Without a doubt, the year 2020 was a challenge for everyone. The IT industry had its own set of obstacles, with the dramatic shift from in-office staff to remote workers – almost overnight. Now that 2021 is underway, it’s time to learn from these challenges to be better prepared in the event of the unexpected.

Over the next few months, we’ll be doing a deep dive through a 5-part blog series on the top five IT lessons 2020 taught us. As a local IT provider in Menomonee Falls, we hope to educate the greater Milwaukee community so everyone can be better prepared in the event of a future shutdown.

The first lesson in our series involves strategies for developing a business continuity and disaster recovery plan. And while these two methods may seem similar, there are some key differences you need to understand.

What is the difference between business continuity and a disaster recovery plan?

The main difference between a business continuity plan and a disaster recovery plan is when the plan will take effect. In a business continuity scenario, emphasis is on how to continuously operate through the challenge, while a disaster recovery plan focuses on how to recover after the disaster has taken place.

It is important for businesses to have both plans in place. In order to be effective, every disaster recovery plan must focus on the protection and migration of data. In the event of a disaster, the business must be able to migrate its critical data and operate from the cloud in order to maintain critical operations and avoid downtime.

trendsMany businesses learned the importance of a disaster recovery plan as the Covid-19 lockdowns took hold in March of 2020. With onsite operations no longer an option, businesses were forced to send staff home. Many businesses struggled to maintain business continuity, but the best prepared organizations in southeastern Wisconsin were those who operated fully in the cloud.

Prior to the pandemic, interest in business continuity had somewhat plateaued, dramatically spiking in March of 2020 and maintaining interest this year.

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The importance of a solid data backup plan

Throughout the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses also discovered the importance of backing up their critical files.

In fact, backing up data became even more critical during the pandemic, not only to maintain operations but to protect against a new wave of cybercriminals and ransomware, many of whom were actively targeting the new remote workforce. Data backup and recovery in healthcare became a prominent topic in 2020 with 500+ reported in the news.

Establishing a disaster recovery plan for your business is a multi-step process, and every step is critical. Use this disaster recovery checklist as a starting point when developing your DR plan.

  • Establish best practices for backup and recovery of your data
  • Develop a crisis plan ahead of time, before disaster strikes
  • Prioritize essential functions for your business
  • Determine the acceptable level and length of downtime
  • Put the proper technology in place to support a fully remote workforce
  • Implement redundancy for your data
  • Map out possible scenarios, including high probability, low impact events and low probability, high impact disaster
  • Evaluate and patch gaps in your disaster recovery and business continuity planning

The Process of Developing a Disaster Recovery Plan

data backup and disaster recovery strategiesDeveloping a plan is a critical first step in preparing for disaster, but even the best plan will do you know good until it has been fully implemented.

Consider integrating these procedures into your data backup and recovery plan.

  • Move your data to the cloud as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Fully embracing the cloud allows for seamless access to your data, no matter where you and your staff are located.
  • A comprehensive cloud backup includes not only essential like email, but also Microsoft Teams messaging, SharePoint and so on. Choosing a reliable cloud provider and building a robust cloud-based data backup process today will serve you well in the future.
  • Make sure all stakeholders are onboard. From the CEO to the IT manager on the front lines, establishing a robust disaster recovery plan is not just an IT issue; it requires the buy-in of all key decision makers.
  • Map out your standard operating procedure for remote workers, including the use of VPNs for secure connections to the office, enterprise-grade routers and firewalls for enhanced security when working from home and robust cloud solutions for easy storage and access to company data.
  • Map out communication channels in the event of a disaster, including who is responsible for communicating with workers and customers. It is important to keep everyone in the loop during the disaster and in its aftermath.
  • Back up ALL your data, and regularly test those backups. Untested backups could be useless in an actual disaster, so make sure they will be available when you need them most.
  • Use a data backup checklist to make sure everyone is on the same page and ensure you have all the resources you need to support your employees, customers and business partners.
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Businesses learned some important lessons in 2020, and while not all of them were pleasant, they were each valuable in their own way. With a fresh start in the New Year, why not take the time to learn from those lessons and create, establish or strengthen your data backup and recovery plan?

Data Backup and Disaster Recovery Solutions

Ontech specializes in working with businesses who have 10-250 users. Due to the wide variety of clients we work with, our solutions are flexible and customized to meet your current needs and future growth plans.

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