Does it really matter if you know the difference between business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR)? It does if you want to avoid the disastrous impact not having a plan for either can have.
BC enables a business to continue operations. DR enables an organization to recover from a disaster. Both are about not letting an event disrupt business operations for any longer than necessary. But it’s important to understand that BC and DR, while similar, are really two different things. By understanding the differences, you can better understand solutions — including Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) solutions; managed data replication; and hot sites, cold sites and warms sites — that can prove vital to helping you thrive and survive.
BC Keeps Operations Going
One of the key differentiators between BC and DR is that BC is business centric while DR is data-centric. BC keeps a business operating; DR recovers data. BC entails a comprehensive strategy that allows a business to function during and after a disruptive event occurs. The word “during” is important here because ideally a business should be able to continue operating normally at all times. It’s also essential to keep in mind that a disruptive event doesn’t have to be a natural disaster like a hurricane or unexpected ice storm. It could be a flu epidemic that keeps staff at home, a power outage, or a cyber-attack.
A BC plan has to take into account a broad range of possible scenarios and include strategies for keeping operations going in spite of them. That might mean moving operations to a temporary location, with all the logistics of doing so spelled out in the plan. It might require key employees to work from home – in which case the plan will need to specify the resources needed to make that happen, which employees will be involved, and how communications and workflows will occur.
The Data Side of BC
Data is essential to the day-to-day operations of most companies. A BC plan will typically require that data be accessible with little or no downtime should a disruptive event occur. Ensuring that is the case usually involves a combination of hardware and software technologies that keep data in two different places at the same time. For example, if a power outage takes out on-site production servers, data and applications “fail over” to another system located somewhere else. If all goes as planned, end users won’t experience a disruption.
BC does go far beyond data recovery, however. It also focuses on what data and applications are most important for keeping a business running. All data and applications are important, but with BC, the most critical data and applications get first priority. That’s where factors such as recovery time come into play. Among the questions that need to be addressed:
• What needs to be recovered first in order for you to continue operations?
• What do your customers need in order to be satisfied and confident of your stability?
• What do your business partners require to continue order fulfillment and delivery?
• What do vendors need to continue working with you?
Determining the most important criteria to keep a business in business – and putting plans in place to make sure it happens – is the crux of BC.
DR: Get Your Data Back
DR is a subset of BC. In terms of IT, it is focused on getting essential data and systems back up and running after an event that disrupts operations. The idea is to save data somewhere so that it can be recovered after the disruptive event.
DR can be as simple as ensuring that data is backed up remotely even if it can’t be accessed or used immediately. As with a BC plan, a DR plan may classify some data as more important than other data, which means it gets recovered first. The speed at which it is recovered also gets noted in a DR plan. Some data may need to be recovered right away while other data can wait days or even weeks. Recovery time needs will influence how data is recovered. There are many recovery tactics, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Many companies are finding that disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) solutions that use cloud resources for DR serve their needs well.
Even if you have a plan for recovering data after a disruptive event, your work is not done. Data can’t be recovered if a DR plan doesn’t work, and the only way to tell if it will work is to test it.
Ready or Not
Companies put a great deal of time in to training, migration and rollout when a new application is brought on. They also need to put sufficient time into developing a DR plan that makes sure that application isn’t lost and can be accessed when it’s needed. Retrofitting a BC/DR plan after the fact is inviting risk, so the time to think about both BC and DR is early on – at the design phase.
Bottom line: BC and DR are both essential to all organizations if they expect to stay viable. To be effective, both also need to be ingrained in the culture of organizations. Parallel is here to help you understand the differences between BC and DR and the need for both. Equally important, we can provide you with solution options that will fit into your plans and help ensure continued success.