Many businesses understand the need for a disaster recovery (DR) plan. Restoring operations after a disruptive event such as a power outage or a natural disaster is a critical business process required to sustain success. However, DR plans frequently fail to create a comprehensive risk management structure. Gaps leave certain aspects vulnerable after a major business interruption. But businesses can develop heightened protocols by including a business continuity (BC) plan that complements their DR plan, generally referred to as DR/BC.
While DR plans typically address issues related to communication and facilities recovery, BC plans provide more actionable procedures that are designed to sustain revenue-earning activities in the event of a disruption. BC plans provide contingency mitigations for natural disasters as well as problems related to key personnel absences and supply chain issues with vendors or logistics/warehouse providers and other business partners who experience operational difficulties.
Building a comprehensive strategy for BC is much like the process for developing a DR plan. The key is to establish communication as well as backup solutions for physical locations, IT, and human resources. The first step requires conducting a business impact analysis (BIA).
Businesses should identify the systems and resources (including employees) that are critical for generating revenue and the subsequent effects an outage would have on each. For example, an investment company might elect to establish a backup location with complete IT redundancy so that trading could continue immediately in the event of a disruption. A BIA will help establish a restoration sequence that restores operations in order of importance.
Developing a BC Plan
Business continuity plans should cover these critical aspects:
- contingency personnel plans for executives and the CEO, CIO, and other chief officers;
emergency training for all staff;
- off-site emergency management/operations locations that pull power and utilities from an alternate grid source;
- proper live-action tests to pinpoint weak areas;
- comprehensive hardware backup that includes data centers (DC), servers, and laptops that store critical information;
- emergency goods like meals ready to eat (MREs), paper products, and water supplies in case employees are trapped at work; and
- alternative transportation plans.
A comprehensive DR model that includes BC aspects should outline recovery time objectives for systems and applications, documents, and facilities that will allow the business to continue operations after a disruption.
Utilizing Technology and Risk Assessments
Building BC contingencies is easier with increased virtualization. There are fewer devices to track and a smaller DC footprint so failover capabilities are simplified. Cost feasibility can be determined through the financial portion of the BIA, which allows businesses to make informed implementation decisions for their DR/BC plan.
Record a written form of the BC plan in a secure, redundant data center and ascertain risks in the following areas:
- communication infrastructure,
- access and authorization,
- physical operational environment, and
- internal and external communications.
Many cloud service, telecom, and colocation providers offer evaluations on current DR plans and provide directional measures that help businesses create comprehensive BC supplements. However, the most important factor is preparation. Businesses shouldn’t ignore the need to develop a BC plan; the best time to address emergency tactics is before they are actually needed.