A Guide to Business Continuity Planning and Disaster Recovery for Business Leaders

In November 2020, a prolonged outage of Amazon Web Services (AWS) affected a large portion of the Internet. AWS is the backbone of many websites including Netflix, Reddit, Adobe, Glassdoor, and IMDB. Although the outage was addressed fairly quickly, during this downtime, these and many other sites were unavailable for several hours.

In June 2018, a Microsoft data center in Ireland suffered an 11 hour-long outage. Since the data center is one of the major hubs for Microsoft’s Azure cloud services, the interruption left many customers unable to access business-critical data and operations.

In 2011, a serious cyber attack against Sony’s PlayStation Network compromised the critical data of millions of users.While Sony rebuilt its cybersecurity infrastructure, the outage lasted for 23 days, resulting in losses ofapproximately $250 million.

The web is full of such stories. Notwithstanding the differences in details, one common lesson stands out in all of them: when it comes to technology and business continuity, a 100% guarantee does not exist.

Natural disasters, power failures, cyber attacks, IT system crashes, and now, pandemics–companies need to be prepared for all these events that can affect their business and operational continuity. This is where Business Continuity Planning (BCP) is absolutely critical.With a robust BCP, companies can better prepare for potential catastrophes, and keep core functions and processes running in the event of an interruption.

BCP has been around for a while. But now, organizations are also focusing on Disaster Recovery (DR) to normalize technical operations, and get all systems back up and running. Together, BCP and DR enable organizations normalize operations quickly without significantly impacting their operations, service delivery, or SLAs.

In this white paper, we will address some of the key aspects of BCP and DR, and explain why a cloud-based approach to BCP and DR is the best bet for modern organizations.

What is Business Continuity Planning?

Arecent reportestimated that just one hour of downtime from a high-priority application costs organizations approximately $67,651. An average outage lasts almosttwo hours, seriously impacting operations, deliverability, and ultimately profitability. Considering that many organizations have more high-priorityapplications(51%) thannormal applications (49%), it’s obvious that their outages are intolerable in today’s digital economy. To prevent such issues, or at least minimize their impact, Business Continuity Planning is vital.

The Meaning of Business Continuity Planning

According to the Disaster Recovery Journal, Business Continuity Planning is 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.”

Simply put, BCP is about ensuring that business operations will continue during and after a crisis or interruption. A continuity plan – created in advance and periodically updated to reflect current realities, factors and linkages, and future probabilities – enables the org to continue processes with minimal downtime.

In short, a business continuity plan is a plan of action.

The Need for Business Continuity Planning

But BCP is not just about dealing with a current crisis or its short-term impact. It alsoconsiders how to keep the business going in future, and what lessons the org can learn today to avoid repeating the same problems later. Proper planning and execution helps mitigate business and financial risk by providing alternative solutions to keep the boat afloat.

BCP also improves organizational decision-making, builds employees’ confidence, and supportsrelevant compliance or legal requirements. In the long term, BCP enables organizations to earntheir customers’ trust, preserve brand equity, and achieve a competitive advantage.

Key Elements of an Effective Business Continuity Plan

Each year, 1 in 10 servers experience unexpected outages. Nearly 95% organizations report downtime.

A BCP clearly describes and differentiates between the business-critical procedures, processes, and personnel that will maintain continuity, versus the processes that can be temporarily suspended until after the crisis has passed.It earmarks key resources like inventory, equipment and devices that support the most essential functions. It also includescontingency arrangements if the business has to physically move to a different location, say, due to a natural disaster like an earthquake.

The most effective BCPsalso include an action plan to support every stakeholderthat may be affected by a catastrophic event, and minimize disruptions to their operations. This includes vendors, suppliers, partners, and customers.

In addition, the BCP should include these elements:

  • Plan objectives
  • Risk assessment
  • Impact analysis
  • Prevention procedures
  • Responseprocedures
  • Communications protocols
  • Contact details

Finally, the BCP also analyzes and describes how the enterprise will recover (or replace)its IT systems and data. This is the data backup and recovery aspect of the BCP, which is where Disaster Recovery Planningcomes in.

What is Disaster Recovery (DR) and Disaster Recovery Planning?

In 2020, following the COVID-19 pandemic, cyberattacks against organizations rose by a staggering 800% from pre-pandemic days. Until August 2020, there were about 4,000 cyber attacks per day, and by September 2020, almost 36 billion records were exposed and at risk of further mischief at the hands of bad actors. Clearly, today’s enterprises have to contend with many cybersecurity risks, and the loss of business-critical data is one of the biggest. Moreover, in today’s hyper-connected business landscape, IT is a strategic imperative for all organizations. So, switching on the lights, the area that DR aims to address and control, is vitally important.

The terms Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery are often used interchangeably, although they are two different things. Disaster Recovery is a subset of BCP, which means that BCP has a broader scope, while a DR plan addresses a narrower, more specific issue.

Disaster Recovery focuses on getting technical operations back to normal by restoring vital support systems, e.g. IT infrastructure, communications systems, and data.

In the event of a disaster, a DR plan kicks in to save data, and improve the chances of recovering it quickly.It could involve everything from recovering a limited dataset, to an entire datacenter or multiple data centers.That’s why “DR”could mean both Disaster Recoveryand Data Recovery.

The DR plan may address how the organization will seek a backup business location to quickly resume critical operations.It should also include procedures on how to restore communication between critical staff during an emergency if the usual communication lines are unavailable.

A DR plan should also include details about:

  • Recovery technologies and protocols
  • Recovery Time Objective (RTO)
  • Recovery Point Objective (RPO)
  • Recovery testing and mock disaster scenarios
  • List of vendors, suppliers, and other third parties

Effective Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning with the Cloud

In the modern era, the cloud plays a critical role in business continuity and disaster recovery. Cloud-based business continuity is 99% more reliablethan conventional options.And with real-time backups, easy access, and 24×7 availability, it also aids in more effective disaster recovery.

To prepare for business interruptions and catastrophes, organizations must integrate business continuity planning, disaster recovery and cybersecurityinto a comprehensive protection plan. However, this can be a time-consuming and complicatedprocess, so a BCP/DR consulting firm like Axcess.io can be a real value-add.

With the right managed services from an experienced cloud migration partner like Axcess.io, you can implement a robust BCP/DR program that keeps you goingduring and after a disaster. As an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner, we can help you design the right cloud solution to meet your specific BCP/DR goals. Contact us to know more.