Incident management for high-velocity teams

Disaster recovery plan examples and best practices

Benjamin Franklin was right. "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail." This is especially true of disasters that threaten to disrupt your business operations—or bring them to a complete halt. So, you need a strategy and plan for disaster recovery.

To maximize protection and minimize disruption, you need clear, comprehensive, and practical plans to address multiple types of disasters. Each plan should be structured using a simple disaster recovery plan example, ideally following a template utilized throughout your company. Additionally, the disaster recovery plan format should adhere to proven best practices and be tailored to address your unique business needs and priorities.

This article explains disaster recovery plans and their importance and provides examples to help jump-start your efforts to protect your business. It also offers guidance on best practices for disaster recovery and invites you to explore the features of Jira Service Management that can simplify and improve your disaster recovery planning efforts.

Understanding disaster recovery planning

A wide range of potential disasters can threaten your business, and any of them could disrupt or completely halt your business operations. The cost of downtime can be as high as hundreds or thousands of dollars per minute. Your disaster recovery plans are critical to your company's business continuity strategy and long-term survival and success.

Your current IT service management (ITSM) and DevOps support processes can help you craft effective disaster recovery plans. Features of your chosen ITSM software may also help with your disaster recovery planning. IT incidents can quickly become disasters, and how well your business handles incident response and incident communication, including postmortem reports, can inform and support your disaster recovery planning efforts. 

What you choose to include in your disaster recovery plans depends on the type of disaster that plan aims to address and your business’s unique needs. However, all effective disaster recovery plans share two common goals: to prevent disasters whenever possible and to outline the steps to recover as quickly as possible when necessary. Below is a disaster recovery plan example for each of the most common and challenging disaster types. Your business should craft and maintain a plan for each of these.

5 disaster recovery plan examples

Disaster recovery planning should include multiple types of disasters to maximize the protection of your business operations. Here are examples of the most prevalent types, but you may need to plan for additional types depending on your business's unique characteristics.

Cybersecurity breach recovery plan

When starting your cybersecurity disaster recovery plan, you should carefully assess the risk and effect of a cybersecurity breach. A great cybersecurity plan includes the following elements:

  • Your plan should establish recovery objectives by specifying the time needed to restore basic and then full operations or by indicating the maximum acceptable amount of data loss. These are known respectively as recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery point objectives (RPOs).
  • It should detail your business’ data backup and protection measures, as well as your recovery strategies and solutions. 
  • It should describe what the recovery team should communicate to those affected and involved and how they should disseminate that information. 
  • It should include information about relevant documentation, maintenance activities, employee and stakeholder training, and regular testing of the plan itself.

Supply chain disruption recovery plan

PPRR, prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery, is a popular supply chain risk management approach. Your supply chain disruption recovery plan must address all four elements for maximum effectiveness and minimal business disruption.

To address prevention and preparedness, you should map each critical supply chain, highlighting which suppliers have alternatives in place and which do not.  Where you can access alternatives, your plan must detail how to invoke those alternatives and which stakeholders to notify.

Where no alternatives are available, you and your colleagues must ensure that your plan details which operations and teams are affected. You must also ensure your plan includes steps to inform those affected and advise them of specific actions to take in response to the disruption. Your plan should also guide rapid recovery once you have restored a supplier connection.

Infrastructure failure recovery plan

Your IT infrastructure failure recovery plan should mirror and complement your cybersecurity breach recovery plan. It must identify your critical infrastructure elements and include up-to-date, accurate, and complete details about hardware, software, and network configurations.

This plan should include information about alternatives, workarounds, and employees' actions when infrastructure fails. You should also include information about recovery from the failure of physical, non-IT infrastructure.

Data center outage recovery plan

Enterprises often designate critical data centers as automatically invoked "hot spare" or manually accessible "warm spare" backups. Your data center outage recovery plan must detail available backups for your critical data centers and explain how to access those backups.

Natural disaster recovery plan

Every natural disaster recovery plan should begin with detailed information about how and where critical data backups are stored and updated. Your company should store at least one backup offsite, preferably far enough away that a natural disaster affecting your business does not also affect your backup. You need to be able to securely access your offsite backups remotely, as natural disasters can hamper travel.

You should determine the types of natural disasters most likely to affect your business and plan for them. Local government agencies and online weather and climate resources can be valuable sources of information for the planning process.

Best practices for disaster recovery planning

Regardless of the plan you are creating, you should build it on these best practices.

  • Identify and prioritize the disasters and threats your business is most vulnerable to.
  • Prioritize your most critical operations so your recovery efforts focus on restoring those operations first.
  • Define acceptable recovery objectives. You can express these in terms of acceptable data loss and operational disruption (recovery point objective) or time to restore operations (recovery time objective).
  • Implement robust backup and recovery processes for critical business data. Keep at least one backup in a secure, offsite location and align access and recovery processes with your recovery objectives.
  • Assemble a team to implement each recovery plan. Ensure that each team includes people with the necessary skills to achieve rapid, effective recovery from even the most serious disasters. Also include people who can communicate with and reassure stakeholders throughout recovery.
  • Test and update your plans regularly. A disaster recovery plan that sits on a shelf will likely fail to meet your recovery objectives. Review and test your plans regularly to keep them current with evolving threats and business needs. Also, include plans for frequent and regular stakeholder education and training efforts as appropriate.

Use Jira Service Management for disaster recovery planning

As you've read above, disaster recovery planning is a challenging, critical, multifaceted element of business continuity planning. Multiple Jira Service Management features can simplify disaster recovery planning and make it more effective for you, your colleagues, and your business.

Jira Service Management provides a central platform to track tasks, incidents, and requests related to the disaster recovery process. This can speed collaboration among your disaster recovery team members and improve stakeholder communication. Issue tracking and reporting features help you monitor each recovery effort and modify them if and as needed. Jira Service Management also allows you to create disaster recovery information knowledge bases, allowing all team members to access the information quickly.

Disaster recovery plan examples: Frequently asked questions

How do you write a disaster recovery plan?

Below are some basic steps to create a recovery plan for each disaster type relevant to your business.

  1. Work with IT decision-makers and other stakeholders to identify, assess, and prioritize possible disasters and their associated risks.
  2. Align these with your most critical business operations—document recovery objectives for each.
  3. Describe how backup and recovery address these risks and objectives. Highlight any known gaps or shortcomings in current backup and recovery practices or solutions.
  4. List and briefly describe the members of the disaster recovery team and the role each member plays.
  5. Describe the testing schedule for the recovery plan and how you will measure each plan's test performance.
  6. Share the plan with all stakeholders and seek input and feedback during and after plan creation, testing, and implementation.

What should a disaster recovery plan include?

At a minimum, you should include the following elements in every disaster recovery plan.

  • Create a prioritized list of your most critical business operations and the disaster-related threats each face.
  • Write a brief description of your current backup and recovery policies, processes, and technologies, highlighting any known shortcomings or gaps.
  • Describe how current practices and solutions address the identified vulnerabilities.
  • Create a disaster recovery team membership roster with a brief description of each member and their role.
  • Write a schedule for regular plan testing and briefly describe how you will address any identified issues.
  • Invite questions, comments, and suggestions from key stakeholders.

What kind of events should a disaster recovery plan cover?

Disaster recovery plans should address as many disaster scenarios threatening your business operations as possible. This article addresses areas you and your colleagues should consider mandatory for your business. Depending on the specific characteristics of your business and markets, you may also need to plan for additional disaster types.