Disaster Recovery policy is the set of rules and regulations that describes how business continuity can be implemented in case of a disaster, which interrupts the operation of an organization. It also describes procedures for maintaining vital records or critical data, like paper files.
Modern organizations use electronic data processing equipment, which is highly sensitive and critical to business operations (such as providing customer service). Therefore, the Disaster Recovery Policy must clearly state how these physical assets are to be secured so that business continuity is guaranteed.
For example, the Disaster Recovery Policy should clearly state that all electronic records belonging to the organization are mandatorily backed up daily, how they are stored, and who has access to them. The policy must also cover information about disaster recovery locations, where electronic data can be stored for a period when the primary data processing center is not fully operational.
As you can see, the Disaster Recovery Policy must provide information on appropriate types and levels of security, access to critical data, and network security. Top executives in charge of the organization’s well-being need to have the latest version of the Disaster Recovery Policy that includes all changes in technologies used by the organization and the DRP itself.
In addition, you should align the organization’s Disaster Recovery Policy with the business continuity plan. The alignment should clearly state what parts of the Disaster Recovery Policy must be included in Business Continuity Plan.
How to Create a Disaster Recovery Policy
- Form a Team.
The first step is to form a team that will make policy. This can be as simple as your management forming a group and getting together; internal or external resources are available to help develop this policy. If you have several business units, you may wish to do separate policies for each business unit. However, most corporate policies cover all business units under not only the same but similar guidelines. Hiring an outside consultant is highly recommended. They will have more experience creating this policy, and it is usually recommended by most third-party audits such as SOC 2.
- Inform the entire company of the effort.
Send out internal mail to all departments, post it on your intranet system, and in general, talk about it frequently. It is important because some internal employees may be reluctant to have their data stored offsite. After a lot of talks, they will become more comfortable with the idea.
- Survey your clients.
Send out an email survey to a portion of your clients and ask them about their preferences, expectations, concerns, etc. You can get back handy information that will help you better develop this policy for use within your company.
- Review your internal policies and procedures.
Review existing policies such as the Disaster Recovery Plan or Service Level Agreements for any discrepancies and gaps. If you have procedures for handling a disaster, review them and make sure they align with the policy to be developed. If they are not consistent, revise them or replace existing ones.
- Identify primary business drivers and objectives.
Translate the industry standards into language that is relevant to your company. These are the rules by which you will need to abide while creating this policy. Therefore, the resulting policy should be designed with two goals in mind: first – to meet industry standards, and second – to best serve the company’s business needs.
- Determine acceptable failure points.
Define what your risks are as a company and how this policy would mitigate those risks. In other words, identify the most important things you need to do to keep your company running smoothly.
- Define priority order for systems.
This step is to ensure that all of the relevant systems got included in this policy. While many companies do not need an explicit list such as this, it is crucial to capture a list of “critical” items so that you can be sure to include everything.
- Determine recovery point objective and recovery time objective.
It is a simple calculation and is basically the amount of information you can afford to lose before the data becomes unusable or the amount of time you can wait for a failed system to recover.
- Document all requirements.
Itemize all of your high-level policies into detailed steps that you could use to deploy the systems. At this point, you could capture some details and document any question marks for future research.
- Define duration.
Calculate how long each item would take. For example, some things might take a few days, and others might take a few months. It is essential because you may want to prioritize some items over others.
- Create a communication plan.
Once you have everything down on paper, ensure that all of your stakeholders know what they need to do in case of an emergency and their role in helping to recover from it. Ensure you can communicate with everyone who needs to know about your DRP in times of need. It includes making sure that everyone’s contact information is readily available so that you could get a hold of them at any time.
- Create procedures for putting the policy into effect
In addition to this, you also need to ensure that people actually know how to put the policy into effect. For example, you may have to let your system administrators know which steps they should take if a given server fails.
- Test policies and procedures.
After creating all of these documents and processes, make sure that everything works as expected by conducting an internal drill. It would ensure that your policy is sound and works well. It is also an excellent way to test various issues that might arise during recovery. After practicing your procedures, you will be aware of where exactly they need to be improved.
- Review and implement stated policies.
Once you finish your review, you’ll need to implement all of the changes into your DRP. It is crucial because it ensures that everyone is on the same page and that you can fulfill your policies in times of need.
- Tailor policies for SOC 2 Compliance.
Once you dealt with all previous steps, ensure that the policies would satisfy the requirements needed for SOC 2 compliance. It would ensure that they followed best practices and help you fulfill and comply with their guidelines.
- Put Policies and Procedures Into Production.
After the DRP is complete, you need to ensure that people actually follow it. It means that you have to regularly perform internal audits, spot-checks, and walkthroughs during regular business hours. You may also consider creating mock audit scenarios to simulate emergencies and test your business partners to see how they would respond.
- Review Policies in Production.
Once you have an excellent initial plan for DRP, you will need to review it regularly to ensure that everything is still working as expected. It will allow you to maintain compliance through ongoing verification and control, which is one of the critical components for SOC 2 Compliance.
- Maintain Policies and Procedures.
It would be best if you walked through each of the policies yearly. If you made any changes in the past that are no longer applicable, you should delete them. In addition to this, any new information or risks which you experienced should be added. You should also ensure that each of the procedures is up to date by reviewing them. After all, there might have been some changes in technology or even your business partners, making it necessary to update the documents. For example, if you’ve added a new server and want to ensure that your DRP has this reflected, you must update the documents.
- Actively manage DRP.
Analyze all of your business partners regularly or when anything changed. In addition to this, periodically perform audits to ensure that updates were implemented correctly and that you are staying compliant with the guidelines.
- Perform periodic organization reviews (every 14 months for SOC 2).
Once you have an active DRP, you need to ensure that it is up to date. To do this, periodically review your business partners and the DRP itself to make sure everything is still in line with industry standards, you are staying compliant at all times, and you are able to maintain statistical evidence for SOC 2 compliance.
Disaster recovery is a process that requires careful planning and execution. It’s essential to make sure you have the proper steps in place so your company can recover from any disaster efficiently, accurately, and securely – whether it be human error or natural disasters. If you’re looking for more information on how to create a comprehensive plan or want help getting started with developing one of your own, don’t hesitate to contact us. We would love to partner with you by providing expert guidance throughout the entire development process!