Disaster Recovery (DR) refers to a cloud-based copy of mission critical data that is maintained as a contingency against a range of IT related disruptions. Business Continuity (BC) is a granular risk assessment strategy that identifies threats to normal operations and provides solutions - this could include loss of key staff members or supply chain issues.
The difference between DR and BC is not always fully appreciated (the two are often combined in a joint title of “DR/BC”). However, a separate and thorough understanding of each topic is beneficial to businesses that wish to protect against downtime. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between DR and BC.
What is Disaster Recovery (DR)
DR is a copy of mission critical data that typically comprises the files and applications required to maintain peak operating proficiency. This could include essential applications such as email and word processing software, as well as word documents and spreadsheets.
Why keep a copy? A close-to-real-time copy of mission critical data is maintained so as to minimise the effects of downtime. Disruptive - or potentially catastrophic - events that could lead to unforeseen downtime include:
- Server failure
- File corruption
- Power outages
- Computer virus
- Natural disaster
Where is the data stored? Companies have a choice as to how and where they would prefer to store their backup data. The choice between the available options comes down to the value that a company places on access to data and the resources that the business is able to allocate to ensure access.
The available options include:
- Self storage This is where a company chooses to provide its own backup system. The data is usually stored on site and is therefore susceptible to the same server issues and damage from accidents as the main copy. The company also provides its own technical staff.
- Colocation (‘colo’) A colo provides an off-site third party means of hosting data, but assistance from technical staff members is not usually part of the agreement. This method is more robust than hosting data on-site, but the issue over instant help from technical staff remains an issue.
- Third party specialist DR provider This option is the most secure means of ensuring both data protection and fast access to backup files and systems. Depending on the level of service provided, users may expect IT infrastructure and staff to be provided. This contract may also include means of supplying an initial data dump (known as a cloud seeding), consisting of a storage device that is ‘seeded’ with data and sent to the third party where the upload can be completed (thus freeing up the user’s machines from completing the upload directly, a process that could take several hours or days).
Ensuring that your company has an efficient DR plan in place is paramount to preventing the short-term effects of downtime from bleeding over into medium and long-term issues – which could have a monetary impact both in terms of ability to complete transactions and the ability to retain clients or customers.
What is Business Continuity (BC) Planning?
BC planning is a type of risk analysis that aims to provide business leaders with solutions in the form of a comprehensive reference guide that outlines procedures to combat disruption. Whereas DR refers entirely to the types pf disruption that could effect business output due to IT infrastructure failures, BC may include any form of disaster that is IT related or otherwise.
BC Planning – Getting Started
The usual process regarding BC planning begins with undertaking a Business Impact Analysis (BIA). This report should serve to establish the core systems and business functions that must be maintained in order to preserve daily or hourly operations. A related cost assessment should follow, noting the probable price tag linked to one hour of downtime (which can be scaled to represent a full business day or week of downtime).
The benefit of carrying out an initial BIA is related to budget planning – the higher the cost of downtime to your business, the higher the budget that should be allocated to BC to ensure that recovery is achieved within an acceptable time frame.
What Should Your BC Plan Cover?
No two businesses are identical. Each business comes with complex and technical fundamental differences in terms of setup. However, there are several essential elements that underpin the natural composition of most trading organisations.
Major components of a BC plan include:
- CEO and Key Staff In the event of an unplanned and sudden departure of the CEO or other key members of staff, replacement staff must already be trained and available to step in – even if only on a short-term basis. Consider that any vacancies that result from this staff movement will also need to be filled.
- Off-site Office Space In the event of an incident that renders the main site unusable, the locations of backup sites (complete with contact details) may be essential in ensuring the continuation of core business functions. This would typically comprise temporary suitable office space in which key staff may perform mission critical core functions.
- Speak to Local Authorities A working relationship with the emergency services means that firefighters and other first responders will have an understanding of building layout (the most important rooms containing people and vital business infrastructure can be prioritised).
- Testing and Evaluation Testing your BC plan on a regular basis will not only help to reduce the emotional impact that a catastrophic event could have upon staff, but will also ensure a smooth transition to suitable backup procedures should a disruptive event threaten your usual day to day expectations on business output.
Conclusions – DR vs BC
As mentioned above, understanding the difference between DR and BC is a crucial part of ensuring that your business has the relevant procedures and practices in place to minimise downtime.
Whereas DR can help to ensure that your IT systems and infrastructure are backed up and that this backup is available to replace your current systems should on-site issues arise, a rigid BC plan can help to outline the steps that should be taken in the event of any emergency that stands to prevent or hinder the continuation of smooth day to day operations.
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