In these unpredictable times, having the right continuity and recovery strategies in place can mean the difference between your business operations carrying on as usual or grinding to a halt. Therefore, having well-thought-out Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plans can keep critical business functions in place even in the event of a major disruption.
What are Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plans?
Disaster Recovery plans specify how you will resume operations after a major disaster -for example, where will data be hosted after a fire at your facility, and how will employees access business critical data?
Business continuity means maintaining mission-critical business processes operating correctly while you execute your Disaster Recovery Plan. A Business Continuity Plan (BC Plan) outlines the manner in which a business will sustain an acceptable level of operation during failure or incident. A well-designed BC Plan may even prevent a “disaster” such as equipment failure from ever affecting your operation, through appropriate use of redundancy and failover, for example. BC Plans contain specifications and contingencies for business processes, all types of assets, applications and data, human and business resources, and any other aspect that’s key for normal operations.
Why is planning important?
Infrastructure failures in the event of a disaster can be costly, or can even irrevocably affect business functions. A BC / DR Plan addresses potential vulnerabilities to keep a company or organization running smoothly, provides support in times of crisis, improve recovery time, identify possible threats, protect data centers, minimize downtime, safeguard employees, and help with information technology disaster recovery.
As critical systems become more intertwined, disruptions to any one system can affect your entire network in unanticipated ways. A BC Plan addresses these emerging issues and provides more accurate impact analysis to help with the overall resiliency of businesses. The alternative would be to face possible catastrophic losses, incur the ire of customers, and potentially go out of business altogether.
Anatomy of a Business Continuity / Disaster Recovery Plan
A solid Business Continuity / Disaster Recovery Plan has two primary goals:
- Maintain high availability: this provides backup and alternate access to applications and processes so that an organization or business can keep its system and services operational even in the event of a local systems failure. Anything from business processes, IT hardware or software, to physical facilities can fail and needs to be a part of the BC/DR Plan.
- Keep operations running smoothly: in the case of any type of disruption, operations need to be safeguarded. Of course, this includes even planned shortages, like maintenance and backups. A BC/DR Plan will identify and assess every possible contingency and incident.
4 steps to start a Business Continuity plan
Developing a Business Continuity plan requires four essential steps:
- Creating a business continuity management team that will identify the scope of the plan, as well as key business areas.
- Identifying critical functions, as well as dependencies between different areas, functions, and departments.
- Creating measures for impact analysis and risk assessment, as well as maintaining operations.
- Correctly and thoroughly implementing recovery strategies, as well as a recovery time objective (acceptable downtime) and accurate testing.
The development of a Business Continuity / Disaster Recovery Plan
A BC / DR Plan will not develop itself out of thin air. Any company or organization will need to follow the rules above to reach success, and moreover, it will need the complete involvement of senior managers, subordinates, and employees. In this case, the right hand always needs to know what the left is doing.
When the BC / DR Plan is partially in place, it’s important to constantly review and update it. Having input from multiple departments, branches, employees, or units will be absolutely necessary in order to obtain diverse viewpoints that will help identify the correct strategy for every scenario.
Do a risk assessment using a business continuity framework
Any solid business continuity plan starts with a thorough risk assessment. But, risk assessment for a BCP needs to be even more thorough than usual, so most companies use a business continuity framework like ISO or a NIST cybersecurity framework. These will help map out what processes are critical to support business, and how to match those processes to the corresponding assets.
The importance of testing your Business Continuity / Disaster Recovery Plan
Battle-testing your BC / DR Plan is the only way to determine whether it will work or not. While a real incident is going to be the only truly realistic metric, rigorous testing, exercises, walkthroughs, and simulations are close second bests.
Remember: the bare minimum just won’t cut it, and most organizations test their BC / DR Plan at least annually; This includes disaster simulation testing.
As a general rule, BC / DR plans become more resilient the more they’re tested. Therefore, consistently submit your continuity plan to controlled stress to help maximize chances for success and mitigate any negative outcomes.
Working with a strategic partner for your Business Continuity Plan
Finding the right partner for your business continuity plan can make or break your plan. A deep analysis of your business requirements, actual state and on-going tests are crucial to put a plan together that doesn’t only work on paper, but that your business can truly rely one. Contact us to learn more about our approach.