The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of how unforeseen circumstances can unexpectedly impact business operations. Internal uncertainties include operational, compliance, strategic, and financial risks. Economic and political unpredictability are external risks to watch out for, as well as natural occurrences such as fires, floods, and earthquakes. Business continuity and disaster recovery are two important concepts that guarantee long term success. They can help you successfully prevent, manage, and recover from otherwise devastating events. IT plays a central role in both processes.
Understanding Business Continuity Planning
Business continuity refers to the anticipatory measures you put in place to prepare for the continued operation of critical functions during and after emergencies. A business continuity plan covers any event that's capable of disrupting your business. Other than financial setbacks, you can suffer a damaged reputation, lawsuits, supply chain problems, and missed opportunities. Since technology is a central pillar of modern organizations, a proper business continuity plan prioritizes data and cybersecurity.
The main points of interest before and during an emergency are:
- How to keep communication open with clients, suppliers, contractors, remote workers, and other stakeholders.
- Ensuring the continued provision of services and products.
- Sourcing emergency power and alternative technology solutions to revive the most critical business functions.
- Identifying a new base of operations in case your main location is physically affected, especially by a natural disaster.
- Creating a team to manage the revival of vital functions and guide recovery efforts.
- Conducting regular drills to ensure all employees are up to date with the requirements of your business plan.
- Formal documentation of emergency response procedures.
A good business continuity plan begins with a competent team to oversee it. It includes the sponsor, who is the senior-most official responsible for the program. Other elements of the plan are crisis management, IT disaster preparedness, and overall business recovery.
To develop a solid BCP, start with a business impact analysis (BIA). It helps you identify the effects of potential disruptions on your operations, as well as coming up with recovery strategies. The next steps after a BIA are:
- Identification and implementation of the most viable recovery options.
- Creating a continuity team to manage the disruption.
- Training the continuity team and some employees on how to respond to emergencies. They'll also need to do tests and conduct special drills to ensure the plan is viable. Such exercises help you refine the plan by eliminating weaknesses.
A business continuity plan must prioritize the protection of valuable assets such as servers, phones, networking equipment, and valuable applications. Make plans for regular maintenance and replacement of aging IT assets to facilitate smooth operations and maximum productivity. If you have a failover system, chances are your customers will never know when you’re going through a crisis. That’s because a backup system will kick in immediately after your primary one fails.
What Is Disaster Recovery?
Your organization stands to lose crucial data in case of a disaster. Although natural factors still play a role, most incidents involve IT infrastructure. Cybersecurity threats form a present and ever-growing risk to all companies. Disaster recovery is the process of getting essential systems up and running in the aftermath of an outage.
To avoid the crippling of your entire IT infrastructure, you need a disaster recovery plan (DRP). Although each organization has varying needs, a practical DRP has the following elements:
1). A disaster recovery team
This team will be responsible for creating, tweaking, and maintaining the disaster response plan. Each member should have a clearly defined role, as well as be easily reachable on short notice. The team should also educate employees on the plan's contents and their expected response in case of a disaster.
2). Risk assessment
Potential risks involve natural and man-made factors. A risk assessment identifies the most imminent incidents, emergencies, and disasters, after which you can outline appropriate responses.
3). Identification of critical resources
This step involves identifying the most important documents, assets, and other resources that are critical to your organization’s survival. A DRP focuses more on short term goals such as reviving operations, cash flow generation, and processing payroll.
4). Backup and off-site storage solutions
Data is arguably the most important resource you have. A loss could cripple your entire organization. To avoid this doomsday scenario, you must back up all critical information and applications. A disaster recovery plan specifies alternative backup locations, frequency of backup, who’s responsible for the process, and the exact resources that should be backed up.
5). Testing and maintenance
If you're heavily dependent on technology for day to day operations, you can implement a specialized plan to protect your IT infrastructure. It should list your entire software and hardware inventory in order of priority. Each item should have its vendor's contact information for technical support purposes. Your plan should also clearly outline your downtime and data loss preferences. Other guidelines include identifying qualified backup personnel, creating a practical communication plan, and specifying how sensitive information should be handled.
If you outsource IT services, include emergencies and disasters in your service level agreements (SLAs). That way, both you and your vendors are on the same page about each party's role in case of a setback. Federal and state regulations require businesses to have recovery plans. For example, healthcare organizations implement disaster recovery strategies by default as a form of compliance with HIPAA regulations. Part of the rules specifically relates to how entities should manage data breaches.
How Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Overlap
Overall, both plans help your business to prepare, manage, and respond to uncertainties and outright disasters. You can think of a BCP as a comprehensive master plan that encompasses all aspects of your disaster preparedness, prevention, mitigation, and response. A DRP is more specific in the sense that it addresses your recovery procedure, whether tech-focused or otherwise. So a disaster recovery plan can be a part of your business continuity plan.
In some instances, a DRP solely focuses on saving your organization's data, network, and information systems. That makes the IT department primarily responsible for creating, implementing, and maintaining the plan. Since IT forms the backbone of all modern businesses, a disaster response plan becomes an essential part of business continuity planning by default. If your IT experts create a tech-focused DRP, ensure other non-IT recovery solutions are addressed in the wider BCP.
Is There a Clear Difference Between BCP and DRP?
The overlapping nature of both plans mean they work in perfect harmony to address the organization's overall objectives. The only possible difference concerns their deployment timeline. You can start running BCP protocols immediately after outlining them, while DRP protocols are only applicable after a disaster. Ultimately, you need both business continuity and disaster recovery strategies to guarantee your organization's long term success.
At Hummingbird Networks, we excel at analyzing industry trends and insights. If you're looking to protect your IT infrastructure against business threats, we have a variety of software and hardware solutions to help you. With more than 15 years' experience in the field, we understand all the problems you're likely to face. We can help you create a practical and effective disaster recovery plan, which should fit tightly into your general business continuity plan. For more details, please contact us today.