Disasters don’t discriminate when choosing when and where to strike, making data centers of all shapes and sizes equally vulnerable. So, the time to create a disaster recovery (DR) plan is now, long before a disaster strikes — whether it comes in the form of natural disaster, theft, fire, equipment failure, virus, or user error.

Statistically, almost one-third of all businesses will be affected by some sort of natural disaster. And that can have serious consequences.  Roughly, 25% of businesses do not re-open after a natural disaster, and 43% do not re-open after catastrophic data loss, according to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency.

To prepare for disruptions and ensure the safety of critical data, follow these three steps to create a DR plan:

1. Study the business model

First, inventory all of your business processes. Before jumping into launching a DR plan, take the time to investigate your overall business model and assess how each IT application fits into it. It’s critical to do your due diligence at the onset of this planning stage to decide what level of protection you will need as well as to flag related applications that will need to be protected similarly. To be truly successful in protecting your data center and digital assets, it’s critical to look at the big picture in this way prior to kick starting any type of DR plan. Having a well thought out road map helps ensure your business isn’t faced with any unexpected hurdles down the road.

It is also important to keep in mind the rate of data churn associated with each application, which will be useful in determining the recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO). There is no “one size fits all” DR plan. The most successful strategies balance the cost of maintaining business continuity against the cost of unplanned downtime and data loss.

2. Formulate the right DR plan

A solid DR plan should include a combination of application availability solutions, data protection solutions, and policies and procedures for managing different types of disasters. Having a variety of approaches in your arsenal helps ensure that you’re equipped to handle almost any type of potential disaster scenario.

The best application availability solutions apply hybrid local-cloud architectures and software-based automation to spin up applications that need to be restored. This type of solution leverages both local storage and server resources to allow recoveries within minutes after local incidents, as well as cloud resources to provide security and management flexibility. Quick recovery time makes this approach ideal for protecting a company’s most time-sensitive data.

For data with a relatively low churn rate, such as customer data and contracts, cloud-based backup can be the best protection.

Before you think your work is done, make sure everything is clearly documented, including policies, procedures,andall the personnel who will be involved in carrying out your plan.

3. Test, revise and when in doubt – revisit again!

A DR plan is only successful if it’s tested on a routine basis to ensure accuracy and to uncover new opportunities for improvement. Implementing ongoing testing makes a perfect final deliverable for the plan creation project. It’s also critical to do periodic audits of business operations and support applications to ensure that your DR plan is up to speed and still meets your business needs.

It’s imperative to take a proactive stance and make the investment in time and resources long before facing a potential disaster. Creating a customized plan for protecting your assets now will be a lifesaver down the road, not only as an immediate resolution to a potential disaster but also to ensure the longevity of your business.