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Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plans

Disaster recovery and business continuity are tightly related. In the 1970s, organizations started preparing Disaster Recovery (DR) plans, which were mainly focused on natural disasters. In the 1980s and onwards, the focus shifted to a more holistic view, named Business Continuity (BC).

While disaster recovery narrowly focused on how to bring systems back online after a disaster, business continuity aimed to develop a proactive process that would keep businesses alive and operating even in the face of a major crisis. Accordingly, a disaster recovery plan is limited to ensuring data protection, preventing damage to systems and recovering them as quickly as possible, while a business continuity plan covers all aspects of the business including business processes, manpower, partners and suppliers.

In this article you learn:
• What is a business continuity plan?
• 7 chapters of a sample business continuity plan
• The difference between a DR and BC plan
• A BC plan in action: hour by hour
• Ensuring business continuity for your data with Cloudian

What is a Business Continuity Plan?

A business continuity plan details how a business will continue operating and serving its customers, even in the face of a dramatic event like a natural disaster, major IT failure, or a cyberattack. The end goal is to preserve a company’s financial viability, market position, reputation, and customers, even in the face of a crisis.

Business continuity planning covers every aspect of the business including:

  • Business processes—how can a process continue working even if critical equipment or supplies were missing?
  • Human resources—how can critical staff continue performing their work if, for example, workstations are destroyed or there is no Internet connection?
  • Business partners and suppliers—how can suppliers continue their work with the company if, for example, lines of communication or road transport is unavailable?

A business continuity plan must consider important questions and provide good answers. What single points of failure exist in the organization? What are the critical dependencies on equipment, in-house staff, suppliers or other third parties? What workarounds exist for disruption of any of these? Which organizational processes, staff, skills and technology are needed to maintain business operations and fully recover from a disaster?

7 Chapters of a Business Continuity Plan

A typical business continuity plan contains the following sections:

  1. Goals of the plan—should quantify which parts of the business are considered critical and how smoothly they should be able to operate during a crisis
  2. Budget—resources allocated to business continuity planning and preparation
  3. Personnel—who is responsible for maintaining the business continuity program and executing practical steps during a crisis. Which other stakeholders exist—senior management, legal, PR, customers, partners, etc—and how they should be involved or notified.
  4. Business Impact Analysis—a holistic review of critical business processes, their weak points and how they are likely to be affected by different types of disasters.
  5. Proactive strategies—processes that should be carried out on a regular basis to prevent or more easily overcome disasters.
  6. Immediate reactive strategies—what the organization should do at the moment disaster strikes to continue operations. This will typically include temporary measures, for example, delivering electricity using a portable generator while power is out.
    1. This chapter includes an IT disaster recovery plan.
  7. Long-term reactive strategies—what the organization should do on “day two”, after the disaster has ended, to fully recover and rebuild systems to their original state.

Business Continuity vs. Disaster Recovery Plan

The terms business continuity plan and disaster recovery plan are sometimes used interchangeably. However, as we illustrated in our plan structure above, a disaster recovery plan is an important section within a business continuity plan. See our article about IT disaster recovery plans.

The table below illustrates how a business continuity plan differs from an IT disaster recovery plan—it touches on the same aspects but from a holistic business perspective.

Business Continuity Plan IT Disaster Recovery Plan
Aimed at ensuring business operations continue during and after a crisis, to preserve financial stability and reputation Aimed at ensuring minimal damage to IT assets in a disaster and speedy, complete recovery
Inventory of all critical business assets—staff, suppliers, vehicles, buildings, etc. Inventory of IT assets—network equipment, servers, endpoints, etc.
Business Impact Analysis of all threats affecting business operations Analysis of threats affecting IT infrastructure
Includes an ongoing proactive component to prevent and prepare for disaster Only focused on reactive measures in case disaster happens

Business Continuity Plan in Action: Hour by Hour

Once you have a business continuity plan, here is what a crisis could look like, hour by hour, as the plan unfolds. The activities below are just examples, and of course, will vary depending on the crisis and the nature of the business.

Timeframe Example Activities
First 4 hours Business continuity team is alerted to the crisis

Contact made with authorities (firefighters, police, etc)

Alternate physical facility is activated, or employees directed to work from home

Critical IT systems switched over to remote DR site

Hours 5-24 In case of casualties among employees, succession plan activated

Assessment of damage to physical facilities

Assessment of damage to IT resources

Notifying customers, press, and suppliers

Switching to backup vendors in case a vendor or supplier was also affected by the disaster

Days 2-4 Restoring critical parts of the primary facility

Transitioning critical staff back to the facility

Restoring critical IT systems

Routing activity back to recovered systems

Days 5-14 Fully rebuilding primary facility

Transitioning all staff back to the facility

Restoring all IT systems

Resuming normal operations

Ensuring Business Continuity for Your Data with Cloudian

Cloudian offers low-cost disk-based storage that lets you store up to 1.5 Petabytes of backups. The Cloudian appliance can be deployed in your local data center, or in a remote DR site. We provide integrated data management tools that let you store data seamlessly to a remote appliance.

cloudian backup target

Cloudian also supports a hybrid cloud setup. The Cloudian appliance can replicate your data to a cloud storage service such as Amazon S3, Azure Blob Storage or Google Cloud Storage. This allows you to backup data frequently and enjoy fast local access while keeping a copy of data on the cloud in case the on-premise data center goes down.

cloudian backup and dr

Learn more about Cloudian’s data protection solutions.