The online guide to effective disaster recovery

Data backup and disaster recovery become more and more critical issues for businesses to address every year. Whether it’s Mother Nature’s violent unpredictability or hackers and malware attempting to harvest your business data, there are more threats than ever before to your business continuity.

But what, exactly, is meant by “disaster recovery?” Let’s distill it down to a usable definition, then we can explore the subject based on that definition.

Essentially, disaster recovery is security-based planning and preventative activity that aims to protect your business from negative data loss and downtime events caused by threats such as natural disasters, online threats, insider threats, or any other threat to business continuity.

Data is the lifeblood of the modern business. Which means effective disaster recovery is absolutely crucial to the survival and health of most businesses. And while having a working definition is useful, it doesn’t necessarily explain how recovery is planned and executed when the need arises.

In other words, before you can implement effective disaster recovery, you need to understand the full spectrum of what disaster recovery entails.

Don’t worry, we’re here to help. We’ve created this online guide to disaster recovery to outline the basics of how it works, the steps involved, and how to best begin to implement it in your business.

To get started, let’s build the ground floor of disaster recovery: data backup. After all, the other details involved in recovery are largely pointless if you lose your data with no way to restore it anyway.

Traditional data backup vs. cloud-based data backup

When we talk about traditional data backup, we’re referring to non-cloud-based backup. With traditional backup, one or more copies of all your mission-critical files and programs are created so that they can be loaded onto your hardware and machines in the event of a system failure.

Back in the day, this meant backups stored on CDs, thumb drives, and external hard drives. In more recent years, these kinds of backup have become outdated because they have several drawbacks that can cause difficulties.

Chief among the difficulties with portable storage backup is that your files and programs are not updated in real time but instead must be updated manually. This is not the only drawback to traditional data backup, either.

Problems with traditional data backup methods include:

  • Excessive downtime due to slow restoration on a per-device basis
  • Data loss due to theft or misplacement of physical hardware storage devices
  • Poor or inconsistent security or encryption protection
  • Operational or financial barriers to scalability across multiple machines or networks
  • Permanent data loss when both the original copy and backup copy are destroyed by the same data loss event

Cloud-based data backup

These days, most businesses can get maximum benefit by backing up their data to the cloud. With cloud computing, data backup and recovery is far easier and more reliable to implement while also far more secure.

This is because when you take advantage of cloud computing, all your mission-critical data and programs are stored on remote servers in professional data centers and accessed securely from any internet-accessible device.

These data centers have military-grade encryption as well as multiple levels of redundancy that ensure you have several alternative backup options. They’re also off-site from your business, so even if a disaster destroys your entire building, your data is ready and waiting to be restored.

Plus, with cloud computing your critical files and programs can be updated in real time, meaning your backup reflects all your latest work updates.

Advantages of cloud-based data backup include:

  • Unlimited scalability across multiple devices and networks
  • Real-time and scheduled file backup by priority
  • Mobility and data access from any internet-connected device (we’ll explain the massive advantage for disaster recovery later)
  • Multiple redundancies and off-site backup options to truly keep data safe from loss
  • Military-grade security and encryption to protect your data from online threats

Data backup is clearly a big part of disaster recovery. But don’t take that to mean it’s the only step necessary to recover after a disaster or data loss event. In truth, restoring your data, though a complex process in its own right, is one of many steps to successful disaster recovery.

5 Key strategies to minimize downtime

Disaster recovery is more than backup: you need a plan

So we’ve got the how, why, and where in place for backing up your data. What now? Now you need a plan. And not just any plan, either. A good disaster recovery plan is an extensive, if not exhaustive, list of all your mission-critical systems and data, how they will be restored, the timeframe for restoration, and who will restore them.

This is far more complex than it might sound. In the chaotic aftermath of a natural disaster or other data loss incident, time will be money. The longer your systems are down, the more money you will lose. Not to mention reputation, should the problem be from something other than a natural disaster.

A powerful, well-constructed disaster recovery plan protects your bottom line and your business reputation by minimizing downtime and preventing data loss. And no matter your industry, the plan will always have a few crucial details.

Minimum elements an effective disaster recovery plan will cover:

  • Who will be in charge should a data loss event or natural disaster occur
  • The contact information for all mission-critical employees who will support recovering your business technology
  • A list that prioritizes the mission-critical programs and data you must have to get back to work
  • A communication plan with assigned responsibilities for each employee to resume network operations
  • A map of all systems and technology that will require restoration
  • The steps to restore service from all your vendors, including cloud service providers, data backup storage facilities, and any mission-critical program providers.

Keep in mind that the elements and execution of a disaster recovery plan are more complex than just this list. But these minimum standards should be enough to start building an effective plan that will minimize downtime and protect your business from data loss.

5 foreboding reasons you need a disaster recovery plan

Business continuity planning as part of disaster recovery

It doesn’t always take a full-on disaster to take your business down. Many businesses experience downtime as a result of smaller incidents that don’t involve data loss but do interrupt business operations. Whether it’s an internet outage or unresponsive mission-critical programs, a business continuity plan outlines your responses to issues that bring your workflow to a slow or stop.

Often it makes sense to outline your business continuity plan while you’re developing your disaster recovery plan, because there will be overlap in some of the strategies and responses.

It’s also a good idea to take on professional assistance when it comes to business continuity planning. If you’re already using a Managed Service Provider, there’s a good chance that BC is one of the services they offer. It might already be a part of your current contract, too.

If you’re not currently working with an MSP, you can certainly attempt to put together a BC plan on your own. To do so, your in-house IT department and other management teams will have to collaborate on how your business processes, communications and technology interact to operate your business on a day-in and day-out basis so that they can plan for the loss of various individual resources and what the response to that loss looks like.

5 throwback videos that can teach you about modern IT concerns

Disaster recovery audit

So, you’ve got a data backup service in place, and you’ve developed a disaster recovery plan. What now? Simple. Now you need to determine that your plan and your backup service work as intended.

As the boxer Mike Tyson once said, “Everybody’s got a plan until they get punched in the face.” While this is a hilarious but somewhat irreverent statement, the message has a lot of truth. How can you know whether your plan will work when the time comes?

The answer is disaster recovery auditing and testing. By taking the time to audit your plan for effectiveness and completion before disaster strikes, you give yourself the best chance to avoid downtime if things don’t go as planned.

3 steps to successful disaster recovery auditing

Number 1

Review your plan extensively.

Go over your plan periodically with your team. Things change, both in your business operations and your continuity needs. By walking through your plan in detail you can answer questions and concerns that crop up, while refreshing everyone’s knowledge on their ongoing disaster recovery responsibilities.

Number 2

Perform a tabletop test.

Think of this as the human element test for your plan. It’s a mock-live scenario where you sit your team down and require all team members to demonstrate that they know their responsibilities should disaster or a data loss event occur. By doing this you can identify any documentation errors, as well as any missing or inconsistent information that might be causing the plan to break down.

Number 3

Run a simulation.

Now that you’ve conducted a plan review and tabletop test, you’re still not ready to run a live test. Instead, it’s time to run a systems simulation. Think of this as the mock-live test of the system and technology elements in your plan. Part of this step will be engaging your various continuity resources or recovery sites individually at different points.

The goal here is to come up with a variety of downtime and data loss scenarios to see how your plan changes with each of them. By working through as many scenarios as possible, you can provide your plan with the best test of its successes and vulnerabilities. Which means you can build on the successes while shoring up the shortcomings.

Again, there’s more to testing and auditing your plan than these three steps, but they will constitute a good start. We highly advise taking on the services of a Managed Services Provider (MSP) for both developing and testing your plan.

Also, much like testing your disaster recovery plan, it’s a good idea to periodically test your backup service to ensure it is backing up properly.

A story of failed disaster recovery (and the lessons you can learn)

Sometimes experience is the greatest teacher. Except you’re probably not interested in experiencing data loss in order to learn from the loss. No problem. Let’s take a look a three disastrous stories of data loss and downtime to see what lessons you can put to work in your approach.

Ma.Gnolia, a social bookmarking company, lost all its data and eventually went out of business

This is the kind of data loss horror story that makes a company famous for all the wrong reasons. It’s also the kind of story that bankrupts an otherwise successful firm.

In 2009, the company had all of their mission-critical servers go down. Once they got them back online, they discovered that the crash had corrupted all the data on them. Though the cause of this crash was unclear, initially it didn’t seem like too big a problem. After all, they were prepared with a data backup solution for just such an occasion.

There was just one problem. The data backup server was on-site, rather than off-site. Which means the data in their backup was also corrupted by the same network crash.

Ultimately, the company lost all of the stored bookmarking data their clients depended on them to store. For good. Their clients, left totally without options, lost faith and jumped ship to a competitor.

Though Ma.Gnolia threw up a Hail Mary attempt at rebranding, they ultimately shut down after another year.

The lesson:

Check your backups. And back them up off-site (While you’re at it, follow the 3-2-1 data backup strategy). Automated backup processes fail from time to time. Or other things happen to interrupt the process. Don’t wait until you need it to make sure your data is backing up, or you might discover too late that it hasn’t been backing up.

Believe it or not, this happens. Automated solutions are fantastically convenient, but do not use a set-it-and-forget-it strategy. Be mindful of the possibilities.

Five terrifying data backup and data loss statistics (and lessons)

It’s clear that natural disasters are a serious threat to your business continuity. Don’t wait until disaster is coming down the pike to worry about how you’ll stay in business afterward.

Downtime is a business killer. Not only is it expensive, but it also has the power to destroy your reputation. Make sure you have a strategy in place to get back to work ASAP. The alternatives aren’t worth the risk.

This one is obvious. Having a disaster recovery plan puts you ahead of the competition while protecting your business from the negative effects of downtime and data loss.

Three months is a long, long time for even part of your network to be down. How many workers can afford to go three months without a paycheck? How many companies can afford to pay their employees for three months when no revenue is coming in? No matter how you do the math, it amounts to a death blow for most businesses.

The odds of success if you’re not prepared are not in your favor. Be prepared. Backup your data. Have a plan.


Disaster recovery is serious business. As the stats and scenarios have shown, failure to take it seriously can have long-term consequences for your business. It can even put you out of business altogether.

Let’s recap the main takeaways from this online guide for clarity and helpfulness.

Cloud-based data backup and storage is the way to go.

As mentioned, the cloud has a lot of advantages over more traditional data backup strategies. Don’t forget to practice the 3-2-1 rule of data backup, and don’t forget to check your data backup service regularly to ensure it is working.

Failure to develop, implement and test a disaster recovery plan can have serious consequences.

Backing up your data is not enough. Without a disaster recovery plan, you’re still likely to experience a ton of confusion and lost productivity due to downtime after a data loss or disaster incident. Develop an extensive plan, and do your best to cover all the bases. Keep in mind this needs to be a living plan, and will require periodic updates.

Put your plan to the test through both simulations and live testing, and try to make it fail in order to shore up vulnerabilities and weak points. Make sure to dial in both your human and technology responses before disaster strikes. Also, plan for multiple different scenarios so that you understand the unique challenges of each.

Keep up with ongoing threats and growth-driven issues

As your company grows and changes, you need to evolve your strategy for disaster recovery to keep up. Not to mention that as threats evolve you need to evolve your defenses. This may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. We recommend one more thing most of all …

Engage a qualified MSP to maximize your response and minimize downtime.

The best way to protect your business from disaster is to seek out a professional assistance. That means seeking out and partnering with a qualified managed service provider with plenty of experience dealing with disaster recovery planning and data backup strategies. The right MSP will have multiple solutions that you can engage to keep your business safe from disaster while minimizing downtime in the event a disaster takes place.

Disaster recovery planning is a complex business. And while the only way to gain direct experience is to go through a data loss or disaster event, you can instead simply partner with professionals who already have the experience to guide you through the planning and execution stages of disaster recovery. It literally could be a life or death issue for your company. Why not prepare your business for a more secure future?


5 Foreboding Reasons You Need a Disaster Recovery Plan

Disasters happen. The sheer scope of potential disasters is enough to send any company’s leadership into worrying fits. In spite of this, companies often overlook the importance of developing an extensive, tested disaster recovery plan to prepare for the inevitable.

Waiting until disaster strikes to deal with the fallout generally doesn’t end well. There are countless reasons why developing and implementing a disaster recovery plan before things go wrong is the right move for your company.

Here are our top five.

Mother Nature is Unpredictable

We don’t have to tell you that. Chances are, if you leave your house more than twice a year you’re already aware that Mother Nature does what she wants, when she wants. With so much technological convenience and urban infrastructure around us, it can be tempting to ignore nature’s potential threats.

However, the threats are real, and recent history has shown they can have huge financial impacts on businesses.

Whether winter storms, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, or any of the multitude of natural disasters that hit every year, Mother Nature brings with her a smorgasbord of ways to bring your business operation to its knees.

By developing a disaster recovery plan that takes into account the multiple regional and natural threats to your business, you instantly limit the amount of potential harm they can cause.

Humans and Machines Malfunction

Humans make mistakes. Machines malfunction. While you probably can’t avoid these mistakes and malfunctions in every scenario, you can develop an organized and specialized approach to dealing with them when they occur.

How will you respond when servers and communications systems go down? What happens if an employee falls victim to a phishing email and unleashes malware or ransomware into your system? A good disaster recovery plan takes these very plausible scenarios into account. It provides a step-by-step process for dealing with them.

In fact, the process of developing a recovery plan can even lead to seeking out new solutions – like cloud services and security management services – to minimize the chance of falling prey to these problems in the first place.

Related: 4 Signs Your Business Needs Managed Services

Poor Response Damages Reputation

Customers notice when you’re not prepared for problems. And, like it or not, many customers expect perfection. Downtime alone can cause a loss of confidence from your client base.

But when a disaster happens and your company is unprepared, it can alienate customers to extreme degrees. Many of these customers may choose not to do business with your company again.  

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Creating protocols to get your business back online is only a part of good disaster recovery. A thorough disaster recovery plan includes actionable details such as which employees will be responsible for customer communication, and what channels will be used to communicate.

This ensures a smooth response to disasters that gives customers maximum assurance that your company is capable of continuing to meet their needs.

Downtime Destroys Financial Stability

Downtime does more than damage your reputation. It can also destabilize your finances.

Waiting until a disaster event occurs to determine your response extends downtime and increases the costs. The right plan will cover the bases and determine the technologies you need to minimize downtime and minimize losses in the process. It helps get your business back online and back to serving your customers ASAP.

Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

You probably don’t approach a single aspect of your business without a strategic plan for success. So why would you handle your response to potential disasters – whether man-made, technological, or natural – without a plan to act?

A good disaster recovery plan takes into account as many threats as possible. It then organizes your strategic technological and human responses. This forethought minimizes the potential for damage.

Maybe after reading this you’ve come to realize the importance of a disaster recovery plan for your business, but you aren’t sure where to start. That’s where a qualified managed services provider is like an ace in the hole.

They can provide expert advice that’s crucial to your ongoing business success.

By selecting the right partner to advise, consult, and provide ongoing IT support for your business, you can turn your worry about potential chaos into the assurance that you’ve got the right tools and response to meet any challenge.

Related: The Prescription for a Perfect Managed Services Provider

4 Signs Your Business Needs Managed Services

Often you are so busy doing the daily activities that are most important in your business, that it’s easy to under-prioritize IT solutions. The good thing is that managed service providers have the focus and expertise to consult with you and find and anticipate any possible weak spots in your infrastructure and network. Together, you can prevent cyberattacks, monitor possible anomalies, save money, and be prepared for any worst-case-scenario.

If you can relate to any of these 4 warning signs, then it might be time to work with a managed services provider.

1. You don’t know how to prevent cyber attacks.

One of the primary benefits of working with a managed service provider (MSP) is the ability prevent and combat cyber attacks. Cyber attacks come in many forms, including viruses, ransomware, worms and more. The one thing they all have in common – besides everyone thinking it won’t happen to them – is a potentially disastrous effect on businesses.

The proliferation of cyber attacks on businesses is downright alarming. One recent study found that 75.6% of organizations encountered at least one successful cyber attack within the past 12 months. If your business is one of the 3 in 4 that is attacked, you risk suffering an extreme operational, reputational and even financial burden. A report by Data Center Dynamics concludes that cyber attacks cost the victims $40,000 per hour.

When you work with an MSP, you benefit from professionals experienced in and dedicated to preventing and combating cyber attacks on your infrastructure. Your MSP does this by creating a network protection plan with up-to-date security protocols, education for your employees, and monitoring for anomalies and intrusions.

As cyber attacks grow exponentially, creating and maintaining a dependable defense against network intrusions is paramount for staying a step ahead of the threats.

2. You don’t have around-the-clock monitoring.

When your managed services solution includes a help desk or network operations center (NOC), you’ll be able to eliminate downtime and keep your business running smoothly.

In ITIC’s latest survey, 98% of organizations say a single hour of downtime costs over $100,000. 81% of respondents indicated that 60 minutes of downtime costs their business over $300,000. And a record one-third of enterprises report that one hour of downtime costs their firms $1 million to over $5 million.

Good network health demands steadfast observation. Cyberattacks and network incidents don’t follow the same timetable as your business. When employees or customers encounter a problem in your network, it needs to be handled immediately or it could cost you significant losses.

This means you’ll need flexible, expert support.

If you use a network operating center (NOC), you will have dedicated professionals monitoring your network strength and performance. For instance, one sign of a computer worm is a massive network slowdown on as it consumes memory and resources.

At the NOC, your MSP will be able to filter out negative traffic and manage performance to allow the valid activity that keeps your business operating.

Your business could also benefit from a help desk. Whereas the NOC monitors and prevents  network issues, the help desk can directly assist employees and clients with all of their technical and network needs.

3. You’ve yet to fully embrace the cloud.

Cloud services have made a phenomenal impact on businesses in every industry. With reports revealing that 90% of organizations use the cloud in some way and 50% use cloud services as their preferred solution, the chances are that you already use the cloud somehow in your office.

A qualified managed services provider will create a cloud solution for your business that saves you money and streamlines your workflow and processes. Moving to the cloud is beneficial for any company wanting to improve efficiency, flexibility or collaboration.

First of all, cloud services make scalability easier than ever. If you need to set up a new employee to the company, you just add another user to your current roster and extend permissions to the right resources. There’s no installation or licensing to plan for and they can work from any device in the office or on the road with their network credentials.

Another benefit of cloud services is the money saved on hardware. When you rely on a cloud server, you save money on physical components.

Additionally, if your MSP includes a cloud solution, you cut down internal payroll expenses by minimizing the cost of an in-house IT team. Forbes reported in one case study that cloud solutions provide a 37% savings over 3 years when compared to a self-managed, on-premises solution.

4. You have no solid backup and/or disaster recovery plan.

Data backup is an essential, yet often overlooked facet of a healthy infrastructure. Nationwide reports that 75% of businesses have no disaster recovery plan. Whether your data loss occurs due to a cyber attack or a natural disaster, you want to be up and running ASAP.

Managed service providers are experts at providing backup and disaster recovery solutions for your business. The goal is always business continuity.  If you’re closed for business, you will experience financial and reputational losses.

One study shows that 54% of companies report experiencing downtime from a single event, lasting more than 8 hours.

A proper disaster recovery and data backup solution will help you avoid downtime at your business, and keep records safe so you can continue doing business.

We’re here to help.

Here at RWA, we are dedicated to helping you make your business the best it can be. We have experience working with our clients to design and implement technology solutions that achieve their goals and strengthen their operations.

Please give us a call or send us a message to find out  more about managed services for your specific needs.

The Densest Digits

Higher Capacities And Lower Pricing – A Boon for Data Storage


"Hard Drive Repair" by William Warby

“Hard Drive Repair” by William Warby


With new tech, hard drive capacities are increasing and storage costs are lowering. Both Toshiba’s 5TB and HGST’s 6TB hard drives had a limited market release in February 2014. Since then more manufacturers introduced similar products leading to a welcomed downward shift in mechanical storage cost.

“Luggage (Re-edit)” by Rob Faulkner (CC BY 2.0)

“Luggage (Re-edit)” by Rob Faulkner (CC BY 2.0)


Not to be beaten to the punch again, Seagate (in keeping with their previous announcements) supplied 8TB hard drives to select enterprise customers for testing with an expected general market release this quarter. And Seagate’s CEO Steve Luczo pledged 10TB drives available by or before the middle of 2015, with a target of 20TB drives by 2020.

These newest drives can offer much higher capacities (greater areal densities) thanks to technological developments. Seagate’s heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) process uses a laser to preheat a drive platter location before storing data (changing the magnetic polarity.) Seagate’s Luczo indicated limited production of the 8 & 10TB hard drives would maintain higher pricing, though Seagate will likely continue to respond to market pressures.


The new developments in storage technology are welcomed news. As the availability of larger capacity hard drives and hybrid drives (mechanical drives combined with smaller NAND caching Solid State Drives) increases, storage pricing should continue to drop through next year.


Are your data storage and disaster recovery solutions solid and do they accommodate your future growth? Every business is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. To learn more contact RWA today and schedule your free IT health check.