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Disaster Recovery Plan Guidance
Ethan Heller avatar
Written by Ethan Heller
Updated over a week ago

The following article contains guidance explaining portions of the Disaster Recovery Plan that we frequently see questions around, explaining what the sections mean.

Guidance statements will appear in bold and enclosed in brackets “[]” below the statements of the policy.

Disaster Recovery Plan




This policy establishes procedures to recover [COMPANY NAME] following a disruption resulting from a disaster. This Disaster Recovery Policy is maintained by the [COMPANY NAME] Security Officer and Privacy Officer.


The following objectives have been established for this plan:

  • Maximize the effectiveness of contingency operations through an established plan that consists of the following phases:

    • Notification/Activation phase to detect and assess damage and to activate the plan.

    • Recovery phase to restore temporary operations and recover damage done to the original system.

    • Reconstitution phase to restore system processing capabilities to normal operations.

  • Identify the activities, resources, and procedures needed to carry out [COMPANY NAME] processing requirements during prolonged interruptions to normal operations.

  • Identify and define the impact of interruptions to [COMPANY NAME] systems.

  • Assign responsibilities to designated personnel and provide guidance for recovering [COMPANY NAME] systems during prolonged periods of interruption to normal operations.

  • Ensure coordination with other [COMPANY NAME] staff who will participate in the Disaster Recovery Planning strategies.

  • Ensure coordination with external points of contact and vendors who will participate in the Disaster Recovery Planning strategies.


Examples of the types of disasters that would initiate this plan are natural disasters, political disturbances, man-made disasters, external human threats, and internal malicious activities.

[COMPANY NAME] defines two categories of systems from a disaster recovery perspective:

  • Critical Systems. These systems host application servers and database servers or are required for functioning of systems that host application servers and database servers. These systems, if unavailable, affect the integrity of data and must be restored, or have a process begun to restore them, immediately upon becoming unavailable.

    [Any system that if it were to go down, you wouldn’t be able to deliver your service(s) should be considered a critical system.]

  • Non-critical Systems. These are all systems not considered critical by the definition above. These systems, while they may affect the performance and overall security of critical systems, do not prevent Critical systems from functioning and being accessed appropriately. These systems are restored at a lower priority than critical systems.

Threat and Risk Assessment and Management

There are many potential disruptive threats which can occur at any time and affect the normal business process. We have considered a wide range of potential threats and the results of our deliberations are included in this section. Each potential environmental disaster or emergency situation has been examined. The focus here is on the level of business disruption which could arise from each type of disaster.

The [COMPANY NAME] IT Risk Assessment documents a full detailed assessment of threats.

Testing and Maintenance

The Security Officer shall establish criteria for validation/testing of a Disaster Recovery Plan, an annual test schedule, and ensure implementation of the test. This process will also serve as training for personnel involved in the plan's execution. At a minimum, the Disaster Recovery Plan shall be tested <FREQUENCY>. The types of validation/testing exercises include tabletop and technical testing.

[The Disaster Recovery plan should be tested at least annually.]

Tabletop Testing

The primary objective of the tabletop test is to ensure designated personnel are knowledgeable and capable of performing the notification/activation requirements and procedures as outlined in the Disaster Recovery Plan, in a timely manner. The exercises include, but are not limited to:

  • Testing to validate the ability to respond to a crisis in a coordinated, timely, and effective manner, by simulating the occurrence of a specific crisis.

    [A disaster recovery tabletop test should be performed at least annually. A common approach to this test is to walk through an example disaster recovery scenario with the appropriate stakeholders and document the results.]

Technical Testing

The primary objective of the technical test is to ensure the communication processes and data storage and recovery processes can function at an alternate site to perform the functions and capabilities of the system within the designated requirements. Technical testing shall include, but is not limited to:

  • Process from backup system at the alternate site

  • Restore system using backups

  • Switch compute and storage resources to alternate processing sites.

Disaster Recovery Procedures

Notification and Activation Phase

This phase addresses the initial actions taken to detect and assess damage inflicted by a disruption to [COMPANY NAME]. Based on the assessment of the Event, sometimes according to the [COMPANY NAME] Incident Response Policy, the Disaster Recovery Plan may be activated by the Security Officer and/or CTO.

Notification Sequence

  • The first responder is to notify the CTO. All known information must be relayed to the CTO.

    [The ‘CTO’ is mentioned often in this policy and is just a suggestion for who should be ultimately responsible for disaster recovery. You can change this to whatever role you feel best fills the responsibilities outlined in this policy.]

  • The CTO is to contact the rest of the team and inform them of the event. The CTO is to begin assessment procedures.

  • The CTO is to notify team members and direct them to complete the assessment procedures outlined below to determine the extent of damage and estimated recovery time. If damage assessment cannot be performed locally because of unsafe conditions, the CTO is to follow the steps below.

Damage Assessment

  • The CTO is to logically assess damage, gain insight into whether the infrastructure is salvageable, and begin to formulate a plan for recovery.

Alternate Assessment

  • Upon notification, the CTO is to follow the procedures for damage assessment with combined DevOps and Web Services Teams.

    [Similar to the comment earlier regarding the ‘CTO’ role, the DevOps and Web Services Teams are also suggestions. You can change this to whatever teams will have responsibilities pertaining to disaster recovery. These teams will also be reflected later in this policy in the ‘Original or New Site Restoration’ section.]

  • The [COMPANY NAME] Disaster Recovery Plan is to be activated if one or more of the following criteria are met:

    • [COMPANY NAME] systems will be unavailable for more than 48 hours.

    • Hosting facility is damaged and will be unavailable for more than 24 hours.

    • Other criteria, as appropriate and as defined by [COMPANY NAME].

  • If the plan is to be activated, the CTO is to notify and inform team members of the details of the event and if relocation is required.

  • Upon notification from the CTO, group leaders and managers are to notify their respective teams. Team members are to be informed of all applicable information and prepared to respond and relocate if necessary.

  • The CTO is to notify the hosting facility partners that a contingency event has been declared and to ship the necessary materials (as determined by damage assessment) to the alternate site.

    [If your environment is fully cloud based, then this statement can be altered to reflect that. For example, you may say “If required, the CTO will inform team members to migrate cloud infrastructure to the alternate/backup availability zone."]

  • The CTO is to notify remaining personnel and executive leadership on the general status of the incident.

  • Notification can be delivered via message, email, or phone.

Recovery Phase

This section provides procedures for recovering the application at an alternate site, whereas other efforts are directed to repair damage to the original system and capabilities.

[For Cloud environments, alternate site could be an alternate cloud provider or alternate location within your existing cloud provider]

The following procedures are for recovering the [COMPANY NAME] infrastructure at the alternate site. Procedures are outlined per team required. Each procedure should be executed in the sequence it is presented to maintain efficient operations.

Recovery Goal

[The Recovery Phase is primarily focused on the recovery of your systems and infrastructure]

The goal is to rebuild [COMPANY NAME] infrastructure to a production state. The tasks outlined below are not sequential and some can be run in parallel.

  1. Contact Partners and Customers affected.

  2. Assess damage to the environment.

  3. Begin replication of new environment using automated and tested scripts. At this point it is determined whether to recover in Rackspace, AWS, GCP, Heroku, Azure, or another cloud environment.

  4. Test new environment using pre-written tests.

  5. Test logging, security, and alerting functionality.

  6. Assure systems are appropriately patched and up to date.

  7. Deploy environment to production.

  8. Update DNS to new environment.

Reconstitution Phase

[The Reconstitution Phase is primarily focused on recovering your business operations once your systems have been restored.]

This section discusses activities necessary for restoring [COMPANY NAME] operations at the original or new site. The goal is to restore full operations within 24 hours of a disaster or outage. When the hosted data center at the original or new site has been restored, [COMPANY NAME] operations at the alternate site may be transitioned back. The goal is to provide a seamless transition of operations from the alternate site to the computer center.

Original or New Site Restoration

  • Begin replication of new environment using automated and tested scripts (DevOps)

  • Test new environment using pre-written tests (Web Services)

  • Test logging, security, and alerting functionality (DevOps)

  • Deploy environment to production (Web Services)

  • Assure systems are appropriately patched and up-to-date (DevOps)

  • Update DNS to new environment (DevOps)

Plan Deactivation

If the [COMPANY NAME] environment is moved back to the original site from the alternative site, all hardware used at the alternate site should be handled and disposed of according to [COMPANY NAME] policy.

[If your environment is fully cloud based, we recommend updating this section to refer to how you would deactivate services running at an alternate site.]

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