How To Build a Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery Strategy (That Works)
When planning ahead, many businesses focus on stability, continuity and growth. From finding a competitive edge over other businesses to setting up a reliable supply chain, modern businesses need to be adaptable, dynamic and flexible in the face of changing markets and potential disruptions. That’s why it’s important to build a forward-thinking, informed business continuity strategy.
In the business world, large and small organisations alike rarely receive advance notice of an impending disaster. Even with time to prepare, using modern techniques such as predictive data analytics, multiple things can simply go wrong. Every event is unique and may unfold in unexpected ways you and your team simply aren’t prepared for. This is where a business continuity plan really shines. To give your business the best shot at success, you need an up-to-date strategy in place that will minimise the risk of an operational disruption – and help you regain control if it does occur.
Although it’s impossible to prepare for every eventuality and/or potential disruption, a business continuity strategy, also known as a BCP, can give your organisation the guidelines it needs to avoid downtime and protect its critical business procedures and processes. Ensuring you have an effective business continuity and disaster recovery strategy in place can also help your organisation recover from disruptions such as natural disasters, fires or even cyber crime with maximum efficiency. The biggest difficulty, of course, lies in identifying all the potential hazards that could have an impact on your operations before coming up with a plan to prevent or recover from each issue.
So what is the difference between disaster recovery and business continuity? How can you build a strategy that incorporates both? And perhaps most important, what is business continuity anyway?
What is business continuity?
Business continuity is a universal term that refers to the ongoing maintenance of crucial business functions as well as the set of processes an organisation can use to quickly resume operations in the event of a major disruption. As the name suggests, a business continuity strategy outlines the procedures and instructions a business can follow in the face of operational disruption and often covers important processes, digital assets and the restoration of IT infrastructure.
Disaster recovery and business continuity.
As both disaster recovery and business continuity overlap with one another, preparation for both processes often overlaps.
Also known as a BCP, a business continuity plan is a collection of strategies designed to maintain operations after a disruptive event. A typical business continuity plan consists of a series of policies and practices that aim to prevent various threats from interfering with business operations. Processes include repairing damage when it does occur, resuming normal operations and daily practices with maximum efficiency and improving previous countermeasures.
A BCP essentially serves as an overview of all potential effects on a firm following a disruption and presents a series of detailed solutions. A disaster recovery plan should include how to restart servers, networks and other digital assets following the disruption, and focuses on getting a business back up and running.
So what’s the difference?
Business continuity creates the required controls and processes an organisation will need to keep operations operating when a disaster happens, whereas disaster recovery concentrates on IT infrastructure and the systems that support business processes. Disaster recovery is often included within a BCP and is a set of processes and actions that aim to restore business operations following a disruption. Disaster recovery strategies often entail data protection and security as well as the restoration of networks and crucial infrastructure. Most plans also include how a business can switch over to an alternative system as well as retrieve any offsite backups.
In a nutshell, a disaster recovery strategy lays out how your business will deal with any disruptions in the event of unexpected downtime. This includes disruptions to networks and servers, computers, mobile devices and even tablets. A disaster recovery plan covers how to re-establish productivity following a disruption so that key business needs can still be met even in the event of a disruption or disaster – hence the name, disaster recovery. Disaster recovery strategies often include manual workarounds, as well as other automated processes.
Building a business continuity plan.
To avoid falling victim to the fallacy that your business will avoid any operation-altering contingencies in the future, it pays to take a few steps that will assist you and your organisation in minimising the likelihood of such events occurring.
To start building your business continuity plan, you can begin by…
Identifying any weaknesses.
As every business is different, it can be challenging to identify universal risks. That’s why it’s important to recognise operational risks unique to your own business and plan accordingly. Common points of weaknesses can include:
- IT Infrastructure – When building your business continuity plan, it’s important to take any physical IT infrastructure and hardware into account as well as the systems and networks that equipment supports.
- Your employees – Any event that could potentially threaten your employees and their productivity and their ability to work should be considered. This includes ensuring their personal data is kept secure.
- Data – In this day and age, data and information are both highly regarded assets in the business world. If your data is vulnerable, you could be putting your business at risk from cyber crime and other disruptive events. Protecting your data from any software and/or hardware failures as a result of cyber crime and natural disasters should be prioritised.
- External supply chains and partners – If your business relies on any external supply chains or is partnered with other companies, any event that disrupts that relationship or impacts other parties could have an impact on the continuity of your own operations.
Determining your critical infrastructure and assets.
Before building your business continuity plan, you also need to identify the critical infrastructure and assets that make your business tick. This includes any systems or networks that are absolutely necessary for maintaining your operations. Many businesses prioritise their digital assets and IT infrastructure and conduct a risk analysis, before developing a set of processes and strategies that will protect and defend those assets during and following a disruption.
Identifying primary threats.
While some solutions will protect your business from common threats, it’s important to identify any risks or threats unique to your business. A company like Acronyms IT Support, for example, would be more concerned with cyber attacks and internet connectivity issues than problems with a supply chain, which might throw a restaurant or a bakery into chaos. It’s important to consider these threats and determine which recovery methods will be the most effective for your business.
The most common threats to your business continuity can often be divided into two categories: internal and external. Internal disruptions include human error and network failures while external threats can range from natural disasters such as power outages to cyber attacks.
Identified your critical assets and any potential threats to your operations? The next step is creating your business continuity plan and testing it out.
It’s important to incorporate a proactive approach to your strategy, for the purpose of resolving any issues before they escalate, as well as including a forward-thinking disaster recovery strategy to recover operations as quickly as possible should a disruption occur. Doing so can reveal other discrepancies, such as issues that might threaten the continuity and profitability of your business that you may not have thought of. For example, if you’re planning on implementing more cloud-centric solutions in your daily business practices such as offsite backups, a power outage affecting your internet connectivity or the data centre where you store your network could result in a significant issue for your business.
It’s also important to consider how your staff will react when a disruption occurs. Your employees are the lifeblood of your organisation, so it’s important that they understand the processes laid out within your BCP and how to implement each step. This applies to both major and minor events, from a natural disaster to a system crash.
Does my business need a disaster recovery plan?
When planning your business continuity strategy, you may consider whether or not you need to include a disaster recovery plan. The reality is that these days, every minute of downtime translates to a loss in revenue and profitability.
In a fast-paced data-driven climate, even the smallest disruption can have a lasting financial impact. This reality also extends to smaller businesses. For large and local organisations alike, there are several potential points of failure that can be lethal for both the customer-facing front end of a business and any internal IT infrastructure, which can result in the loss of access to data, resources and critical tools. That’s why a successful disaster recovery plan is essential in assisting modern businesses to reduce downtime.
Choosing your IT support provider.
When it comes to disaster recovery and getting started, a professional IT support service is the simplest way of implementing a continuity plan into your business operations. Your IT support partner will be able to make sure your business has the proper procedures in place in case of a disruption. They also often offer a proactive service that aims to resolve issues before they escalate.
While your business can make every effort to avert a catastrophe, the reality is that some disruptions are simply beyond our control. The good news is that with the right IT support partner and a little bit of planning, your business can prevent significant downtime and the financial loss that often accompanies it.
At the end of the day, a disaster recovery plan should be precise and focused on the essential tasks and actions needed to resume operations. It also requires regular testing, reviews and updates, which is why it’s important for a manager such as an IT support provider to take ownership of your strategy and ensure it’s kept current.
Business continuity at Acronyms IT Support.
The possibility of extended downtime is something you may not want to think about. However, preparing your organisation for an operational disruption can pay off in the future. Such plans should take into account the most common threats. This includes natural disasters and cyber crime, as well as internal threats such as human error and system crashes.
Nowadays, it’s challenging to find a business strategy that isn’t data-driven in some way, shape or form. Data loss and disruption can result from any number of factors. That’s why when it comes to your business continuity plan, you may like to consider partnering with a professional IT support company. Many IT support providers offer disaster recovery strategies and business continuity planning services. Both solutions can help your organisation prepare for the worst as well as cement continuity in your daily operations.
Acronyms IT Support has been assisting large and local businesses alike with their continuity and disaster recovery strategies since 2003. Our experienced team of consultants, engineers and technicians offer a diverse array of dynamic solutions and services, from disaster recovery plans to cyber security and offsite backups. We can assess your organisation, your processes and your practices before implementing the bespoke continuity plan you need to flourish, evolve and grow.
If you have any questions about implementing a business continuity strategy or would like to speak to a member of our team about managed IT support services, contact Acronyms IT Support today.