Is there a way to ensure that your business or company will never have to face any calamity or crisis? Absolutely NOT! But what a business can do is to come up with a plan and strategy that helps the company stay strong even in the face of a calamity. This plan is generally referred to as the business continuity and disaster recovery policy. Many people assume that business continuity and disaster management refer to the same thing. Although, both of these aspects have some things in common, these are two distinct aspects for a business. The business continuity plan has a larger scope and it actually encompasses disaster management. The area of emphasis for the disaster recovery plan is limited to IT services and IT support whereas the business continuity plan is concerned with helping the entire business move forward and cope up with the calamity and crisis. Despite their differences, it is needless to say that enough stress cannot be laid upon the importance of business continuity and disaster recovery planning.
Many people can be found using the terms “Business Continuity” and “Disaster Recovery” interchangeably. But do these two terms refer to the same thing? Or are they two related yet different aspects? Are there similarities between business continuity and disaster recovery?This is the question that will be the main focus of this article.
As the name indicates, a business continuity plan is a blueprint or a map that helps ensure that the business can continue working even through the times of a disaster. The goal of a business continuity plan is to segregate the absolutely essential business operations and ensure that the business does not go towards a total shut down even during the time of a crisis.
Business continuity planning is a wide scope process. The business continuity infrastructure depends on a number of things. The scope and extent of business is one of the most important aspects in this regard. Roughly, a business continuity plan can be divided into four simple steps:
During the time of the crisis, the first thing that one needs to do is to assess the risk. What is the crisis? How has the crisis impacted the business? For how long can one expect to be stuck in the crisis? These are some questions that help in assessing the situation and realizing to what extent the business has been impacted.
The next step along the way is to analyze the impact of the business. During this phase, the connections between different business areas and scopes are established. The core and necessity business units that have to be kept running are segregated from the goals and targets that can be put on hold for a while.
After assessing the crisis as well as the business infrastructure during the first two steps, the next milestone is to actually plan the strategies that will help the business get through the tough times. The business continuity infrastructure is determined and necessary measures and actions are taken during this phase of business continuity planning.
Simply having a business continuity plan in place is not enough. One has to ensure that the plan is foolproof and will actually help the business survive and stay strong when facing a crisis. Therefore, testing and maintenance of the business continuity plan is extremely important. During this phase, the continuity plan is applied hypothetically using test cases or practically to some extent and the results are then used to highlight the weaker areas of the business continuity management that need to be revised.
In a nutshell, a business continuity plan is a comprehensive strategy that encompases all aspects and units of business. The goal of the business continuity plan is to prevent the company or business from having to shut down completely when a disaster strikes. The main target of the business continuity plan is to ensure that the business can “continue” working and the impact of the crisis on the business can be minimized as much as possible.
The goal of the disaster recovery plan is to come up with plans and strategies that can help the systems get started again after a crisis has passed. The disaster recovery plan objectives are to overcome the failure of IT services and support. IT support and services can range from smaller hardware devices to larger infrastructures. Since IT is the backbone for most businesses and companies given the modern era of information technology, disaster recovery strategies are specially dedicated to this aspect.
It is important to point out that in a way, disaster recovery is a subset of a business continuity plan. Since it is almost impossible for businesses to operate without IT Support, when setting up their business continuity plan, businesses include disaster recovery planning so the IT aspect of the risk management and crisis handling can be taken care of. Roughly, disaster recovery plan has the following phases:
The first step in any plan is the assessment of the damage. There can be a number of different types of crisis that can affect a business. Maybe the business is facing a burglary or a theft, or maybe a natural calamity or disaster has hit the business. Based on the type of the calamity, the damages have to be assessed.
The next step is to analyze the impact of the damage. How much physical damage have the IT resources encountered? What was the impact of the calamity on the IT resources of the company? How has the data been affected by the disaster? These are some areas to be focused on during this phase of disaster recovery.
What now? This is the main focus of the third and last step of disaster recovery. The physical repairs as well as data backups etc. every damage that the resources have encountered has already been listed down. Now the goal is to lay a plan to move forward and determine how the business will deal with the loss and continue operation.
The main area of interest in case of a disaster recovery plan is the IT based infrastructure and resources of the company. Business continuity and disaster recovery policy are interlinked as disaster recovery is an aspect of business continuity planning. The main goal and target of a disaster recovery policy is to ensure that the business can overcome any damage or issue with its IT based infrastructure. And it is needless to say that business continuity and disaster recovery planning for IT professionals is an important aspect for any company and cannot be ignored in any case.
Although disaster and recovery plan are different from one another, there are still some areas that both these plans do share and have in common. Both of these policies and strategies are focused on dealing with a crisis. The main target for both business continuity as well as disaster management is to ensure that the business can flourish and cope up with any damage caused by a crisis or a tough time. Rather than focusing on the aspects of the business that can be put off and are not the absolute necessity, both these plans focus on the fundamental aspects of the business that are essential to ensure smooth business operation.
Both a business continuity plan as well as a disaster recovery plan start with analysis and damage assessment. It is extremely important for one to assess the situation and its impact on the business before determining what needs to be done and how the damage can be mitigated and minimized as much as possible.
Having a solid business continuity and disaster recovery plan for information security is absolutely essential for any business irrespective of its scope. After all, any type of crisis and calamity whether natural or not cannot be avoided completely. To make sure that the business is prepared to stay strong and face any hardship that comes along the way, the company should have a pre-defined, specifically tailored and tested continuity and risk management plan.
Despite their common aspects, the business continuity planning and disaster recovery also have significant differences. Therefore, these two terms cannot be used interchangeably. The focus of a business continuity plan is the scope of the entire business. The goal is to come up with a plan that encompases all the areas of the business and helps all the aspects of the company to stand strong during any crisis.
The disaster recovery plan on the other hand, is limited to IT only. It deals with assessing the damage and the way forward for the IT services only. Since IT services and support are an integral component for any business plan, a separate blueprint and plan has to be laid to deal with the damage to these resources and the disaster management plan covers this aspect.