What are the 4 phases of DRP?

Disaster recovery planning (DRP) is the process of creating a strategy and framework for recovering critical systems and infrastructure in the event of a disaster or disruption. Having a robust DRP in place allows an organization to continue operating and providing services, even when major IT systems and infrastructure go down unexpectedly.

There are 4 key phases of the DRP process:

Phase 1: Business Impact Analysis

The first phase focuses on understanding the potential business impacts of various disaster scenarios. This involves:

– Identifying critical business functions and IT systems that support them
– Determining the potential financial, operational, and regulatory impacts of disruptions
– Defining recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery point objectives (RPOs)

Conducting a business impact analysis helps organizations understand vulnerabilities, interdependencies, and priorities for recovery. It provides data to inform strategies and plans.

Phase 2: Developing Disaster Recovery Strategies

In this phase, specific strategies are developed to meet RTOs and RPOs for critical systems and functions. Strategies may include:

– Backup and recovery procedures
– Redundancies and failover systems
– Offsite backups and data replication
– Alternate processing facilities
– Crisis communications plans

The goal is to define cost-effective strategies that mitigate risk and allow prompt resumption of business operations post-disruption. Strategies should align with impacts and priorities identified in the BIA.

Phase 3: Documenting the Disaster Recovery Plan

The DRP is documented to codify strategies and provide a roadmap for execution. The plan typically includes:

– Statement of purpose and scope
– Defined roles and responsibilities
– Procedures for detecting and declaring a disaster
– Activation procedures for recovery strategies
– Step-by-step procedures to recover critical systems
– Testing schedule and maintenance procedures
– Integration with business continuity plans
– Contact lists and communication workflows

Having a documented plan is essential for responding effectively when disaster strikes. The plan should be accessible to key stakeholders and regularly updated.

Phase 4: Testing and Exercising the Plan

Testing is critical to ensure the DRP is effective if needed in a real disaster scenario. Testing methods include:

– Tabletop exercises to walk through response procedures
– Simulations to mimic emergency conditions
– Operational testing of technical recovery procedures
– Full interruption testing to evaluate operational readiness

Testing provides opportunities to validate procedures, improve coordination, fill gaps, and keep the plan current. Tests should occur regularly, in line with the maintenance schedule defined in the DRP.

The Importance of Each DRP Phase

While all four phases are important for developing a comprehensive DRP, the business impact analysis and recovery strategy development phases are most critical. Here’s why:

Business Impact Analysis:

– Informs risk reduction priorities based on potential business impacts
– Enables appropriate RTOs/RPOs to be defined
– Identifies critical systems requiring disaster recovery plans
– Provides quantitative data to support strategies and resource allocation

Recovery Strategy Development:

– Aligns disaster recovery solutions with business impacts
– Provides concrete plans to meet defined RTOs and RPOs
– Considers costs, benefits, and feasibility of different strategies
– Accounts for dependencies between systems and business processes

A strong foundation in these two phases sets up the DRP for success. The documentation simply codifies the strategies, while testing validates that strategies work as intended.

Typical Contents of a DRP Document

While DRP documents vary based on the organization, they typically contain the following elements:

Executive Summary: High-level overview of the plan and its objectives

Purpose and Scope: Defines the focus and boundaries of the DRP

Assumptions: Documents the assumptions, constraints, and prerequisites underlying the DRP

Activation Procedures: Process for assessing damage, declaring a disaster, and activating the plan

Recovery Teams: Documents roles and responsibilities of various teams and stakeholders involved in recovery

IT Disaster Recovery Procedures: Technical processes to recover infrastructure, systems, applications, data, etc.

Business Continuity Plans: Strategies to continue critical business operations during an outage

Communications Plans: Internal and external communications before, during, and after a disaster

Key Contacts List: Call trees, contact info for employees, vendors, and other stakeholders

Testing Schedule: Process and cadence for regular testing of disaster recovery capabilities

Maintenance Plans: Procedures for maintaining, reviewing, and updating the DRP

Challenges in Developing Effective DRPs

Some common challenges organizations face when developing disaster recovery plans include:

– Obtaining commitment and resources from senior management
– Accurately identifying and modeling dependencies between systems
– Realistically estimating downtime impacts and setting RTOs/RPOs
– Accounting for costs and complexity in implementing strategies
– Regularly maintaining and testing plans as IT systems and business operations evolve
– Ensuring adequate training for staff who must execute on response procedures
– Coordinating plans across departments and integrating with broader business continuity

Proper scoping, analysis, documentation, testing, and maintenance can help organizations overcome these challenges.

Key Players in DRP Development and Execution

DRP development involves collaboration across many functions. Typical stakeholders include:

– Business leaders: Provide vision, funding, and alignment to business objectives
– IT leaders: Offer technical expertise to design and implement strategies
– Operations staff: Execute recovery procedures and administer critical systems
– Risk managers: Conduct impact analysis, identify vulnerabilities, quantify risk
– Finance team: Assess costs and benefits of DRP strategies
– Emergency response teams: Coordinate incident response and crisis management
– Internal audit: Provide assurance that controls are adequate and effective
– External consultants: Offer additional expertise and staff augmentation if needed

During disaster recovery, roles often shift to emergency response teams and specialized recovery personnel. The DRP should outline responsibilities before, during, and after a disaster.

How Organizations Prioritize Systems for Recovery

Organizations generally prioritize disaster recovery based on:

– Magnitude of potential business impact if a system is unavailable
– Recovery time objectives defined through the business impact analysis
– Dependencies between systems and processes
– Costs versus benefits of investing in resiliency for a system
– Regulatory compliance requirements associated with a system
– Contracts and legal obligations related to system availability

Highly critical, customer-facing, revenue-generating systems are typically prioritized first. Recovery of back-office systems and other infrastructure may be staggered based on impacts determined through the BIA.

Differences in DRP Approaches for Data Centers vs. Cloud

DRP considerations differ between traditional data centers versus cloud environments:

Data Centers
– Requires more internal resources to implement and maintain infrastructure redundancies
– Often relies on secondary failover sites with duplicate hardware
– Generally higher costs associated with real estate, equipment, and labor
– Recovery procedures focus heavily on restoring hardware and locally hosted systems

– Leverages native redundancies built into cloud infrastructure
– Uses cloud data replication and geo-distribution capabilities
– Lower costs by avoiding secondary data centers
– Recovery procedures focus on failover to cloud replicas and restoring services

Cloud DR can provide greater resilience more cost-effectively. But data sovereignty, network effects, and system compatibility may necessitate local failover capabilities. Hybrid models are common.

Critical Success Factors for Effective DRP Programs

Some key success factors for DRP programs include:

– Obtaining buy-in and commitment from senior management
– Allocating adequate budget and resources to implement strategies
– Accurately scoping plans to focus on truly critical systems and impacts
– Choosing recovery strategies that align to defined RTOs and RPOs
– Establishing clear roles, owners, and decision rights over DRP activities
– Taking a collaborative approach across IT, business teams, and vendors
– Creating user-friendly documentation and keeping plans updated
– Investing time and effort into regular, comprehensive testing
– Integrating and aligning plans with broader business continuity framework
– Maintaining flexibility to adapt strategies to evolving business needs over time

Best Practices for DRP Testing

Regular testing is essential to validate the effectiveness of DRPs. Best practices for testing include:

– Developing test plans and scenarios aligned to most likely or most damaging disasters
– Conducting increasingly expansive tests, such as tabletop exercises, simulations, and full-scale failover tests
– Involving representatives from across the business in testing, not just IT staff
– Defining specific test objectives and success criteria upfront
– Tracking detailed logs of test activities, findings, feedback, and corrective actions
– Leveraging testing results to identify gaps and continually enhance recovery plans
– Allocating time and budget for testing, ideally 2-4 tests per year
– Creating remediation plans to address vulnerabilities identified through testing
– Updating the DRP documentation based on test learnings

Following established testing methodologies like ISO 24762 can help structure effective DRP testing programs.

Key Regulations and Standards Related to DRP

Some key regulations and standards that impact DRP programs include:

– ISO 22301 – Business continuity management systems standards
– ISO 27031 – Guidelines for ICT readiness for business continuity
– PCI DSS – Requires processes to protect cardholder data in disruptions
– GLBA – Requires safeguards for financial data availability and security
– HIPAA – Calls for contingency plans to ensure PHI remains available
– SOX – Requires financial controls and procedures be documented
– SSAE-18 – Sets standards for examination of service organizations’ controls
– NIST 800-34 – Provides DRP guidance for federal information systems
– FFIEC – Outlines availability and cybersecurity expectations for financial sector

Adhering to applicable regulations and frameworks can help validate the overall effectiveness of DRP initiatives.


In summary, an effective DRP is vital for organizational resiliency when major disasters occur. The four phase process focuses on business impact analysis, recovery strategy development, documentation, and testing. Challenges like resource constraints and system interdependencies must be overcome. The DRP involves coordination across functions like IT, operations, finance, HR, and vendors. Regular testing and plan maintenance is crucial for ensuring plans stay current as technology and the business evolve. With proper investment and execution, a DRP can significantly improve the organization’s ability to withstand and recover from disruptions.