Disaster Recovery vs Business Continuity

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    Businesses run on data. So, you need to ensure that data is protected in a way that you know will allow your business to carry on running. Downtime is not something any business can afford.  That’s where business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) come in. But what exactly are business continuity and disaster recovery? They’re often buzzwords that are bandied about by IT professionals, but you may not really know what they do or how you can implement these solutions in your business.  We can help rectify this. This article will take you through precisely what business continuity and disaster recovery are and how they’re necessary for your business’ survival and success. 

    What is business continuity?

    Business continuity will provide you with a strategy that ensures that the essential functions of your business continue, even after a disaster. This strategy will typically include risk management processes to ensure that mission-critical services are not interrupted. As well as stabilising your business after a disaster, the continuity plan will make sure that your business returns lost operations as quickly as possible.  Ultimately, the most basic requirements of a business continuity plan is that essential functions are maintained. This should result in as little downtime as possible for the business model. A continuity plan will consider a variety of different issues including everything from cybersecurity threats to natural disasters.  Be aware that a business continuity plan is not simply suited for larger businesses. All companies should aim to have a plan like this in place. However, it may only be possible for large businesses to maintain every function through a disaster. As such, part of the planning process will involve determining what functions are critical and must be protected. These processes will then be added to the plan with failover mechanisms. (Failover involves transferring all applications and processes to a redundant IT system, generally in a secondary location so that operations can continue). Many businesses now use the cloud to ensure that they have the protection required in this type of event. With cloud disaster recovery software, a business can be provided with a backup of key systems that can replace corrupted files in minutes. 

    What does a business continuity plan include?

    Typically a business continuity plan will have three crucial elements. These are resilience, recovery and a certain level of contingency.  To ensure reliance is achieved, sections of the business will typically be designed with a disaster in mind. This can include everything from maintaining a higher level of capacity than necessary to the rotation of staff, as well as essential services that could be off-site.  The recovery process is going to be crucial to make sure that different systems and networks resume functions. As such, the benefit of disaster recovery is usually part of a business continuity plan. But it is worth exploring this concept individually, to ensure that you understand the key aspects. Recovery may be more than just tech processes and can include using various spaces that have been converted for critical functions of the business.  A contingency plan may include a full chain of command which is used to distribute new responsibilities within a business. 

    What is disaster recovery?

    As mentioned, disaster recovery will typically be a crucial part of a business continuity plan. It will ensure that a business is able to resume mission-critical functions after a disaster has taken place. Each individual company must determine what functions should be considered mission-critical in its business model and plan a recovery accordingly.  Be aware that a disaster that triggers a recovery could be anything from a cyber attack to a potentially disastrous natural occurrence. The main aim of the recovery will be to ensure that the business gains a level of functioning that is as near to normal as possible. This process will typically involve both testing and planning. It may even involve unique sites specifically for these changes to operations. 

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    Let’s get technical…

    Downtime can be critical for a business. Recent studies have shown that many businesses can fail after suffering from significant levels of data loss that can occur in a disaster. There are two measures used to ensure that a business will be able to successfully regain functioning. These are the Restore Time Objective (RTO) and Restore Point Objective (RPO).  The RTO is the typical amount of time it will take to resume operations once a disaster has occurred. It is the maximum amount of downtime that a business can suffer before the situation becomes critical. The number of hours will be determined by the specifics of the business model.  RPO is the age of the files that must be recovered once a disaster occurs. Again, this will depend on the specifics of the business model. With an RPO of six hours, this would require the business to backup systems at least every six hours.  There are a variety of options to ensure that a business is set up with a backup system in place that will provide the right solution. For instance, a recovery-in-place system will guarantee that data can be accessed more rapidly. Here, data for the backup is moved to a live state, ensuring that data does not need to be moved across a network. It also provides protection from a potential server failure.  A disaster recovery plan will usually involve studying and researching the best way to respond to different issues and incidents that may impact the IT infrastructure within the business. This may also include a risk assessment to ensure that typical issues are evaluated and significant threats can be dealt with the right way. 

    Why do you need a business continuity and disaster recovery plan?

    There is an incredible level of exposure in the market for businesses today. Everything from weather-related issues to cyber hacks must be taken into consideration. Business continuity and disaster recovery plans provide a critical way to ensure that you’re not relying on your employees to bounce back without the right support in place. This will avoid issues with confusion during a disaster as well. It also stops you from having to rely on your insurance coverage in the wake of a disaster. Remember, insurance won’t cover every impact of a disaster, such as the loss of customers. As well as this, approximately 25% of businesses will not open up again after a disaster has occurred. It can cause a complete shut down due to issues that the company was not prepared for. A disaster recovery and business continuity plan will also ensure that you have a competitive edge as nearly half of businesses operating today may not have a plan like this in place. 

    How can you implement business continuity and disaster recovery effectively?

    So now you know the difference between business continuity and disaster recovery, it’s important to make sure that you are implementing them both in your business. With a plan like this in place, you can make sure that your business is ready for the worst-case scenarios and that you’ll be able to continue functioning after a disaster. Normal functions will also resume as quickly as possible. The best way to get started here is to make sure that you’re gaining support from disaster recovery specialists to create a perfect disaster recovery solution for your business.  Disaster Recovery as a Service, or DRaaS, has grown in popularity recently, ensuring that there are few operating responsibilities for businesses and lower costs for the company. It also means that you don’t need to hire in-house experts while still getting the full solution that you need. Usually, these solutions are cloud-based, providing an innovative and advanced system to keep your company protected.  With the right expertise, you can gain peace of mind that your business is being protected the right way from the greatest possible disasters you could encounter today.

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    Rob Townsend

    Rob is a co-founder at Nexstor and has dedicated his career to helping a range of organisations from SME to Enterprise to get ahead of the game when it comes to their compute, storage and data needs.

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