Imagine what happens to your company if an unexpected natural disaster — a flood, fire or tornado — causes major damage to the systems and data stored within. What if a hacker steals your data or holds it hostage in a ransomware attempt or cyber attack?

These instances are all too common. It’s why your business needs an incident response plan that’s responsive and ready to be deployed at the first signs of trouble.

What Is An Incident Response Plan?

An incident response plan helps you prepare and respond to the unthinkable. A comprehensive incident response plan determines the people, steps and processes responsible for restoration and recovery. The intent is to reduce the time your company and its operations are down, limiting the loss of business and customers.

An incident response plan is a component of a broader business continuity strategy, which creates the policies and communication protocols when the business operations are under threat. In the midst of chaos, these plans are a way to ground employee, stakeholders, shareholders, customers and the general public about the steps being taken and when.

What Employees Are Involved in an Incident Response Plan?

The incident response team is the heart of your incident response planning work. Usually, members of your internal IT team or managed IT services provider play lead roles in the team. Other integral players are your legal counsel, communications staffers, key business unit leaders and human resources professionals. The technical experts will be focused on the collection, preservation and analysis of data related to the incident.

What Are the Components of an Incident Response Plan?

Here are the most common steps in building your incident response plan:

  • Network Assessment. Your company needs to prioritize what the most critical data and systems are, where they are backed up and how they are accessed. Regular backups of these elements should be a priority.
  • Redundancy Planning. Backing up your data is one important component. Another is to identify every component of your network — hardware, software and other single points of failure. You should create a backup plan for each of these critical elements, including the people responsible for plan components.
  • Workforce Continuity. What happens if people cannot access locations or processes are unavailable during a natural disaster or cyberattack? Employee safety needs to be the top priority, so planning needs to be done to allow for remote work with tools such as virtual private networks (VPNs), intranets, mobile applications and secure web access.
  • Plan Development. The plan needs to be written, vetted and communicated. Plan components include:
    • Roles and responsibilities for incident response team members
    • The business continuity plan and processes
    • The tools, technologies and resources that need to be in place
    • Lists of critical network processes and data recovery steps
    • Internal and external communications plans
  • Training. Staff, both on the incident response team and not, need to be trained on what happens during a declared incident. Employees need to understand why the plan is essential, the team members and what will happen if an incident occurs. Drills are a key component to an incident response team, during which the protocols can be tested and the outcomes used to inform refinements to the plan itself.

How Does an Incident Response Plan Work in Practice?

Once a disaster is declared, the incident response plan springs into action. There are phases, several of which apply more to cyberattacks than to natural disasters, including:

  • Identification of the breach, the scope of its impact and how it is affecting normal operations
  • Eradication of the root cause of the attack such as malware and artifact files
  • Recovery of systems through restoration and the return to operation of systems, apps and devices. This process generally involves using trusted data or file backups
  • Assessment of the incident and what can be done to prevent future incidents

How Can My Company Prepare and Test an Incident Response Plan?

At CIO Advise, we help companies create incident response plans and implement solutions to keep data and systems protected. Learn more about why CIO Advise is the top choice for businesses needing IT support and consultation by scheduling a free, no-obligation initial consultation today.