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From simple human errors to ransomware attacks and full-scale natural disasters, the threats organization face today vary in nature and magnitude. The longer an organization goes without access to its data and business systems, the greater the financial and reputational implications. Building resiliency against such wide-ranging threats is key to surviving and thriving in the ever-evolving business landscape.
As organizations strive for zero downtime, the role of a comprehensive business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) response plan becomes ever more significant. An all-inclusive BCDR plan can get your business up and running again in no time in the wake of an adverse incident.
Techopedia defines BCDR as a set of processes and techniques used to help an organization recover from a disaster and continue (or resume) routine business operations. It is a broad term that combines the roles and functions of IT and business in the aftermath of a disaster.
The fact is disaster can and will strike. According to Kaspersky’s IT Security Economics report, the average total financial impact of a data breach for SMBs in 2021 was $105,000. Having a thorough BCDR strategy by the side enables organizations to mitigate the damage and swiftly bounce back from the disruption, all while maintaining continuous business operations.
Business continuity and disaster recovery are two terms that appear together so frequently and are often used interchangeably that people mistake them for synonyms. Although they work in tandem and are similar in some respects, they are not essentially the same. It’s safer to term business continuity and disaster recovery as the two sides of the same coin.
According to Business Continuity Institute (BCI) and Disaster Recovery Journal (DRJ), business continuity is defined as “the strategic and tactical capability of the organization to plan for and respond to incidents and business disruptions in order to continue business operations at an acceptable predefined level.”
A business continuity plan focuses on maintaining critical business operations during and after an adverse natural or cybersecurity event. It involves creating and implementing risk management strategies, policies and procedures to ensure the organization continues to operate promptly with minimal damage to its productivity. Business continuity caters to every aspect of a business operation, including the workforce, business applications and online systems, network and telecommunication services, and network and server access.
While business continuity is about keeping functions operational during and immediately after a disruptive event, disaster recovery focuses on returning the business to a normal operating state. Unlike business continuity plans that focus on the business operations side, disaster recovery caters to the IT side of a business.
BCI and DRJ define disaster recovery as “the process, policies and procedures related to preparing for recovery or continuation of technology infrastructure, systems and applications, which are vital to an organization after a disaster or outage.” A disaster recovery plan primarily concerns the restoration of IT applications, data and operations to their original state. It minimizes the impact of a disaster and gets the vital support systems up and running with minimal data loss and downtime.
Business continuity and disaster recovery are two essential elements of an organization’s overall risk management strategy. Some organizations perform BC and DR planning in silos, which is not a wise choice. While the fundamental goals of BC and DR are different, they are complementary. Operating them as different strategies will fail to cultivate robust, efficient and long-term business resiliency. Some others focus on one and not the other, which is also a less-than-ideal way to plan for disruptions. Business continuity and disaster recovery plans are equally important and work best when developed and deployed in tandem.
A business continuity and disaster recovery plan is a combination of strategies, policies and procedures about how an organization should respond or adapt to potential threats or unforeseen disruptive events while minimizing the negative impacts. BCDR plan ensures that an organization’s routine tasks continue to function smoothly with minimal or no downtime or data loss following a disaster.
A comprehensive BCDR plan encompasses what steps should be taken to ensure vital business processes are uninterrupted and how to quickly restore IT systems and data to resume business after a disruptive event.
An effective BCDR plan not only restores your business data but also minimizes the impact of a disruption on your business operations and gets your business up and running again promptly.
Downtime is a nightmare — it hurts your business, employees, reputation and workflow. Financial costs associated with downtime can also be a death knell for businesses, particularly SMBs. According to Uptime Institute’s 2022 Outage Analysis Report, over 60% of outages cost businesses more than $100,000. A BCDR plan is thus an important form of insurance for an organization; if your organization does not have a BCDR plan, it is highly improbable that your business will recover from a major disaster.
From accidental deletions and hardware failure to malware attacks and natural disasters, BCDR plans play a vital role in many scenarios. In the wake of an adverse event, the BCDR plan ensures businesses have response protocols in place to meet their recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) goals. RTO refers to how much time can pass before services are restored by an organization, and RPO defines how much data the organization is willing to lose in the event of a disaster (in other words, it is the point in time from which your most recent recoverable backup was taken prior to an outage). RTO and RPO together quantify an organization’s ability to restore services on time and within their data loss tolerance levels. A BCDR plan helps in attaining these RTO and RPO objectives.
BCDR plan also enhances an organization’s ability to continue business operations with little or no disruption and minimizes the associated risks. On that front, a proper BCDR plan helps organizations steer clear of any tangible and intangible downtime costs. The cost of downtime is not confined only to revenue loss. Organizations must also take into account lost productivity, data loss, negative impact on brand reputation and recovery costs. Each of these costs is as important as the other, especially given the difficulty in recovering lost data or dissatisfied customers.
There is no cookie-cutter approach to BCDR planning. Every organization has a unique structure and goals, which is why a BCDR plan should be devised based on individual requirements and strategies. With a laser focus on minimizing the risk and impact of a disruption, an organization should equip for all the possible scenarios that its business would encounter.
However, there are some specific areas organizations should focus on while implementing an efficient BCDR plan.
Risk assessment and business impact analysis are two critical stages in BCDR planning. Once they are in place, it sets the stage for a sound BCDR plan.
Risk assessment is the assessment of four vital risk scenarios an organization would face in the wake of an event. These are:
While there are other risks too, these four are the major ones an organization would encounter during a disaster. The following strategy can be employed to quantify risks and tackle them.
Once these risks have been identified and gauged, a business impact analysis can be done. Business impact analysis determines the relationship between different risks and business factors. Each risk is assessed for its impact on business operations, financial performance, workforce, supply chains and so on. Business impact analysis presents a complete picture of the effects on the business, both in terms of potential risks and probable costs. It would help determine which areas require which levels of protection, the tolerance level for different disruptions and the minimum IT service levels needed by an organization.
During this stage, an organization should identify all the possible or likely situations that could arise in which a BCDR plan would be needed. Diverse scenarios can cause business interruption, from power outages and system failures to cyberattacks and natural disasters. Organizations must categorize and plan for every such business interruption and disaster scenario so that they are not caught off guard.
An organization must have detailed recovery strategies and processes in place so that they have a failover infrastructure in case of an event. The business requirements should be the core focus while developing and evaluating such alternatives. An ideal recovery strategy should strike a perfect balance between mitigation and cost. There are different components to this recovery strategy, which includes replicating assets, data and functionalities in multiple locations.
Establishing clear roles and responsibilities and how every recovery personnel can be reached during an emergency is another important goal of a BCDR plan. Roles and responsibilities need to be communicated to all key stakeholders, and the documentation should be accessible to employees and updated regularly.
A business continuity plan (BCP) is a step-by-step process that ensures the business continues to operate in the event of an emergency or disaster. Companies need to assess all their potential threats and devise BCPs accordingly to ensure continued operations should the threat become a reality. BCP establishes a blueprint to maintain business processes and procedures as close to “business as usual” in the wake of an unfortunate event.
While BCP focuses on a business’s operations, a disaster recovery plan (DRP) focuses on those aspects of an organization that relies on IT infrastructure to function. DRP dictates how work can be restored to normal after an adverse event and concerns the protection, security and recovery of IT infrastructure and data. Disaster recovery is, in fact, a subset of the broader business continuity plan.
It is imperative that organizations not only develop BCP and DRP but also test them, train personnel and document the various aspects of the plan properly before an event occurs. Plans should be reviewed at least annually to ensure they remain up to date and cover all aspects of the business for rapid recovery. There are several ways to test the plans, from tabletop simulations to full cut-over. Depending on your environment and the resources available, you may use one or several testing methods throughout the course of your evaluation.
You have devised a comprehensive BCDR plan, but how can you be sure that it’ll work in a real-life scenario? Until you put your plans through some simulations, all you have is theory. That’s why BCDR testing becomes all the more significant. Testing is an important part of BCDR planning that validates the effectiveness of the BCDR plan put in place and assures that it will work in the event of a disaster. It also helps highlight areas for improvement, which can be addressed and incorporated into successive versions of a BCDR plan.
One of the main goals of testing the BCP and DRP procedures is to determine if they work and meet an organization’s predetermined RPO and RTO requirements. RPO and RTO help companies assess their business limitations before disaster strikes. These metrics help them precisely comprehend how much data and time a company stands to lose before resuming operations after a disaster. Testing thus significantly aids businesses in formulating a practical roadmap for their risk management strategy.
Backup has a critical role to play in the BCDR strategy of an organization. Having a backup and restore solution helps businesses recover business-critical data in response to an unfortunate event. Any delay in recovering crucial data could drastically impact a business. A backup solution, particularly one where data is stored securely on the cloud, enables accurate and swift recovery, empowering businesses to recover their data in minutes.
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*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Spanning authored by Spanning Cloud Apps. Read the original post at: https://spanning.com/blog/bcdr-business-continuity-disaster-recovery/