The terms Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery are not interchangeable though many seem to think otherwise. Disaster Recovery (DR) versus Business Continuity (BC) are two entirely different strategies, each of which plays a significant aspect in safeguarding business operations.
When it comes to protecting your data, it is critical to understand the differences and plan ahead. Those differences arise from both usage and application after a catastrophe strikes.
Business continuity consists of a plan of action. It ensures that regular business will continue even during a disaster.
Disaster recovery is a subset of business continuity planning.
Disaster recovery plans involve restoring vital support systems. Those systems are mostly communications, hardware, and IT assets. Disaster recovery aims to minimize business downtime and focuses on getting technical operations back to normal in the shortest time possible.
Business Continuity Has a Wider Scope
Business Continuity management refers to the processes and procedures that associates take to make sure that regular business operations continue during a disaster.
It can mean the difference between survival and total shutdown. It is based on a relentless analysis and isolation of critical business processes.
One of the key benefits is the focus on business processes. You assess what you must do in the event of a disaster. You articulate benefits versus cost. This is just solid data management, even if catastrophe never occurs.
So, you have already decided which business functions are critical. You have flagged what can be suspended until you fully recover. You have a priority list.
For example, would you concentrate on active customers only? What are your priorities for supply and warehouse management?
Federal and state laws require formal disaster recovery planning.
For example, financial enterprises must have a business continuity plan. The healthcare industry must comply with HIPAA requirements.
With business continuity planning, you have earmarked your resources.
Those resources support your most essential functions. They include any support equipment, software, and stock required to move forward. You manage that stock by keeping your inventory current. You rotate consumable supplies through your emergency stock.
Moreover, you have identified your key staff people. They know what they must do and when they must do it. For every job there is to do, someone must be designated to do it. The designated “doers” must be qualified to carry on the business in the event of a disaster. So, the plan has to include practice and update of the plan as necessary.
The plan must also focus on customers and the supply chain. Suppliers must know that their payment invoices are in the pipeline and ready for payment. Customers must be confident that their orders will be filled or only temporarily delayed, perhaps with a discount premium.
Finally, your BC plan must include a process to replace and recover your IT systems. That contains valuable business data. For example, is your network designed for data backup and recovery?
Failover is where a secondary system kicks in when the first one goes down. How much will it cost you to replace storm-ruined hardware?
Disaster Recovery Plan
Disaster recovery is a subspace of total business continuity planning. A DR plan includes getting systems up and running following a disaster.
IT disasters can range from small hardware failures to massive security breaches.
The statistics on companies that suffer an IT disaster are incredible.
93 percent will file for bankruptcy within one year. Of that 93 percent, 60 percent can expect to shut down within six months. A complete system crash and loss of data is like the aftermath of a burglary. You don’t know what is missing until you go looking for it.
One contributing cause in those business failures is the lack of a written plan. The plan should include a business impact analysis. Many businesses write the plan, but neglect to update it, at least annually. For example, when the natural disaster Hurricane Harvey caused unexpected inland flooding in Houston. Many businesses were quickly inundated as people struggled to evacuate.
Infrastructure technology-related planning failures also include a lack of recovery and business continuity procedural guides. How do you methodically restore each critical application in your IT structure? How long will it take to restore your system by way of backups? What is your restore-point tolerance? A restore point is a time between your last cloud backup and when your system went down.
Finally, if no single person is responsible for data recovery preparedness, how can it occur? That person has to have the authority to work across the organization.
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Don’t Rely on Business Insurance
A business insurance policy may only cover loss or damage to your inventory and equipment.
Even if your organization survives a disaster, without effective planning, you will face the following losses:
- Financial: Lost profits, a lower market share, government fines because of data breaches. HIPAA fines, for example, have amounted to multi-millions.
- Damage to your reputation, brand through negative publicity.
- Sanctions: Loss of your business license, or legal liability. You could lose time and money even if you win the lawsuit.
- Breach of contract: Your inability to meet your obligations to clients. Includes a ripple effect up and down your supply chain. This could even drive some of your suppliers and customers out of business.
- Dead in the water: Stalled or frozen business objectives and plans, missed market opportunities.
Bottom Line: Recovery and Business Continuity
The difference between business continuity and disaster recovery is quite specific.
Business continuity planning is a strategy. It ensures continuity of operations with minimal service outage or downtime. A business disaster recovery plan can restore data and critical applications in the event your systems are destroyed when disaster strikes.
Balancing two planning strategies is a matter of priorities. If the majority of your business transactions are online, you need to make data protection your number one concern. Losing all or some of your data could halt your operations. You could not bill customers, pay vendors, or access your inventory information. Your competitive intelligence would disappear.
You need to know how long you can wait to get back to full operation before the pain starts. You also must weigh that delay against the costs of planning and execution. Fortunately, reliable managed services providers and consultants know how to do that. They can address your concerns in a cost-effective and compliant manner.
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