What is disaster recovery plan in networking?

A disaster recovery plan in networking refers to a documented process for recovering IT systems, applications, networks, and data after a disruption or failure. The goal is to restore critical technology infrastructure and systems as quickly as possible after a disaster or outage.

What are the key elements of a disaster recovery plan for networks?

Some key elements of a disaster recovery plan for networks include:

  • Identifying critical systems and data that need to be recovered
  • Documenting detailed recovery procedures for networks, servers, applications etc.
  • Defining recovery time objectives (RTO) and recovery point objectives (RPO)
  • Selecting a backup methodology such as tape backup, remote replication, snapshots etc.
  • Securing offsite data storage and backup facilities
  • Defining roles and responsibilities for disaster recovery team members
  • Developing communication plans for status updates during outages
  • Creating step-by-step runbooks for system recovery
  • Testing and updating the disaster recovery plan regularly

Why is a disaster recovery plan important for networks?

A disaster recovery plan is critical for networks because:

  • It provides a documented framework for recovering network infrastructure and connectivity rapidly after an outage.
  • It minimizes disruption and downtime of network resources and services by restoring critical systems as a priority.
  • It ensures network data and configurations are backed up and available for recovery.
  • It defines policies, procedures, roles and responsibilities required for prompt and effective recovery.
  • It facilitates coordination between network, systems and application teams during outages.
  • It instills confidence in an organization’s preparedness and ability to handle disaster events.

Without a plan, network recovery efforts could be disorganized, delayed and prone to errors – leading to excessive downtime.

What types of disasters or risks should a network disaster recovery plan address?

A network disaster recovery plan should address preparation, response and recovery from disasters such as:

  • Natural disasters – Floods, fires, hurricanes etc. that damage facilities and infrastructure
  • Power outages – Long-duration power failures that take down network equipment and services
  • Hardware failures – Server, switch, router or telecom equipment malfunctions disrupting connectivity
  • Network capacity issues – Bandwidth congestion or bottlenecks that severely slow or halt traffic
  • Cyber attacks – Malware, hacking or denial of service attacks that compromise network security
  • Human errors – Accidental file deletions, configuration changes that disrupt services
  • Data corruption – Storage failures or errors that corrupt or erase critical data

The plan should cover prevention and response for all high probability risks that can impair network operations.

What steps are involved in developing a disaster recovery plan for networks?

Key steps involved in developing a disaster recovery plan for networks include:

  1. Obtain executive support – Get buy-in from management to fund and participate in disaster recovery planning.
  2. Form a planning team – Assign key IT staff representing networks, systems, security, applications etc.
  3. Perform risk assessment – Identify potential threats, vulnerabilities and impacts across infrastructure.
  4. Define priorities – Determine RTOs and RPOs for systems and data recovery.
  5. Develop recovery strategies – Select backup schemes, redundancy mechanisms and policies to meet RTO/RPO.
  6. Document procedures – Outline detailed response and recovery steps in runbooks.
  7. Assign responsibilities – Define roles to be performed during plan activation, testing and updates.
  8. Prepare infrastructure – Implement backups, redundant equipment and remote facilities needed.
  9. Test the plan – Perform simulations and drills to validate effectiveness.
  10. Train personnel – Educate staff on procedures and their disaster recovery responsibilities.
  11. Maintain the plan – Review and update the plan periodically for changes.

Following structured steps ensures a comprehensive, actionable disaster recovery plan.

What are some key recovery time and recovery point objectives for networks?

Some typical recovery time and recovery point objectives for networks are:

System/Data RTO RPO
Core routers and switches 1-4 hours 15-30 minutes
Internet links 1-2 hours 15-30 minutes
Email servers 2-4 hours 1-2 hours
VoIP servers 1-2 hours 15-30 minutes
File servers 4-8 hours 1-2 hours
Database servers 2-4 hours 1-2 hours
Directory services 2-4 hours 1-2 hours
Network configurations 1-2 hours 15-30 minutes

Recovery objectives will vary based on business needs and criticality.

What are some common strategies used for disaster recovery of networks?

Common disaster recovery strategies for networks include:

  • Redundant equipment – Maintaining spare routers, switches, firewalls at another location to quickly takeover in case of failure.
  • High availability – Clustering devices, dual power supplies and uplinks to eliminate single points of failure.
  • Backup power – Uninterrupted power supply (UPS) and generators to keep equipment running during power outages.
  • Diverse routing – Using a secondary internet service provider so connectivity remains if one link fails.
  • Offline backups – Tape rotation or transporting disk backups to an offsite vault for recovery.
  • Data replication – Syncing data to remote storage in real-time to ensure current recovery point.
  • Alternate work sites – Identifying replacement office locations with pre-staged network capabilities.

A combination of methods are generally implemented for comprehensive network recovery.

What are some key items that should be included network disaster recovery runbooks?

Network disaster recovery runbooks should provide step-by-step instructions for restoring connectivity and configuration including:

  • Checklists for activating the plan, assessing damage and initiating recovery tasks
  • Prioritized sequence for recovering equipment at core sites first, then branches
  • Details for reloading operating systems and configurations on routers and switches
  • Instructions for rerouting traffic, verifying services and connectivity
  • Processes for restoring firewall policies, VPNs, monitoring systems
  • Steps for gradually bringing network segments and VLANs back online
  • Procedures for reverting to original or alternate sites when feasible
  • Methods for validating server backups, data recovery and synchronization
  • Escalation and communication trees for status reporting to stakeholders

The runbooks serve as a reference manual for expediting methodical network restoration during crises.

What role does emergency communication play in network disaster recovery?

Effective emergency communication plays a vital role in coordinating response efforts and recovery during network outages. Key aspects include:

  • Having call trees, contact lists and conference bridges prepared for use by recovery teams and stakeholders.
  • Defining communication processes and channels for status updates between technical teams, executives and customers.
  • Ensuring common terminology is used in reports to clearly convey issues and recovery progress.
  • Appointing managers to serve as single points of contact for collating updates and disseminating information.
  • Establishing automated alerts from network monitoring systems to rapidly indicate outages.
  • Integrating communication systems like VoIP with the disaster recovery plan for availability.
  • Preparing draft templates of outage notifications for customers and public media sites.
  • Defining approval processes and parties authorized to release external communications.

Orchestrated communication minimizes confusion, facilitates coordination and maintains stakeholder awareness.

What aspects of the network environment should be documented for disaster recovery purposes?

The network environment aspects that should be thoroughly documented include:

  • Network diagrams – Physical and logical topology diagrams detailing all devices, links and subnets.
  • Configuration backups – Archives of router, switch, firewall, and WiFi controller configurations.
  • Addressing schemes – Details of IP addressing, VLANs, routing protocols, ACLs etc.
  • Cable records – Documentation of cabling at racks, patch panels and wiring closets.
  • Equipment inventory – Listing make, model, serial numbers, support contracts of all hardware.
  • Licensing – Product keys and license details for operating systems, applications and utilities.
  • Vendor contacts – Support telephone numbers, emails and portal addresses for hardware/software vendors.
  • Data circuits – Provider, bandwidth, end-points of MPLS, internet, point-to-point data links.

Thorough documentation accelerates understanding of the environment and execution of recovery steps.

How can disaster recovery procedures be tested for networks?

Disaster recovery plans can be tested through:

  • Simulations – Mock scenarios presenting hypothetical failure events and recovery exercises.
  • Parallel tests – Using current data in a simulated failover from production to recovery environments.
  • Cutover testing – Redirecting live traffic from operational systems to standby recovery platforms.
  • Component failure testing – Deliberately shutting down elements like a core router to validate redundancy mechanisms.
  • Power outage testing – Switching to UPS/generator power to verify extended operation and shutdown.
  • Restoration testing – Recovering archives to servers or reverting snapshots as a test.
  • User testing – Defining test scenarios for users to ensure critical systems are actually available after recovery.

Frequent testing uncovers plan weaknesses and gaps for correction prior to actual disasters.

Should disaster recovery plans cover different outage scenarios and durations?

Yes, disaster recovery plans should absolutely cover different potential outage scenarios and durations such as:

  • Partial vs complete outage – Isolating failed components vs total facility power/connectivity loss.
  • Brief vs extended outage – Minutes of downtime vs days.
  • Localized vs widespread impact – Single office vs all locations.
  • Network vs system failure – Recovering connectivity vs recovering services and data.
  • Malicious attack vs accidental failure – Cyber attack or human error.
  • Non-damage outage vs damage requiring repair – Configuration issue vs flooded data center.
  • Alternate site failover vs original site restoration – Using a replacement site temporarily vs bringing the original site back online.

Each scenario will drive differences in immediate response and interim recovery workflow.

How should network disaster recovery plans be maintained over time?

To maintain effectiveness of network disaster recovery plans over time requires:

  • Periodic plan reviews – At least annual concerted review of all plan components involving relevant teams.
  • Updating documentation – Keeping network diagrams, equipment inventory, policies and procedures current.
  • Validating roles – Confirming contacts and responsibilities for disaster recovery processes are still accurate.
  • Retuning RTOs/RPOs – Adjusting recovery objectives to sync with evolving business needs.
  • Reevaluating infrastructure – Verifying backup systems, redundant equipment and configurations still meet targets.
  • Reviewing test results – Incorporating lessons learned from exercises into plan improvements.
  • Monitoring regulations – Identifying compliance updates needed to address new laws or mandates.
  • Updating training – Refreshing disaster recovery learning and certifications for personnel.

Frequent plan maintenance and testing ensures readiness improves over time.


A comprehensive, well-tested disaster recovery plan is essential for limiting network outages and securely restoring connectivity and services after disruptions. Defining RTOs and RPOs, documenting procedures, implementing resilient infrastructure, assigning responsibilities and continually reviewing and testing recovery capabilities are key to successful network disaster recovery. With proper planning, organizations can have confidence in their ability to rapidly recover from even severe outages.