare servers on hand in case of an outage. The spare server is set up so that it can be connected to your network right away if an individual server goes down. 

Underutilized Servers

It can also be very helpful to leverage underutilized servers as part of your disaster recovery plan. These are servers that are already part of your network, but have plenty of remaining storage space available. These servers also aren’t a critical part of your existing operation. Because these servers are already connected to your network, you can easily use them for emergency data storage to speed up your recovery time. 

Non-Critical Servers

These are servers that are used regularly but don’t support critical operations. These servers can be repurposed during an emergency without disrupting your system’s most important functions. 

Duplicate Data Centers

These are data centers that are separate from the main server but are designed to function the same way. A duplicate data center is a very effective backup option because it is not connected to your main network, so they won’t be damaged even if your servers are compromised. 

Transferring Servers

With this strategy, you will take existing servers that are in proximity to compromised data and transfer the information onto a new server or network. This ensures that there is another copy of the data away from a potentially dangerous location. 

How To Ensure Your Backup Procedures Are Ready For Implementation

You’ll need to make sure that your backup strategy is fully developed in the event of an emergency. Here’s what to do to ensure that your backup procedures are ready to implement.  

Perform Regular Tests

In-depth testing is the easiest way to ensure that your data recovery procedures will work in the event of an emergency. Be sure to test for a variety of different scenarios, such as hardware failure, security breaches, power outages, and more. 

Include Archived Backups

It is common practice to have your data backed up automatically at regular intervals. It can be helpful to save archived versions of your backup data in a secure location that isn’t connected to your main server network. This way, you will still be able to access key data points, even if your most recent backup isn’t available. 

Understand Disaster Recovery

Your company should have a broader disaster recovery plan in place that goes beyond technology. This broader business resumption plan should detail how every part of your organization will address data loss and keep your business on track. Your entire team should receive regular training on disaster recovery strategies so that the entire organization can be prepared. 

Have Multiple Types of Backups

There are some scenarios where your data backups could fail along with your main systems. This is why it is so important to use multiple backup types as part of your continuity of operations plan. Using multiple backup strategies is a key component of risk management, especially when you are working with massive amounts of data that needs to be protected. 

Putting a disaster recovery plan in place now can save you time, stress, and money in the event of an emergency. While no backup strategy is completely guaranteed, tools like hot sites, multiple data centers, and spare servers can prevent significant data loss and minimize downtime should an emergency happen.