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How to prepare disaster recovery and business continuity plan

Published on February 23, 2022

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When planning a business, many people focus on elements that will provide longevity and stability, from finding a competitive advantage to setting up reliable supply chains for their products. Such an approach is reasonable, provided that the company can withstand both short- and long-term issues which is why it's crucial not to forget about the disaster recovery and business continuity program.

Although it may be impossible to prepare for every potential disaster scenario, having some general guidelines can help you protect your critical business processes from the most common types of threats. Both those plans are intended to prevent and recover from contingencies that could potentially disrupt business processes, such as natural disasters, fires, or a cyber attack.

A disaster recovery plan and a business continuity plan are closely related, so the preparation processes often overlap. The main challenge is identifying all the potential risks that could impact your business and then devising strategies to prevent or address each one to allow rapid recovery. In order to thrive in today's technology-based world, your business needs to stay operational even in the doomsday scenario. Below, you will find more information about disaster recovery and business continuity planning.

What Is the Difference Between a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) and a Business Continuity Plan (BCP)?

The disaster recovery plan (DRP), as the name suggests, refers to strategies and actions taken to bring a business back to normal operations as quickly as possible after a disruptive event. This often means data protection, restoring data and infrastructure access but can also include switching to alternative systems, reverting the latest working data backups, or enabling emergency power delivery, often with additional safety and security measures and third-party assistance.

A business continuity plan (BCP) is a set of strategies that focus on maintaining the complete functionality of a given business before, after, and during a disrupting event. In other words, a typical business continuity plan includes a set of policies and procedures that help prevent various threats from interfering with the business operations, repair the damage done when they occur, restore the business to its previous state, and improve the previous measures accordingly. Disaster recovery planning can be a part of a business continuity strategy.

How to Implement Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plans

To avoid falling victim to the false assumption that your business is going to remain unmarked by any contingencies now and in the future, you should take a few steps that will help you minimize the likelihood of such events happening and the threats they pose to the continuity of your business.

Identify the Weak Points

Each business is different, so, understandably, it is challenging to develop universal risk assessments and a definitive list of potential weaknesses . However, there are specific categories that can guide you through the most common points of risk:

  • Workspace and Physical Infrastructure - this includes every aspect of your office space that can potentially be impacted by an event, from the building's construction and the systems that support it to the equipment within it.
  • Employees and Operations - your team is the lifeblood of your business, so any threat that could impact their ability to work should be considered; the primary concern is preventing your business from becoming short-staffed.
  • Data and Applications - your company's digital assets are probably the most vulnerable, so protecting them from software and hardware failures, cyber attacks , and natural disasters should be prioritized.
  • External Partnerships and Suppliers - your business relies on other companies to provide goods and services, so any event that could disrupt that relationship could have a significant impact on your business continuity.

Determine The Critical Assets

The next step you should take is determining the critical assets . When preparing BCP and DRP, you need to know which systems and data are essential to keeping your business running. This means that you should list your assets in order of importance, carry on risk assessment and then establish procedures for protecting them from any potential threats. For example, as important as it is during normal operations, your company blog is not as crucial to your business as the software that enables you to accept payments. Apply this principle when creating DRP and BCP to save time, effort, and money later on.

Discern Threats

Some universal solutions allow you to protect your business from common threats, such as fire and theft. However, there are also threats that are unique to your business. For instance, supply chain issues may affect a restaurant, while an IT firm would probably have to worry more about cyberattacks. Consider these threats and determine which methods are the most effective in your line of business so that you can implement them into your DRP and BCP plans.

The most common threats to businesses can be divided into internal and external threats:

  • Internal threats include computer hardware and software failures, human error, and theft or document destruction.
  • External Threats include the problems of your business partners (and other third parties), a natural disaster, power outages, service interruptions, and cyber attacks, including malware and ransomware.

Test Standard Operating Procedures

Once you've determined how to protect your business from all these possible threats, the next step is testing out your standard operating procedures (SOPs) . Simulating an event that would affect production or service and then applying the relevant SOPs can reveal other issues that could threaten your business's continuity and profitability. For instance, if you're planning on using cloud servers to store your customer and business data, a power outage affecting the data centre could result in a significant problem. Try and see if your employees know how to handle such disaster scenarios, and if not, make sure that you provide them with the necessary training. Your human resources or business continuity team should assess risks and prepare your staff (everyone from key personnel and senior management to even interns) for emergency response.

Such procedures do not only apply to major disruption events but also to minor issues that can have a significant impact on your operations, such as the sudden unavailability of a key employee. The goal is to prevent the negative effect of any event that could cause business disruption, as it may be much more costly to recover from the aftermath than it would have been to prepare for such scenarios.

Why Is a Disaster Recovery Plan Critical to Business Operations?

Every minute of the downtime of your company counts as a loss in revenue . The potential financial impact of such an event can grow exponentially depending on the size and complexity of the business, its market share, the current state of competition, and other factors. Let's take a look at the Facebook outage from October 2021. It is estimated that in about six hours during which this platform and few other services tied to it were down, Meta Platforms lost nearly 100 million dollars in ad revenue itself .

The situation was exacerbated by the fact that services like Messenger or Whatsapp are among the most popular communicators today and that many third-party websites, such as Uber or Tinder, allow logging in with Facebook. But it is not only about the biggest companies that can suffer from disasters. While it may seem that smaller, local companies can do just fine with a day or two of being offline, this is not necessarily true. There are many points of failure that can be fatal not only to the front end used by your customers but also to the internal infrastructure, which can lead to a loss of access to your internal records, tools, and resources. An effective disaster recovery strategy is critical to business operations , as it allows minimizing the time in which a company is not running, thus preventing undesirable loss.

To Sum Up

You probably don't want to think about the possibility that your company may suffer from an event beyond your control. Thus, preparing a business continuity plan and a disaster recovery plan pays off. Such plans should take into account the most common threats, including a natural disaster and power outage. The goal is not only to prevent such events from happening but also to minimize their negative impact on your company's daily operations (including critical business functions) when they do occur.

Many companies offer disaster recovery strategies and business continuity planning services, so you can always ask for professional help if needed. Following a business continuity plan will help you prepare for the worst and enable you to achieve your continuity goals. A disaster recovery plan, on the other hand, focuses on restoring your operations to their previous state after such an event, including recovering the data that was lost or damaged during it.

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Written by Richard McGlave

Founder & CEO at Continuity2

With over 30 years of experience as a Business Continuity and Resilience Practitioner, Richard knows the discipline like the back of his hand, and even helped standardise BS25999 and ISO 22301. Richard also specialises in the lean implementation of Business Continuity, IT Service Continuity and Security Management Systems for over 70 organisations worldwide.

Richie c2 profile
Richie c2 profile

Written by Richard McGlave

Founder & CEO at Continuity2

With over 30 years of experience as a Business Continuity and Resilience Practitioner, Richard knows the discipline like the back of his hand, and even helped standardise BS25999 and ISO 22301. Richard also specialises in the lean implementation of Business Continuity, IT Service Continuity and Security Management Systems for over 70 organisations worldwide.