Would Your Business Keep Running During a Disaster?

By: Marco
October 15, 2015

Business continuity and disaster recovery often are married under the BC/DR acronym in the technology world. But they are actually very different and you can have one without the other.

iStock_000072597499_FullBoth help organizations prepare for disruptive events that could quickly and dramatically shut down operations. We often think of natural disasters, but the more common occurrences are related to power outages or a malware attack on software and computer systems. Virus threats are more pervasive and have elevated the need for BC/DR planning.

Time and time again, I find that organizations are not prepared. Many times a lack of understanding between business continuity and disaster recovery planning prevents organizations from taking the steps they need to. Having a back-up system is not enough.

What’s the Difference?
Simply put, disaster recovery ensures you have something to go back to after a disruptive event. Business continuity outlines how you will quickly resume operations or keep working through it until the normal operations can be restored. That may be a matter of hours or in severe cases, days.

Take data. Conducting back-ups as part of a disaster recovery plan ensures the data is not lost. Business continuity planning ensures that data can be accessed during a disaster.

What’s in it?
Business continuity plans outline how you will continue to communicate, where employees will go and how your key business functions will operate during a disruptive event.

The details of a plan vary based on the size and scope of an organization. The key is to pull a team together and determine what are mission critical parts of your business. To get started, consider:

  • What are the apps you need to access no matter what?
  • How will you reroute inbound and outbound calls?
  • Do you need a generator or other equipment to maintain power for specific equipment or work areas?
  • Who are your mission critical team members who need to keep working through a disaster and who are their back-ups?
  • Where will they go if their work areas are not available?

How do you test it?
The best way to test the system is turn everything off and create an environment as though a disaster has just happened. Yes, that is scary. But it is far better to do it in a controlled environment where you can see what’s working as intended and what’s not. You may not want to turn everything off at once, but there should be a plan for testing each component. Trust me. Role-play is not sufficient.

A business continuity and disaster recovery plan is just paper. You need to validate that it will work. I can guarantee you that if you don’t test your plan, it will get tested for you.

Shortly after moving to our new corporate headquarters, our plan got tested by a power outage. That’s not the way you want your plan to get tested. It’s common to find holes in the planning and execution. We learned that while our Support Desk phone systems were plugged into generator power, the computers at each workstation were not. We added an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) to each station and connected them to generator power. We also added generator power to the reception console to ensure our front desk could function as well during a disruptive event. That’s much easier than running extension cords from the generator to the areas you need power.

Are you ready for a catastrophe?
It’s a question we don’t like to consider. But not being able to answer “yes” to this question could cripple your organization – in a matter of minutes. The threats are not just weather related anymore. They also include cyber attacks. Take the time to create a disaster recovery and business continuity plan and then test it. You’ll be glad you did.

Topics: Security