Business Continuity Planning is the process of putting in place provisions so that your business operations can continue functioning in the event of downtime or disruption. This can include day to day business activities, yet with so many business operations now dependent on technology, many modern business continuity plans start with IT.
Business continuity can encompass a wide range of services, but some of the main IT solutions that come under the business continuity banner, include:
Workplace recovery so that your staff can keep working in the event of a disaster
Disaster recovery for your IT systems
Backup services to protect your data
Businesses today can’t afford to experience downtime; customers expect their suppliers to be operating and available 24/7 so having a thorough business continuity plan in place in the event of a disaster is more important than ever before.
According to a report by the Business Continuity Institute, it’s reported that one of the top causes of disruption is unplanned IT and telecom outages – and 21% of organisations are planning to increase their business continuity budgets over the next year 1. In 2017, the biggest perceived threat by businesses was cyber-attacks and data breaches, and in light of the GDPR, businesses are now looking more closely at their end-to-end security processes, from mitigating risks through to managing a disaster, and recovering quickly should one occur.
Historically, business continuity planning was something only large corporates could afford to do. Many SMEs don’t have the resources to keep a full backup datacentre running in the event of downtime, but today, with flexible cloud services dedicated to disaster recovery and backup, every organisation now has the ability to implement a disaster or business continuity strategy.
How can you deliver better business continuity planning for your IT systems?
Business continuity planning revolves around three key aspects:
Resilience: Ensuring your IT systems are resilient and able to stand up against a wide range of attacks, threats or system issues. This could involve improving security measures and protecting your data.
Recovery: In the event of a datacentre failure or component issue, it’s important to be able to recover and continue working quickly. An example could be a Disaster Recovery (DR) site that maintains operations if the Primary site is affected, or recovery of data.
Contingency: This involves planning for possible major incidents and having plans in place to keep the business functioning in the event of unforeseen circumstances. This is often a last resort option in the event of normal recovery operations not working, so that the business can still function despite issues occurring.
What is RPO and RTO?
In Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Planning you often come across the phrases RTO and RPO. What do these stand for?
RPO: Recovery Point Objective
This is the maximum period of time in which data can be lost following an incident or outage. For example, if the RPO is 1 hour, then the business is aiming to lose no more than 1 hour of data following an outage, so regular back-ups would need to be taken.
RTO: Recovery Time Objective
This is the maximum amount of time in which a business’ operations aim to be restored following an outage. For example, a business’ RTO may be 4 hours. This would mean that if they suffered an outage or incident, then the time to being recovered would be 4 hours maximum. Sometimes this can be for an entire business’ operations, or sometimes it may be tied to individual processes, such as email.
Why is business continuity planning so important?
It’s not just about disruption to your operations, IT downtime can have a range of ramifications for your business:
Loss of customer orders/revenue
Brand damage and reputation impact
Customer confidence in your business
Competitors can capitalise on the situation
Loss of confidential business data
What’s the difference between Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery?
Business Continuity looks at the entire business’ operations and how you can keep operating during disruption. Disaster Recovery focuses more specifically on recovering or restoring your systems in the event of downtime or a disaster.
External hosting specialists can support organisations with their business continuity initiatives, across services such as:
Replicated datacentres mirroring your in-house IT
Cloud DR services
Active/active or active/passive cloud environments
Virtual disaster recovery solutions, alongside traditional physical DR offerings
But Disaster Recovery is not just about supplying replacement IT. It goes beyond that.
Organisations need to build comprehensive Business Continuity plans with so that everyone is fully prepared in the event of a disaster. That starts with reviewing your technology and processes, and conducting regular DR testing so that everything goes to plan should there be a disruption to your operations. There are countless examples of businesses over the years who have believed they have robust DR solutions in place only to find that when they press ‘go’ on their datacentre failover, nothing works.