Any business can be susceptible to a disaster which unexpectedly disrupts day-to-day business activities. In an age where businesses rely on technology to remain competitive, operating without a disaster recovery plan is a risky business and a serious threat to business continuity for any organization.
The increased reliance on IT infrastructure to streamline business processes and maintain a competitive advantage has made planning for business continuity more important than ever. Planning for business continuity requires a comprehensive assessment of potential losses from a disaster and this can often take quite a bit of time, particularly if there is no recovery plan in place.
The old adage, “Failure to plan means you plan to fail” is quite true when it comes to business continuity. Organizations that do not plan in advance for a disaster typically suffer a significant amount of downtime depending upon the nature and effects of the disaster itself. In fact, failing to plan for business continuity is the number one reason most businesses close their doors following a catastrophe while others that have a disaster recovery plan in place continue to flourish.
What is Business Continuity?
Business continuity is sometimes known as business continuance and is a process which defines the procedures which are to be followed by an organization to ensure critical business processes will continue to function during and following a disaster. A business continuity plan includes a solid disaster recovery plan which helps a business to prevent the disruption of services which are mission-critical to business processes.
The process of planning for business continuity involves a decision making process. The plan begins with deciding which functions are the most critical to enable failover systems to be put in place. This is followed by a plan for maintaining critical services at an alternative location along with a contingency plan which outlines events which can seriously impact a business following an unexpected disaster.
Why and How Important Is It for a Business To Have a Strategic Business Continuity Solution in Place?
The importance of a business continuity plan should never be underestimated. In fact, with the increased reliance on technology infrastructures for critical business operations, planning for disaster recovery should be placed very high on the priority list.
Statistical analysis studies have shown that more than 80 percent of organizations which encounter a disaster can expect to go out of business within a year following the event. Regardless of whether disasters occur as the result of a manmade reason or via an act of nature, they can occur anywhere and at any time.
Substantial evidence also shows that businesses which implement business continuity plans prior to a disaster often ride out catastrophes with minimal or no loss of data, hardware, or business revenue. This in turn allows organizations to maintain business continuity and consumer confidence as well as the support of company shareholders.
When you think about it, what would you do if your business facilities were damaged or destroyed during a disaster? How would you relocate in time to continue serving your customer base? Would you be prepared by having the proper resources, databases, contact information and other necessary items to adapt to these changes?
Having a solid business continuity plan provides answers to these questions by helping you to identify the critical business components. Investing the time in advance will ensure business survival following an unanticipated disaster.
Who Can Help You Setup A Business Continuity Solution For Your Business?
Implementing a business continuity plan will affect your business on many different levels, which is why it is essential to ensure the inception of disaster recovery technologies is done correctly from the very start.
As more companies seek effective business continuity solutions, there is an increased number of business continuity and disaster recovery solution providers which employ a staff of experienced professionals which hold accreditation from Microsoft, Citrix, Cisco, VMware, and other IT sources. Additionally, if you are already using a cloud solutions provider, many of the cloud vendors provide consultants, which have extensive expertise in business continuity solutions.
There is also a host of independent consultants which specialize in helping businesses develop business continuity and disaster recovery plans, like this company for example. In this case, it is important to invest the time to research the company before choosing to employ a business continuity consultant since you want to ensure business processes will continue in the most reliable and effective way possible following a disaster.
What Plans Need To Be Put In Place Before Disaster Strikes? What Are Some of the Best Practices?
Business continuity and disaster recovery plans typically follow common standard procedures, with variations added according to the individual requirements of an organization. The following areas are common considerations which are included in a solid plan for recovery:
- Risk Assessment: Understanding the risks associated with a disaster is the first step toward creating policies and procedures for business continuity. Most businesses integrate the risk assessment into the overall risk management strategy. This means identifying and analyzing the risks at every level of company operations. This includes the evaluation of business assets, their value in terms of priority, associated vulnerabilities, and the ability of a company to anticipate and act on events likely to have a critical impact on the organization.
- Disaster Recovery: To ensure business processes continue in the event of a disaster, the disaster recovery portion of planning typically includes a calculation for the maximum length of time that an outage can be tolerated. Identifications follow this calculation with system threats such as data and application failure, hardware failure, power outages, and other critical business components. Then a contingency plan is formulated for recovery within the time deemed acceptable and tolerable.
- Backup and Business Continuity: Backup of critical information should be organized into multiple levels and systems of backup. In the event one method fails, the company can opt to use another method for restoring data which is critical to business operations and revenue. The different levels should include a consistent schedule for backup at different times, offsite storage backup, and an audit of the backup system on a continual basis.
- Ongoing Testing: There should a system in place for ongoing testing of the business continuity plan to ensure everything goes smoothly. This also allows for the recognition of any weaknesses before a real disaster strikes.
How Important Is It To Integrate Mobility Into Your Business Continuity Plan?
The increased use of mobile devices can be an advantage when disaster strikes due to the ability to continue with business processes. The prevalence of mobile device use provides company workers with the ability to easily work from a remote location in the event of an emergency. At the same token, mobile device use has also made disaster recovery strategies a little more complex.
The use of mobile devices for company business requires additional data center infrastructure and mobile device management. This can increase complexities for business continuity since it represents one more system which requires planning. Additionally, there may be business applications which are not supported by mobile devices so this concern must be planned out in advance.
For the reasons described above, mobility should be integrated into a business continuity plan, especially if you are an organization which employs mobile workers. Additionally, it can be beneficial in helping your business recover from an unanticipated disaster.
The above considerations when planning for business continuity offer multiple benefits which ensure fast and efficient recovery.
- Improved Business Processes: This is because critical components undergo close analysis which makes areas of improvement easier to identify in advance.
- Stable IT Systems: In order to create recovery objectives for business continuity and disaster recovery planning, you must assess the current IT infrastructure and maintain consistent systems across the board.
- Reduced Disruption to Business Processes: Since business continuity planning often means making changes in the IT architecture to meet recovery objectives, the result is fewer outages.
- Improved Services: The improvement in technology and processes required to meet objectives during business continuity planning, will in turn mean that the company ends up providing higher quality services both within an organization and externally to customers and supply chains.
- Ongoing Competitiveness: A proper business continuity and disaster recovery plan helps a company to maintain a competitive edge. This keeps the customers coming back and the shareholders happy.
What modern technologies are used to implement a business continuity solution?
Since most of today’s businesses are heavily dependent upon IT systems, recovery strategies should be implemented for IT infrastructures, data, and applications. This includes servers, networks, desktops, mobile and wireless devices, and connectivity.
Company IT systems require technologies which support hardware, software, data and connectivity. Without one system component, the others may or may not function properly. Therefore, recovery strategies using modern technologies should be developed in preparation for the loss of one or more of the following:
- IT Infrastructure Environment: It is necessary to plan for an alternative IT infrastructure environment complete with backup power supply, climate controls, and other components which keep the system functioning properly.
- Hardware: This includes all appliances, networks, PCs, and mobile devices.
- ISP Connectivity: Regardless if you have wireless, cable, or fiber optics, ongoing connectivity is important to business continuity.
- Software: Many businesses handle massive amounts of data which means access to software applications is critical to business continuity. This includes data storage, ERP applications, office productivity applications, email, and data exchange.
- Data Recovery and Restoration: Access to data is a critical component of business continuity.
It is important to mention, there are business applications which cannot withstand any downtime. In this case, businesses will tap into multiple data centers which are capable of handling business processes in a virtualized environment. The data centers utilize data mirroring and synchronization techniques which unify business processes across more than one data center. Additionally, many companies use data center services which have a disaster recovery plan for their own infrastructure. This ensures business continuity on the part of the service provider which enables them to continue to offer services to businesses during and following a disaster.
The other technologies which businesses use to implement a business continuity solution include internal and vendor supported recovery strategies. From the in-house standpoint, businesses typically setup access to multiple facilities by configuring hardware at a backup location which is capable of running hardware and software applications at a moment’s notice. When the data is synchronized between the two sites, it can be restored during a disaster at the alternative location to enable business processes to continue.
In terms of vendor supported strategies, many businesses enlist the services of a cloud vendor which can provide an alternative site for disaster recovery. The alternative sites are fully configured data centers which are capable of providing a unique environment which meets specific business requirements.
In this scenario, the cloud vendor assumes responsibility for data security and access as well as access to critical business applications and services. These processes can be accessed at the primary business location or an alternative disaster recovery site simply by opening your web browser.
Wikipedia Business Continuity page – click here
The A to Z of Disaster Recovery – click here