Downtime-Proof IT with Network Disaster Recovery

by | June 27, 2024

Networking and connectivity issues are the leading causes of IT service-related outages, according to Uptime Institute’s Annual Outage Analysis 2024. That’s no surprise given the connected nature of business’s IT environments, which rely on network connections to access IT applications and infrastructure that drive business and revenue.

However, what may come as a surprise is the rising cost. In 2024, unplanned downtime now averages $14,056 per minute and up to $23,750 for large enterprises, according to Enterprise Management Associates research. Notably, this figure doesn’t include lasting damages resulting from lost customer confidence.

The good news is your business can avoid the escalating costs of downtime by developing a Network Disaster Recovery Plan that takes advantage of advances in network technology. In a recent episode of The UPSTACK Podcast, UPSTACK Partner and Managing Director Jake Cummins talked about connectivity noting, “With today’s technologies, you should never lose a dollar due to an outage.”

What is a Network Disaster Recovery Plan?

A Network Disaster Recovery Plan is a documented strategy to ensure the continuity and recovery of network operations with the goal of minimizing downtime and associated costs.

Creating a Network Disaster Recovery Plan involves the following steps:

1. Conduct a Risk Assessment

As with any response plan, you must first assess the risk. In this case, that means identifying the potential threats to your corporate network. These may include hardware or software failures, cyberthreats and physical security breaches, human error, environmental factors, network congestion and third-party service failures.

UPSTACK recommends: Make sure you understand the business impact should threats disrupt network operations for a significant period.

The impacts of network threats may include downtime, data loss, revenue loss, recovery costs, data and intellectual property theft, regulatory violations, customer loss, productivity loss and reputational damage.

2. Identify Critical Network Assets

After you understand the risks and quantify the impact, take inventory of the network assets you must protect. Such resources may include hardware (e.g., routers, switches, firewalls, servers, network interface cards, etc.), software (e.g., operating systems, network management software, security software), or data (e.g., configuration files, user information, or operational logs).

Then, rank these assets based on their importance to business operations so you can prioritize investments in protective measures.

UPSTACK recommends: Focus first on critical routers and switches that keep the business running.

3. Define Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO)

In addition to prioritizing where you’re shoring up defenses, you must determine two things:

  • Recovery Time Objective (RTO) — how long your network can be down before causing significant damage to your business
  • Recovery Point Objective (RPO) — the amount of data you can lose as measured in time (typically minutes or hours) before irreparable damage to the business

Generally, the shorter your RTO and RPO timelines, the more costly you expect your company’s potential losses to be and the greater the investment you’ll need to make in business continuity and disaster recovery initiatives and solutions to prevent them.

UPSTACK recommends: The tighter the RTO and RPO, the greater the investment required, so you need to balance these costs with the benefits of minimizing downtime.

4. Employ Business Continuity Solutions

Once you’ve determined what assets you need to protect and at what level, you can evaluate and deploy business continuity solutions.

UPSTACK recommends: Employ High Availability (HA) network design to keep critical hardware functioning in the event of a failure or power outage.

High Availability network design calls for:

  • Redundancy in hardware, network paths and data storage
  • Load balancing by distributing traffic across different servers or network paths and ensuring the network can scale to support increasing traffic loads
  • Automatic failover to standby hardware or network paths when failure occurs
  • Monitoring using network management tools to check the health and performance of network hardware and connectivity and send alerts about potential issues
  • Diversity in provider networks and geographic data center locations

5. Develop a Communication Plan

Though solutions are available today to ensure uptime, you must be prepared to communicate to those impacted when an outage occurs. Create a plan to communicate the outage and the resolution time with employees, customers, vendors, and other stakeholders. Your plan should specify:

  • Roles and responsibilities for incident response and communications
  • Contacts for internal and external stakeholders
  • Internal and external communications channels
  • Message templates for initial notifications, status updates and resolution
  • Procedures for approvals, dissemination and timing of communications
  • Processes for logging communications
  • Schedules for training, testing, review and updates

UPSTACK recommends: Ensure all communication channels will remain operational or specify alternatives to use during an outage.

6. Perform Testing and Maintenance

Once the Network Disaster Recovery Plan is in place, check your work.

  • Continuously monitor network health
  • Routinely test to identify and fix any issues
  • Periodically update your plan to reflect changes in the network infrastructure, business operations, or emerging threats

UPSTACK recommends: Check in with your technology advisory partner for the latest technologies and techniques for ensuring network uptime.

What are Network Disaster Recovery Solutions?

Network disaster recovery solutions include various network connectivity solutions and architectures designed to ensure the continuity of network operations, including the following services:

  • SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network) — SD-WAN centralizes control of networks made from broadband internet connections. SD-WAN supports business continuity by optimizing network traffic management, automating failover and routing traffic intelligently. SD-WAN solutions also enhance network resilience by dynamically rerouting traffic through alternative paths in case of a disruption.
  • Network Security Solutions — Cyberthreats are common causes of network failures, so cybersecurity solutions are vital for ensuring network uptime. Network security solutions like secure access service edge (SASE), distributed denial of service (DDoS) mitigation, endpoint security, and more are essential for keeping your network safe and operational.
  • Internet Failover — Internet failover solutions automatically switch network traffic to a backup internet connection if the primary connection fails. The backup connection typically is diverse in medium and/or provider, such as a wireless LTE link. SD-WAN is commonly used to facilitate failover configurations.
  • Redundant Connections — Setting up multiple pathways is the most reliable way to ensure network redundancy. If one network path fails, traffic can seamlessly switch to another, ensuring uninterrupted network availability.
  • Diverse Circuits — Using diverse circuits by leveraging different Internet service providers (ISPs) or physical routes for network connections reduces the risk of a single point of failure and enhances network reliability.

Where can you get expert help with your Network Continuity Plan?

UPSTACK has networking experts with decades of experience in designing local and global networks optimized for uptime. We can develop your network continuity plan and help your organization source the right business continuity solutions to ensure your network is always on.

Network downtime isn’t a problem until it is. In a recent episode of The UPSTACK Podcast, UPSTACK Partner and Managing Director Greg Moss says: IT departments have their heads down, working 80-hour weeks with limited staff, and they’re implementing procedures and processes that they’ve done for 20 years. They don’t have time to look at innovation. This is where UPSTACK adds tremendous value because we don’t see only a single stack, but across many stacks and who’s doing it really well.

Get in touch today for always-on networks tomorrow.