Data management is just as much about security as it is about organization. There are plenty of worst-case scenarios in the world of data today, but an IT disaster recovery plan is the solution for them all. Whether you’re concerned about stolen information, corrupt files, or damaged servers, having action steps in place ahead of time will help your team act fast and recover quickly. Empower the entire department to prevent and mitigate disruption from emergencies with the following IT disaster recovery plan tips, template, and tools. 

What is an IT disaster recovery plan?

An IT disaster recovery plan is a roadmap teams can use to keep things secure and running in the event of an emergency. It primarily consists of action steps, resources, and official policies that provide guidance. While we can’t prevent events such as hacking or fires from happening, we can create the IT equivalent of “stop, drop, and roll” if they do. 

Having an IT disaster recovery plan makes it easier to keep business going as usual during and after a crisis. Not only does this mitigate revenue loss, but it also saves money on more costly solutions. Instead of waiting until something happens to allocate resources, you can outline both procedure and budget considerations ahead of time. 

IT capacity planning also make it easier for employees across every department to be productive. The IT team can get right to work when something happens. Meanwhile, all other departments affected by the disaster can either operate as usual or receive detailed information on what will likely happen next and when they can get back on track. 

Customers benefit too. When a hiccup does happen, clients are less likely to notice it since the business will be running as usual. If the issue is known and undeniably disruptive, companies can communicate more effectively with their customers and give them concrete information on what to expect. 

Why do you need an IT disaster recovery plan?

An IT disaster recovery plan is a safeguard against unpredictable emergencies. Disasters such as floods, earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, hardware failure, outdated software, viruses, hackers, ransomware, and even human error can create huge problems for your IT. Even though we hope these events never happen, we also recognize that they are a possibility. With an IT disaster recovery plan, you can get back up and running sooner rather than later. 

Besides keeping your entire system from being destroyed, IT disaster recovery plans also improve customer relationships. When disaster strikes, not every customer who experiences an interruption in their services will be understanding. Many might not like the idea of paying full price for a subpar experience, regardless of what caused it. Keeping your systems up and running is the smart way to ensure a positive cash flow and a happy audience even in the face of an unpredictable event. 

And it’s not just your customers you’ll be helping — your team will thank you too. Working under high pressure to recover from an IT disaster without a plan in place can lead to more stress, mistakes, and disorganization. But if you’ve already thought out a detailed procedure, your team can confidently move forward, think on their feet, and keep up with their day-to-day while recovering from a major disruptive event. 

There’s one other huge advantage to making an IT disaster recovery plan that’s rarely discussed — prevention. Like investments, operations delayed from an IT disaster compound over time. The longer it takes for your team to create and implement a solution, the longer it takes to get back up and running at full capacity. That means more project delays, customer inquiries, and unexpected recovery issues to address. All of this is solved by having a well-thought-out IT disaster recovery plan in place ahead of time. 

What do you need to put in an IT contingency plan?

The best and most proactive move managers can make for their IT department when disaster strikes is to maintain business continuity. Templates prepared ahead of time that outline steps for business continuity make it easy to pinpoint vulnerabilities, view resource distribution, and provide a common touchpoint for all communications. 

Some common pitfalls with this include not knowing who is available, who has the right skill set for the task, and what their bandwidth looks like at any given time. Make sure you have a method for tracking employee workloads to make your recovery plan template actionable. 

Your IT disaster recovery plan template should also offer communication tools. Time is of the essence when issues come up, plus there is little margin for error for sharing updates, resources, and approvals during a crisis. These two issues combined can seriously derail even the best-laid plans. So having a solid template and communication plan working together at the same time is essential. 

In order for your team to spring into action, they’ll need a well thought-out plan. IT contingency plans should be thorough, detailed, and organized. While your specific action steps may vary depending on your team and infrastructure, every IT contingency plan needs the following: 

  • An emergency contact list that includes full names, titles, companies, phone numbers, after-hours contact information, and email address. 
  • A notification plan for who will be contacted when specific situations arise, who is responsible for reaching out and what happens if that person can't be reached. 
  • A communication system for notifying other team members, partners, and customers that includes sample messaging approved by legal and compliance. 
  • A set of directions for conducting a diagnostic and determining the scope of the issue. 
  • A defined list of disaster recovery IT project management roles and responsibilities. 
  • Step-by-step instructions for how to begin recovery while maintaining operations alongside key timelines. You must also have approval from project team leads and stakeholders ahead of time. 
  • An inventory of all relevant IT project management trends to account for, infrastructure you have and want, and IT tools your team can pull from. 
  • Physical and digital data storage backups. 
  • Data access and permission settings squared away so that progress isn’t inhibited and data remains secure. 
  • A workflow for how you’ll regularly test and update your IT contingency plan. 

Do cloud servers have contingency plans?

Cloud servers do experience emergencies of their own from time to time. Even if they don’t, they might stop offering their services one day. While some servers offer solutions for hybrid cloud security matters, your company is still responsible for finding data storage solutions if something changes. 

According to Network World, “This problem is not as severe in a conventional IT model. With a traditional data center, you own whatever hardware you purchase, so even if the manufacturer goes out of business, you still have the equipment and can keep using it but may have issues with support.” 

Or, if you are partnered with a newer cloud service provider, they might not offer hardware at all. Either way, it’s good to be prepared with our own contingency plan. 

Who should get involved in organizing an IT recovery plan?

IT recovery plans require a team effort. Most companies choose to form a committee of representatives from every department who can speak to what they’ll need in the event of an emergency. Key operations personnel such as finance team members and the PMO in project management as well as other divisions should be included. Like with any business continuity plan, managers should organize it while stakeholders and sponsors should approve it. 

What is the worst-case scenario in IT recovery?

The absolute worst-case scenario in IT recovery is experiencing a disruption so large that it costs you business. That can mean anything from losing intellectual property from hacker leaks to losing servers that your day-to-day operations rely entirely on because of a powerful thunderstorm that leaks rain through a warehouse roof. As the experts at Worksighted point out, even ransomware can bankrupt an organization overnight. 

Having an IT disaster recovery plan can mean the difference between winning a standoff with hackers or shuttering a decades-old business. 

Common IT disasters that ruin businesses

Natural disasters. Damage from hurricanes, floods, fires, and earthquakes to physical server facilities and offices can disrupt IT. 

Power outages. Not having access to data storage can often be extremely costly if the information isn’t backed up elsewhere. 

  • Hardware failure. Lost data can also be caused by faulty, dirty, or broken hardware. 
  • Outdated software. Missing critical updates can leave servers open to new vulnerabilities and create gaps between old data and new. 
  • Cyber attacks and data leaks. Whether targeted or not, cyber attacks pose a threat as both legal issues and in terms of intellectual property theft. 
  • Lack of testing. Not testing your backup equipment or IT disaster recovery plan can lead to missteps in an already high-stakes process. 
  • Not having backup. Regardless of who you partner with for storage, your company is responsible for having a backup if they suddenly shut down operations. 

Templatize your IT disaster recovery plan with Wrike 

By now, you’ve learned that IT disaster recovery plans are a comprehensive solution for issues caused by a natural disaster, cybersecurity breaches, and human error that would otherwise be fatal (or, at the very least, expensive) for organizations who experience these issues. And while we can’t predict the future, we can plan for it. Smart project managers use Wrike to do exactly that. 

How Wrike can help you with your IT Disaster Planning

Wrike is a project management tool that can be used to create, approve, and implement your IT disaster recovery plan. Not only does Wrike handle big picture action steps, but it also helps teams navigate important details such as real-time messaging right within the recovery project tasks themselves. In short, Wrike serves as a dashboard and hub for your entire team to rally around when something goes wrong. 

You can use Wrike to achieve three mission-critical objectives you’ll need to kick off any disaster recovery effort: 

  • Track employee availability 
  • Mitigate risk 
  • Respond quickly with minimal error

Track employee availability

Employees can update individual tasks and self-report statuses like commuting, out sick, and working remotely. Managers can view where the entire team is at any given moment and whether or not remote employees are online. Wrike also breaks down employees by physical location, displaying their names with the latest status on their current task (such as “needs clarification” or “new”) directly underneath. 

Mitigate risk

With multiple open projects across the entire company, it can be hard to decide what should be prioritized, paused, or prepared in case of further delays. Wrike’s visual system gives you big picture insight into which phase or sector of your plan should be started first, as well as who owns it and how much it affects revenue. Details like these help with quick and informed decision-making. 

Respond quickly with minimal error 

Use Wrike’s Gantt charts to create a comprehensive communication plan. Break your recovery template down into phases, title them, and designate start and end dates. From there, you can view where there might be overlap with opportunities for streamlining. Or find conflicts between initiatives you can prevent from ever happening. 

Try our two-week free trial to see for yourself how visual Gantt charts, detailed task assignments, and high-level resource distribution can help your IT disaster recovery plan achieve its full potential.