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Why Does Industrial Automation Need Disaster Recovery?

Today’s manufacturers increasingly realize automation is critical to doing business competitively in a challenging landscape. However, they don’t always take the necessary steps to design, implement and test automation disaster recovery plans. Here’s why those are troubling oversights.

Industrial Automation Technology Can Bring Significant Results

Research indicates those who choose to use industrial technology have numerous reasons for making that decision. A 2022 study from Ivanti investigated the reasons for Industrial Internet of Things usage. The results showed 27% of leaders using industrial automation do so to increase production output. Then, 14% do it to improve the handling of asset monitoring and maintenance. Moreover, 13% believe they’ll get better operational intelligence from that decision.

Elsewhere, a 2022 Gartner survey showed 80% of executives think they can apply automation to any business decision. The main goal of that research was to determine how companies include artificial intelligence (AI) in their automation strategies. Another finding was that a third of businesses in the study use AI across multiple departments, resulting in better competitive differentiation.

Disaster Recovery Plans Can Curb Negative Effects

Affected parties without disaster recovery plans could find the oversight negatively affects their expected or realized benefits from using automation. Imagine if the lack of a data recovery plan halts production for days or weeks — that’s only one of the possible outcomes.

A 2022 Opengear poll indicated half of chief information officers reported increasing financial losses due to unplanned downtime. They ranked that as the top adverse outcome from such incidents. However, 47% said the downtime hurt customer satisfaction and 45% mentioned data loss. Then, 41% cited negative reputational ramifications.

However, opportunities exist to mitigate or avoid these effects by having thorough disaster recovery plans. Unforeseen issues can affect companies of all sizes and types. However, when businesses bounce back faster, their executives can devote themselves to damage control and getting affected organizations back on track for success. Activating a disaster recovery plan is essential to normalizing operations after incidents.

Natural Disasters Substantially Impact Businesses

The catastrophic aftermath of natural disasters also presents reasons for company leaders to think seriously about automation disaster recovery options and how to implement them successfully.

A 2022 Swiss Re Institute examined global insured losses caused by natural disasters. The results estimated they totalled $35 billion during the first half of the year. That was a 22% increase compared to the past decade. The research discussed winter storms in Europe, widespread flooding in Australia and forest fires in France as some of the events driving up the total losses.

Then, the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information compiled data about billion-dollar disasters in the United States during 2022. The year had 18 climate or weather-related disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion.

Relatedly, such issues collectively cost $595.5 billion from 2018–2022. The 89 events recorded in that time caused 1,751 deaths, demonstrating a sobering reminder human lives are at risk when the weather becomes severe.

Today’s Businesses Must Prepare

It’s unrealistic for business leaders to hope natural disasters won’t affect where they operate. Instead, they should create holistic plans for keeping people and assets safe when these events occur. Steps could include backing up valuable or irreplaceable files and creating emergency kits for employees.

It’s also crucial that employees know how to react to an emergency, whether or not they have duties related to a company’s automation disaster recovery plans. However, a 2021 study from data protection and disaster recovery provider iland indicated 50% of respondents only test their disaster recovery plans annually or less frequently. Plus, 7% admitted they did no such testing.

That’s worrisome because a disaster recovery plan might look complete on paper but show gaping holes during real-life use. Plus, unfamiliar and urgent circumstances can incite panic among unprepared individuals. However, people are more likely to respond calmly and appropriately if they’ve had plenty of run-throughs of what to do and when.

Cyberattacks Are Increasing 

Industrial automation efforts can increase the attack surface for threat actors to target. Many cybercriminals are already capitalizing on such opportunities. A 2022 Splunk survey showed 65% of companies have seen an upward trend in attempted cyberattacks. Additionally, 54% of respondents had outages affecting business-critical applications at least monthly, with a median of 12 outages annually.

These statistics emphasize the necessity of creating extensive plans to prevent attacks and mitigate their effects. Preparedness also extends to a company’s third-party providers — vendor breaches can affect thousands of clients. However, learning about a service provider’s cybersecurity strategy is an excellent way to determine if it’s already sufficient or has weaknesses to address.

Companies Are Activating Disaster Recovery Plans

Some company leaders may worry their organizations take the time to create and test disaster recovery plans that never get used during real catastrophes. However, that fear doesn’t hold weight, according to data from Zerto. The study published in April 2022 revealed how 79% of respondents had needed their disaster recovery plans within the last 12 months.

Furthermore, the respondents — which included organizations from North America and Western Europe — had an average of 19.3 attacks in the past year. Ninety-three percent of those polled experienced data-related business disruptions within the year and more than 67% suffered at least four such events.

These statistics help explain why people should expect to use their automation disaster recovery plans multiple times per year. That’s an unfortunate reality from one perspective, but it emphasizes the need for preparedness and for people to prioritize disaster recovery sooner rather than later.

How Will You Handle Automation Disaster Recovery Planning?

With so many companies making automation a significant part of how they operate, it’s essential that these businesses also strategize and document what they’ll do if disasters affect automated technologies and processes. Step-by-step actions that follow best practices should minimize the disruption and possibly allow companies to escape disasters affecting peers. Preparation is vital for helping businesses keep relying on automation even with cyber and physical threats abound. 

The statistics here illuminate the need for proper planning. Additionally, showing employees you know how to respond when disasters strike will help them feel more confident about using automation and at work in general. Don’t wait any longer to develop your disaster recovery plan. Then, after creating it, take the time to revisit and expand it as necessary so the document stays relevant.

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. She has over three years experience writing articles for the tech and industrial sectors. Subscribe to the Revolutionized newsletter for more content from Emily at
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