At some point or another in your life, you've probably set up and worked on a plan for the future. Whether that meant starting a savings account, choosing a path for your collegiate education, or selecting an insurance plan, you started preparing for something down the road - good or bad. Putting all of that focus into planning for the unknowns of the future in your personal life is great, but we tend to forget to apply that effort to our professional ones. So, let’s talk about backup and disaster recovery plans.
Creating a backup and disaster recovery plan (also known as a BDR plan) can prepare practices for a number of unexpected events and have you back up and running much faster. But many dental offices don’t know where to start or have the resources to create this type of plan. In this article, we’re going to cover the importance of a backup and disaster recovery plan and leave you with some tips for creating your own strategy.
What is a Backup and Disaster Recovery Plan?
When we look at disaster recovery from an IT perspective, planning is always important. It’s setting up another layer of technology, plans, and procedures, and ensures trained personnel are there to respond to any potential work-stopping events. This could include many types of disasters, such as:
- Internet outages
- Hardware failure
- Software corruption
- Ransomware/ cyber attack
- Power outages
- Natural disaster
We wouldn’t want any of these events to happen to us, but they could. It’s always best to be prepared for all of these circumstances than not. Let's cover a few more tips that can help you put together a disaster recovery plan for your practice.
1. Be Proactive
The first tip for creating a disaster recovery plan is to be proactive. Your server may not have had any issues in the past few years, so it may seem safe to assume it’s in perfect working condition. However, that’s not quite the case.
Checking and updating your equipment is something that should be done continuously. Just because something is working doesn’t mean it always will. Replacing older components that might eventually fail is the best way to support longevity in your equipment. By doing this you can reduce the chances of an outage or other unexpected failures.
Being proactive and putting preventative measures in place is always the first step in a disaster recovery plan. Although there may be costs associated – with purchasing new parts and equipment or recovery solutions. This is similar to having an insurance policy. These efforts could help your practice avoid a disaster in the first place, which will save you money in the long run.
2. Figure Out What is Mission Critical
The next tip on our list for disaster recovery is to figure out what is mission-critical for your practice. What are the most important operating systems your practice can’t go without? Having an understanding of these items puts you in the perfect position to start developing your own plan. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to BDR. Your strategy will be based on your practice needs.
Start by listing out every piece of your practice in general and narrow down the most essential aspects of your practice. Be sure to include all systems you and your staff use. Such as workstations, email, and dental software like Dentrix or others.
Once you have your list together, you should be able to scale it down to find out which systems are critical. It also helps to sort them into mission-critical, urgent, important, and last priorities. This will allow you to see where you should be focusing first.
3. Understand Your Recovery Time Objective and Recovery Point Objective
As stated before every practice’s backup and disaster recovery plan will look slightly different. This is especially true when it comes to recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO). So, let's break down the terms RTO and RPO first.
RTO represents the duration of time your practice must be up and running again to avoid losses due to a break in business continuity. RTO can be extremely different depending on the practice. One practice may be down for weeks before extreme losses, while for another, it may only take thirty minutes.
RPO represents the age of the data your practice will need to continue operating effectively. Again, this can be extremely different from practice to practice. If all of your current data was lost, would you be able to get by with data recovered from a month ago, or would you need yesterday’s or even the last hour's data?
Having a clear understanding of your practice's unique RTO and RPO will help you to create an all-encompassing, cost-effective disaster recovery strategy. Having a shorter objective is oftentimes more expensive, but by properly planning you’ll be able to meet those objectives and keep your practice running.
4. Ensure Redundancy
If you haven’t heard about the importance of backups by now, we're here to tell you it’s really important. With a good backup, you can recover from just about anything. But redundancy is just as essential. We recommend two types of backups to fulfill this need for redundancy. These are local backups and cloud backups.
Starting with local backup, this is good to have in place for speed. With a local hard drive, you can recover your data much quicker than from the cloud. However, having local backups comes with its vulnerabilities to natural disasters like floods, theft, or fires. That’s why we encourage a cloud backup as well.
When you have all of your data replicated in the cloud, you’ll still have a backup if your hard drive gets taken out. Since cloud backups are off-site and often extremely secure, they are better protected from theft or cyber attacks like ransomware. Cloud backups also come in versions. If your latest version gets corrupted, you can use the previous version.
When it comes to backups there’s never enough redundancy. Use local backups for speed, and cloud backups for redundancy and off-site backup.
5. Test, Test, Test!
For our last tip, don’t just set it and forget it. After creating a BDR plan you need to continually test it to make sure it works. So many things can change over time, and that can affect the success of your strategy. Let's say you changed your servers or started using new software. When you test your disaster recovery plan, you’ll be able to spot holes and fix them before disaster strikes.
We recommend testing quarterly. Take three or four of your most common files and make sure they can be restored. Keep in mind that testing may mean your practice will experience some downtime. But it’s worth it! Testing your plan will help ensure that everything is working like it’s supposed to and keep everyone on the same page about what to do.
You can’t underestimate the power a backup and disaster recovery plan could do for your practice down the line. You never know what could happen. In the past few years, companies across the United States have experienced a number of disasters, from fires to hurricanes to ransomware. Make sure to prepare your practice ahead of time, that way you can back to patients quickly and efficiently. Also, don’t forget to download our free eBook:7 Rules Even the Most Basic Backup & Disaster Recovery Plan for Dental Practices for even more valuable information!