Who creates a disaster recovery plan?

What is a disaster recovery plan?

A disaster recovery plan is a documented process or set of procedures created to recover and protect a business IT infrastructure in the event of a disaster. The plan outlines the key strategies and policies to implement for recovering critical technology assets, applications, and data after a major disruption. Disaster recovery planning is part of a larger process called business continuity planning.

The primary objective of a disaster recovery plan is to allow the business to continue operating despite severe disruptions or threats to its IT systems and infrastructure. Threats may include natural disasters, cyberattacks, data breaches, power outages, or equipment failure. Having a good disaster recovery plan in place allows an organization to restore its critical IT operations and minimize downtime in the face of these disruptions.

Why is disaster recovery planning important?

Disaster recovery planning is critical for any business that depends on IT systems and technology infrastructure to conduct its operations. Without a plan in place, a major disruption can result in extended downtime that severely impacts revenue and productivity. Even a brief period of downtime can result in significant financial losses and lasting reputational damage.

Some key reasons why disaster recovery planning is so important include:

– Minimizes downtime – With tested recovery procedures in place, critical systems and applications can be restored quickly to avoid prolonged outages. This minimizes business disruption.

– Protects data – A disaster recovery plan safeguards critical data and ensures it can be recovered following an outage. This data often supports vital business functions.

– Maintains compliance – Some industries and government regulations require a disaster recovery plan to be in place. Having one helps organizations maintain compliance.

– Reduces costs – Outages can be very expensive in terms of lost revenue and productivity. Effective disaster recovery planning reduces these costs substantially.

– Builds resilience – Good planning strengthens the organization’s ability to withstand and recover from disruptions, building business resilience.

– Provides assurance – A plan in place gives customers, stakeholders and employees assurance that operations can recover if a disaster occurs. This maintains confidence in the business.

Who is responsible for disaster recovery planning?

Disaster recovery planning involves various stakeholders across the business’s technology, operations, and executive teams. While input may be gathered from many individuals in these groups, ultimately the chief information officer (CIO) or chief technology officer (CTO) usually takes ownership of the disaster recovery plan.

Additional key stakeholders that may author and be responsible for executing the plan include:

– Disaster recovery project manager – This individual coordinates the planning process and assembles the disaster recovery team. The project manager authors and updates the written plan.

– IT managers – IT department heads manage the technology and IT infrastructure recovery efforts outlined in the plan. This includes network, systems, database, security and other technology leaders.

– Operations managers – Business department heads, such as those overseeing facilities, supply chain, or manufacturing oversee the operational aspects of the plan for restoring business functions after a disruption.

– Chief security officer (CSO) – The CSO is responsible for data and systems security, cyberthreats and related risks addressed in the plan.

– Chief risk officer (CRO) – The CRO assesses various business risks and recovery priorities to be outlined in the plan.

– Senior executives – The CEO, CFO and other c-suite leaders provide budget and top-level approval for the disaster recovery plan. They support the overall planning initiative.

The disaster recovery project manager typically collaborates with all these stakeholders when creating and maintaining the plan. While input is gathered from various business units, the CIO or CTO usually has final approval authority over the plan.

What steps are involved in creating a disaster recovery plan?

Developing a robust disaster recovery plan involves a methodical process to identify risks, prioritize systems, document processes, and test procedures. The major steps include:

– **Performing a risk assessment** – The first step is conducting a risk analysis to identify potential threats, vulnerabilities and their impacts if not addressed. This highlights areas on which to focus recovery efforts.

– **Prioritizing systems and operations** – Next, business-critical systems and operations are identified and prioritized. Recovery time objectives are established for each.

– **Documenting processes** – Detailed procedures are documented for responding to a disruption, recovering each system in priority order, testing the plan, maintaining it over time, and declaring recovery complete.

– **Collecting data** – Accurate information about all critical systems, applications, data stores, networks, dependencies and contacts is collected and documented.

– **Assigning roles and responsibilities** – Recovery teams, key stakeholders, and their responsibilities are defined and documented in the plan.

– **Testing the plan** – Testing is critical to uncover gaps and weaknesses in the plan. Both table-top exercises and live tests of system recoveries should be performed.

– **Training recovery personnel** – Personnel who will execute procedures in the plan must receive training on their recovery responsibilities. This is critical for testing and actual disasters.

– **Maintaining and updating** – The plan must be kept current as IT systems change. It should be reviewed and updated at least annually.

What key elements are included in the disaster recovery plan?

While plans may differ based on the size and complexity of the organization, most disaster recovery plans incorporate the following key elements:

– **Scope and objectives** – This outlines the purpose, business units, and infrastructure covered by the plan, along with recovery goals and objectives.

– **Critical application/system data** – An inventory of all critical systems, networks and applications is documented, including their tiered priority for recovery.

– **Roles and responsibilities** – Key stakeholders along with their responsibilities under the plan are defined, such as forming recovery teams and declaring disaster over.

– **Scenario response strategies** – Detailed procedures for responding to various incident scenarios or disaster threats are outlined.

– **Recovery procedures** – Step-by-step procedures are provided to recover infrastructure, systems, applications, and data in priority order.

– **Third party services** – Information about any third party services or vendors that support systems recovery is provided.

– **Testing methodology** – Processes for regular testing of disaster recovery capabilities, procedures and personnel training are outlined.

– **Maintenance** – Procedures for evaluating, reviewing and updating the plan annually are detailed.

– **Appendices** – Supplementary information such as contact lists, vendor agreements, floor maps, and hardware inventories are included.

What are some key components of the disaster recovery testing process?

Testing is a critical component of disaster recovery planning to assess the effectiveness of recovery procedures. Testing helps identify gaps or issues and improves plan effectiveness. Key elements of disaster recovery testing include:

– **Tabletop exercises** – These simulated discussions of hypothetical recovery scenarios help validate procedures and responsibilities. They ensure stakeholders understand their roles and can identify improvements.

– **Walkthrough tests** – Team members perform a structured walkthrough of recovery procedures to assess their ability to recover systems in order. This tests documentation and training.

– **Simulation tests** – Isolated testing of specific systems or components is conducted to verify recoverability. This helps evaluate specific procedures.

– **Parallel tests** – Recovery of a system is tested in an isolated, parallel environment alongside normal production systems. This is a comprehensive test option.

– **Cutover tests** – Recovery capabilities are tested by actually transitioning from production to alternate systems. This tests connectivity and failover processes.

– **Full interruption tests** – An entire facility is shut down and recovered according to procedures. This is the most thorough testing approach.

Testing should occur annually, or whenever major system changes occur. Deficiencies identified must be documented and improvements incorporated into an updated disaster recovery plan.

What are some common mistakes or pitfalls to avoid when creating a disaster recovery plan?

Some common missteps organizations make when developing their disaster recovery plan include:

– Not involving all stakeholders or gaining executive management support

– Failing to allocate sufficient budget and resources to disaster recovery planning

– Not performing a comprehensive risk analysis to identify and prioritize critical systems

– Focusing too much on specific technologies rather than business processes and impacts

– Not documenting detailed step-by-step recovery procedures

– Forgetting to include cyberattacks, security incidents or human errors in disaster scenarios

– Not reviewing, testing and updating the plan regularly to keep it current

– Forgetting to train recovery team members on procedures outlined in the plan

– Not coordinating plan procedures with external vendors, suppliers and partners

– Lacking offsite backups or alternate facilities that provide needed redundancy

– Developing overly complex plans that are difficult to follow during an actual incident

Avoiding these common pitfalls helps organizations create and maintain effective disaster recovery plans that meet business needs.

What laws, regulations or best practices apply to disaster recovery planning?

Various laws, regulations, and standards may mandate provisions and best practices for disaster recovery planning, depending on the organization’s industry and geographic location. Examples include:

– **SOX Act** – Requires public companies to assess financial and IT controls against corporate fraud. Disaster recovery is included.

– **HIPAA** – Sets data protection rules for protected patient healthcare information. HIPAA contingency planning mandates include disaster recovery.

– **PCI DSS** – Enforces security standards for payment card data. PCI DSS requires that financial institutions have disaster recovery plans.

– **GLBA** – Governs data safeguards for financial institutions. GLBA guidelines require disaster recovery plans to ensure data security.

– **ISO 22301** – Provides best practice recommendations for business continuity and disaster recovery planning. Adherence demonstrates due diligence.

– **NFPA 1600** – U.S. standard that recommends steps for business continuity planning, disaster management, and emergency response.

– **State privacy laws** – Regulations like the CCPA in California integrate disaster recovery into requirements for protecting private consumer data.

Organizations should consult appropriate compliance and regulatory guidelines for their industry and locality when developing a disaster recovery plan. Following recognized best practices also helps improve plan quality.

How often should an organization review and update their disaster recovery plan?

Industry best practices recommend reviewing and updating disaster recovery plans at least once annually. However, more frequent updates may be warranted under certain circumstances. Events that should trigger an immediate plan review and update include:

– Major changes to the IT infrastructure or business systems

– Organizational changes like mergers, acquisitions or divestitures

– Addition, retirement or turnover of key personnel

– Movement of critical IT systems or data to new facilities

– Changes in compliance regulations or contractual obligations

– Results of testing that reveal flaws in existing plan

– After a real disaster incident or material disruption to systems

– Significant shifts in accepted disaster recovery best practices

– Introduction of new data security threats or attack vectors

Keeping the disaster recovery plan current with systems, processes, and the overall IT environment ensures that recovery procedures remain relevant. This is critical for minimizing downtime and disruption when disaster strikes.


Developing and maintaining a robust disaster recovery plan is a key responsibility of an organization’s technology leaders and executives. This critical planning activity involves identifying risks, prioritizing systems, documenting detailed procedures, and thorough testing. Keeping the plan updated ensures an organization can restore essential operations quickly in the event of an outage or disaster. Following industry standard best practices for disaster recovery planning demonstrates corporate due diligence and helps minimize both data loss and downtime when disruptions occur.