Whether it is a hurricane or simply a power outage caused by a faulty electrical outlet, disruptive events tend to come unannounced and lead to costly downtime. According to Gartner, the average cost of downtime in the IT industry is $5,600 per minute, and the figure is similarly alarming in most other industries.
With the stakes being so high, organizations must plan for the worst and implement suitable processes and techniques to help them recover from disruptive events as smoothly and quickly as possible, which is where business continuity and disaster recovery come in, defining a strategy for maintaining business availability after a catastrophe strikes.
What Is Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery?
The terms business continuity and disaster recovery as often used interchangeably, but they actually don’t mean the same thing.
Business continuity is largely proactive, and its goal is to ensure that all mission-critical business processes and procedures remain available during and after a disaster. Business continuity includes everything from service availability issues to business impact analysis and change management to the replacement of staff.
Disaster recovery is largely reactive, and it can be seen as a subset of business continuity. Its chief goal is to restore the functionality of all mission-critical functions as quickly as possible to prevent costly downtime and ensure high availability.
The two most important measures in business continuity and disaster recovery are recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO). The former measures the maximum targeted period in which data might be lost from an IT service due to a major incident and the targeted duration of time, while the latter measures a service level within which a business process must be restored after a disaster.
Together, business continuity and disaster recovery protect organizations against financial loss, reputation damage, sanctions, breach of contract, and missed market opportunities, just to name a few negative consequences of a disruptive event.
Importance of Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery in Cybersecurity
The threat landscape is now more extensive than ever before, and it keeps evolving at a dramatic pace, challenging organizations’ ability to defend themselves against increasingly sophisticated cybercriminals and get back on their feet after an attack.
By developing a business continuity and a disaster recovery plan, organizations can greatly increase their resiliency and bounce back even from the worst cybersecurity incidents without suffering too much downtime.
Developing a Business Continuity and a Disaster Recovery Plan
A business continuity plan specifies how an organization will continue functioning during and after a disruptive event. A disaster recovery plan, on the other hand, provides a structured approach for protecting a business’s IT infrastructure in the event of a disaster.
The following information can be found in most business continuity plans:
- Contact information: lists contact information of those who are responsible for the business continuity plan and key recovery personnel within each department.
- Objectives: outlines what the business continuity plan aims to achieve and describes the expected outcomes in the event of an incident.
- Risk assessment: identifies critical business processes and procedures and analyzes how they could be impacted by a disruptive event, prioritizing them according to the likelihood of impact.
- Business impact analysis: identifies the resources needed to support business activities and specifies how long the business could operate without them.
- Prevention: from antimalware systems to encryption to physical security, there are many ways how an organization can prevent a disruptive event.
A disaster recovery plan is all about responding to disruptive events to minimize their impact and ensure rapid recovery. It includes the following:
- RTO and RPO: these two important measures specify the desired timeframe for completing recovery and the age of data backups, guiding all other activities and determining their effectiveness.
- Hardware and software assets: modern organizations rely on large inventories of hardware and software assets. To recover these assets after a disruptive event, it’s paramount to know about them and understand what they do and how important they are.
- Recovery technologies and protocols: organizations can implement a wide range of recovery technologies, such as real-time backups and cloud storage, that enable them to quickly recover important files and restore operation.
- Communication plan: while often overlooked, a communication plan is an important component of a disaster recovery plan because it helps keep staff informed throughout the disruptive event and prevents confusion.
- Recovery testing: all disaster recovery plans should be routinely tested to confirm that they achieve the desired outcomes and that backups can be restored without integrity issues.
Organizations today face many threats that can directly impact the continuity of their operations and cause significant downtime and loss of business. To minimize the consequences of these threats, organizations need to be proactive and plan for disruptive events by developing a business continuity and a disaster recovery plan, instead of just passively waiting and hoping for the best.
Written by: Payam Pourkhomami, President & CEO, OSIbeyond