A Holistic Guide to Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning

Heading into mid-to-late Summer, many organizations use this time of year to strategize or restrategize how they’ll prepare for a major crisis. A huge component of this process is planning for business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR). Without a robust system of practices, technology, and strategies dedicated to carrying on with operations and retaining its brand image, an enterprise could become obsolete after just one incident. 

Whether you’re referring to a natural, cyber, political, or health-related catastrophe, the aggregate data shows that small businesses especially suffer from a break in operations. In fact, 90% will close permanently if they cannot get back and running within five days of the disaster. 

To make matters worse, 51% of companies do not have any continuity plan. For the ones that do — only one and six small and mid-sized business (SMB) executives understand the specific recovery objectives in terms of timelines and operational goals. When talking specifically about IT disruptions due to a cyber-attack or natural disaster, the cost to an SMB can be a minimum of $10,000 per hour.     

With all of these daunting numbers presented, it’s time to dive deeper into the concepts of BC and DR planning and how it can help keep your business from becoming a victim of these statistics.    

What is a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan? 

Business continuity and disaster recovery plans serve similar purposes in that they are documented procedures and guides used to continue an organization’s operations in the event of a cyber incident, natural disaster, or other scenarios such as a pandemic, civil unrest, or military conflict. The main difference between them is their purpose and when each plan is “activated.”  

A business continuity plan will usually be used during and immediately after an event takes place. It will focus on keeping critical functions of a business up and running so that a firm can minimize operational downtime — ultimately reducing financial losses from the unplanned incident.

A disaster recovery plan is used after an incident to enable critical technology assets such as email servers, databases, and applications critical to a business such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems to be recovered and/or maintain continued functionality. Because keeping or recovering technology infrastructure is essential to operations in today’s business environment, DR planning can be considered an aspect or subset of BC planning.    

Why Prepare for Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery?

From the stats presented earlier in this article, it’s pretty clear as to the business ramifications of not planning for the worst. Regardless of those numbers, BC and DR planning serve numerous vital purposes.

To Have a Secure Production Environment During a Disaster

Starting with the most obvious, BC and DR planning is used to make sure operations are running and recuperate as soon as possible during a disaster. This primarily refers to ensuring products or services are still available for delivery to customers. Businesses will replicate technology systems, resources, and standard procedures relevant to the primary service, distribution, or manufacturing operation to minimize revenue loss.  

To Ensure Up-to-Date Assets Are Always Available

In addition to ensuring operational security by having a production environment always ready to go, BC and DR planning allows for the availability of the most current technology systems. Suppose anything happened to an asset such as the email exchange server, data records, a network, or any other critical IT function. In that case, a firm can quickly recover the most current system because they would be constantly backed up and updated per the BC and DR procedures. 

To Keep in Compliance with Regulatory Requirements 

It’s no secret that much of strategy development and risk management is for some compliance purpose. With that said, BC and DR planning are no exceptions to this trend. Regulatory laws such as HIPAA and governing bodies like the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) explicitly require firms that fall under their umbrella to maintain written continuity plans. 

To Ensure the Supply Chain is Intact 

Have you ever considered that you aren’t the only business impacted by a disaster? Suppliers, contractors, consultants, and those further down the supply chain can also be negatively affected by someone else’s operational shutdown. Managing vendor risks needs to consider preventative security controls and their recovery mechanisms to maintain a healthy supply chain.    

To Maintain Brand Image

A shutdown of any kind will directly impact customer satisfaction and reputation after the fact if you are unable to provide services during or after a disaster. What many fail to consider, however, is that lacking a solid foundation for BC and DR could also impact a client’s desire to do business with a company from the start. There could be contract contingencies or a customer’s personal desire to only work with firms that have a sound continuity plan.  

“Do’s” and “Don’ts” When Planning

Now that you understand the “what” and “why” of BC and DR planning, it’s time to cover the “how.” Organizations make many mistakes in this arena and may forget to follow certain practices when constructing and implementing these plans.    

“Do’s” in BC and DR

  • Invest in Top-Notch Data Centers: Select data centers with excellent uptime guarantees and solid disruption management attributes. Tier 3 or 4 scores per the UptimeInstitute are a great baseline.    
  • Secure the Backup: Ensure you’re using similar security controls for your backup systems as used in your primary production environment. More detailed information on this topic can be found in our article on securing your backup.  
  • Replicate Critical Assets: To the extent that you can, keep the same procedures, devices, and mission critical technology assets like email gateways, networks, data systems, and business applications to preserve similar processes as much as possible during disaster recovery. 
  • Test Backups and Replication Environments: Keep a schedule for continuous testing of your backed up and replicated environments to know how to access and recover them if necessary. These backups serve as usable environments in real-time — helping execute the main goal of BC and DR planning.      
  • Treat DevOps Environments as Critical: Many organizations have DevOps environments in the cloud for programming and delivering internally-used applications. These environments need to be treated as critical by being replicated, backed up, and secured as you would a primary production environment.  

“Don’ts” in BC and DR

  • Don’t Back Up at the Primary Location: Many small and large organizations will back up their resources on their premise in a closet or small office. This defeats the whole purpose, as a physical disaster or local cyber incident would wipe out both the primary production environment AND the backed-up one.
  • Don’t Forget About Your Employees: While you may focus mainly on recovering technology resources to maintain the operation and service your customers, businesses often forget that the stresses of a crisis could impact their employees. Keep constant communication systems ready to go and ensure they understand their roles and responsibilities during an incident.    
  • Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late: Successful BC and DR require pre-planning as the worst disasters and incidents happen unexpectedly. The best time to prepare is now. 

Plan to Continue and Recover with Ascension Global Technology 

Proper business continuity and disaster recovery planning will be the difference between resilience and failure during unexpected service shutdowns. Contact us today to speak to an expert and learn how you can protect your data and technology assets and strategize on how to recover them in a worst-case scenario. Also, be sure to check out our blog for updated news and insights on the world of cybersecurity.   

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