Business continuity and disaster recovery: you’ve probably heard of them before, but how much do you know about them?
Though the two terms are often used interchangeably, they don’t mean the same thing at all. Effectively planning how to manage data in the event of downtime or disasters requires you to have a deep understanding of the differences between them. If you fail to differentiate between the two, you could be in for a world of confusion.
Businesses rely on a wealth of information technology on a daily basis. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and email are essential communication tools; electronic data interchange (EDI) helps transmit data sourced from orders and payments; servers process and store data, desktop and laptop computers are used in the creation and management of information.
Any of this technology could cease to operate properly at any given moment. When companies fail to plan for this possibility, they fail to protect themselves from the risks of lost data or unplanned downtime. An IT disaster recovery or business continuity plan can help ensure that businesses lose minimal information and work time.
It’s widely-advised that businesses have both disaster recovery and business continuity plans in place. A thorough disaster recovery plan could save organizations immense amounts of time and funds should the unexpected occur. The ideal business continuity plan will help protect a brand from the likelihood of downtime and inform staff of the next steps to take if outages do occur.
By design, these solutions fit together to form an approach which blends proactivity and reactivity. Businesses must balance their budgets, tolerance for time to restore function, and ability to fend off service issues as they make their protection choices.
What is Disaster Recovery?
Disaster recovery (or DR) refers to a business’ ability to successfully deploy an IT disaster recovery plan (or IT DRP). This recovery plan should serve to restore data and applications critical to the business in the event of damage or disaster. Most disaster recovery efforts center around recovering and restoring applications and data as quickly as possible.
Disaster recovery plans are meant to be broad and easily-accessible. Everybody within your company should know exactly what to do in order to begin restoring data and software in the event of an emergency.
Creating an IT disaster recovery plan
Taking a handful of steps will help contribute to a thorough and effective IT disaster recovery plan:
- Compile a list of all hardware (this includes desktops, laptops, servers, wireless devices, etc.)
- Compile a list of critical data and software applications
- Note IT resources that are critical to time-sensitive business functions
- Keep copies of software for re-installation on new equipment
- Prioritize hardware and software restoration
- Anticipate the loss of a computer room environment, hardware, software, data, and connectivity to a service provider
Common disaster recovery strategies are varied; they depend heavily on a business’ needs and priorities. Generally speaking, a business can look internally to create their IT disaster recovery plan or they may choose to partner with a vendor for support:
- Internal: Using hardware at alternate facilities to run applications, backing up or mirroring data offsite so that it can be restored at alternate sites
- Vendor-supported: Using vendor “hot sites” to source or store unique equipment or software in case of disaster, relying on vendor-hosted data streams and applications
What is Business Continuity?
Business continuity (or BC) planning has more to do with mitigating the impacts of downtime and service outages. Business continuity plans are seen as more proactive and protective approaches to maintaining system and business functionality. BC planning is especially essential to brands who are highly transactional by nature– even a minimal lapse in operation could cause big issues.
BC plans are about ensuring that normal business operations can continue in the event of a disaster. They should encompass everything from employees’ ability to access data to ensuring there’s a safe workplace for staff to use in an emergency.
While disaster recovery should be a sweeping effort to keep data safe an accessible, business continuity plans are more granular. The various measures and steps of these plans should be implemented within multiple levels of an organization. A business continuity plan can be seen as an organization’s first line of defense against disaster or downtime; disaster recovery acts as a safety net.
Creating a business continuity plan
In order to create a valuable business continuity plan, you’ll need to address a handful of questions. These include:
- What are your key business areas and critical functions?
- What dependencies exist between these areas and functions?
- What downtimes are acceptable for each critical function?
- What potential threats exist? How could they impact business operations?
The Pros and Cons of Each Approach
Disaster recovery: the pros
Let’s face it: disasters happen. No matter how well you prepare or what steps you take to try to mitigate their effects, damaging and problematic events can occur outside of your control. Even the perfect business continuity plan can’t always keep your data safe. That’s why disaster recovery plans are so important. They’re there to catch you when you might not have expected to fall in the first place.
Disaster recovery plans are also cost-efficient. While you may need to cough up some dough to get preventative measures in place or outsource some of the work to make it happen, there’s no doubt that disaster recovery can save you cash in the long run. Knowing which corrective measures to take and when helps mitigate loss in the event of a disaster.
Employee productivity often goes up after putting together a DR plan, too. Disaster recovery is all about making sure your employees have specific tasks and responsibilities that they know how to handle in the event of a disaster. It’s a good opportunity to see who needs refreshers on certain business operations. You may also recognize gaps in your training or in your staff’s knowledge base as you put together your plan.
Business continuity: the pros
Business continuity management is a proactive approach to keeping employees, data, and workplaces safe and able to function. This is obviously a huge upswing to a business continuity plan– working ahead of problems to address them before they spiral out of control is never a bad idea.
Being proactive is just good policy. We’re taught to try to be proactive from our grade school days. There’s a good reason for it, too; taking measures to protect your business against downtime and potential threats helps give you peace of mind and keep your data safe. Disaster recovery fails to plan for some of these factors.
Disaster recovery: the cons
If you want your disaster recovery plan to be effective, it needs to be high-quality. Poorly-written disaster recovery plans have the potential to lead to more panic, discord, and downtime in the heat of the moment. If your team can’t put together a clear, comprehensive plan, it could make implementation difficult. Many companies fail to properly test their plans or rely on the wrong technology. This leaves them vulnerable in the event of disaster.
Those who must select between either a business continuity or a disaster recovery plan also have to contend with DR’s reactive nature. Most risk analysis experts will advise it’s preferable to work against threats before they play out. Because business continuity planning places so much more focus on preventing downtime, disaster recovery starts to pale in comparison.
Business continuity: the cons
The process of business continuity planning can feel never-ending. It’s time-consuming and there’s no exact formula to spell out what might work for your brand. It’s a slow, progressive journey towards safer data and software. Not every business has the time, patience, or money to spend on an ever-evolving collection of steps that they hope will keep them safe.
If your organization elects to forego disaster recovery planning entirely in favor of a BC plan, you could be in deep water. Business continuity planning is an excellent way to up your peace of mind and mitigate the likelihood of a disaster impacting workflow; however, it does little to inform the steps you take in the event a disaster does occur. This where the disaster recovery plan reigns supreme. BC plans don’t offer guidance when it comes to what to do after a disaster.
How Applied Innovations Can Help
Applied Innovations is a team of Microsoft Cloud experts. We understand how to leverage powerful, innovative new technology to keep your data safe and support your brand’s business efforts. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an eCommerce mogul or you manage an online business that’s still working to find its roots– you deserve to feel safe and secure. That’s where we come in.
We offer our clients a number of cloud IT solutions and managed disaster recovery services. When you partner with us, your organization gains peace of mind; our team’s extensive knowledge and experience position us as experts in our field. That means we’re well-equipped to support you through the planning and implementation processes once you’ve committed to disaster recovery.
Looking for a partner to help keep your business safe? Get in touch today. A friendly, knowledgeable member of our team will be eager to speak with you. We’ll work closely with your brand to determine your needs. From there, we’ll help you create a customized roadmap to success. No matter what your business needs, we’re well-poised to help make it happen.