The IT ecosystems have become an integral part of the functioning of most organizations. Whether or not the business has an online presence, the computer systems, the data centers, networks, etc. are essential for businesses to communicate and operate. If the IT infrastructure and other related operations will continue without any hiccups, every organization needs an Active Directory, a core system that enables all other systems to work coherently. Be it employees logging into their workstations, accessing the data, running different applications, or serving customers, Active Directory makes it happen. So, if the Active Directory goes down – whether due to a natural disaster, cyberattack, or serving customers, Active Directory makes it happen. So, if the Active Directory goes down – whether due to a natural disaster, cyberattack, or human error – every single operation that depends on Active Directory will experience an outage. This can pose a serious threat to data security and data services.

To avoid such a situation organizations need to have a comprehensive Active Directory Disaster Recovery Solution. But how is it done? What are the important strategies to implement this process for optimum results and how can you develop that process? Here are some important considerations when implementing a robust Active Directory Disaster Recovery process:

What is Active Directory Disaster Recovery?

Active Directory Disaster Recovery means getting the domain controller (DC) working again. These domain controllers are servers that are responsible for running the Microsoft Active Directory Domain Services role. It enables them to provide critical services like authentication and authorization. If the DCs stops functioning, your Microsoft ecosystem, whether on-site or in the hybrid cloud model, will not function. The recovery happens in two phases. First, one of the DCs is restored and then the second one.

Time required for Active Directory Disaster Recovery

Doing Active Directory Disaster Recovery manually is a time and effort-consuming task. Further, if all the licenses related to Microsoft products are not available, it can become nearly impossible to recover resources. But if organizations have an automatic disaster recovery solution in place, it is a quick and easy process. Automation means less manual intervention is required in the recovery process.

Tips for creating an airtight Active Directory Disaster Recovery plan

Even the best tools will fall short if you do not have a proper Active Directory Disaster Recovery plan. Here’s what you can do to create an effective one:

Regular AD back and reliable storage
Regularly take AD backups and keep verifying them frequently to ensure they remain valid. They should be stored in a reliable storage medium on an isolated network, third-party cloud system, or an offline system. The best practice is to follow Microsoft’s 3-2-1 rule. It states that you should have 3 backups in 2 storage types with at least 1 in offline mode.

There are different types of backups you can use:

System State backup
Bare metal recovery backup
Active Directory backup
Azure AD backup

Maintain an emergency mechanism of communication that is not reliant on AD

It is recommended that your business, IT network, and recovery function be able to communicate even when the AD is down. So, instead of relying on emails, or other similar online communication mediums, create a system that can operate offline. Maintain a list of phone numbers of all important personnel handy so that they can be contacted in case of an emergency. And more importantly, save your entire Active Directory disaster recovery plan in place that can be accessed even when AD is down.

Test the recovery plan with IT professionals who were not part of the creation process

Testing your plan with those who have not created it, and thus can objectively test the process is a good way of ensuring that you have a robust plan in hand. With this approach, you will be able to identify any gaps and make improvements through successive rounds of adjustments leading to a full-proof Active Directory disaster recovery plan.

Execute the plan

Execute the plan as a practice run couple of times every year so that you are familiar with the steps and can improve your speed and implementation. This practice serves like a fire drill so that when an actual disaster happens, recovery will go smoothly and without incident.

Update your plan regularly

IT ecosystems are known to change frequently and your Active Directory disaster recovery plan must evolve accordingly. Ensure that you apply all system updates, update new processes, steps, staff member contact information, etc. regularly so that all relevant and accurate information is available at the time of recovery. Also, check for updated compliance mandates and any new business requirements. Things that were identified as priorities when the first plan was put into place may have changed so the plan needs to be updated accordingly.

Active Directory is the heart of your IT ecosystem and the longer it is down, the more it will negatively impact your business. A robust AD Disaster Recovery plan that is thoroughly tested, regularly updated, and frequently executed will protect your business from financial and reputational damage in case of a disaster.