As the North East braces for a last blast of winter in the form of Winter Storm Stella, businesses should be preparing to activate contingencies and address the "what-if's" of this potentially severe weather event. But what if the biggest questions you have are about disaster recovery & business continuity...like what they are and why should you care?
The two disciplines are very closely related, but with one fundamental difference - one is meant to help you recover AFTER a disaster, and the other relates to processes that a company can put into place to ensure that business continues DURING a disaster.
Below we explore what each is, along with why they are so important for business today.
What is Disaster Recovery
Generally speaking, Disaster Recovery (DR) is the process of resuming operations in the afterm
ath of any type of disaster. The cause of the catastrophic event could be weather-related (like incoming storm Stella), a natural disaster or of the human variety.
We've cited statistics in the past around human error, but the recent Amazon Web Services outage offers no greater proof that a simple mistake by an employee can have unintended consequences that are felt far and wide. Just ask any of the businesses or end-users who were unable to access a large number of sites on a regular Tuesday afternoon.
So while the focus right now is on the approaching winter storm, disasters occur far more frequently inside server rooms or at individual workstations than anywhere else.
As it relates to your technology, DR will largely revolve around restoring local area networks (LAN's), restoring servers, laptops and backups and resolving internet outages.
DR is largely what it sounds like - taking the steps to recover from the disaster and restore normal operations.
What is Business Continuity
Business continuity, on the other hand, is the process by which an organization ensures that mission-critical functions can (and will) function during the disaster, as well as after.
It can also be referred to as Disaster Recovery Planning, because in planning for the "what if's" of any kind of disaster, you can prepare for the risks, and create the Plan B that addresses the potential disruptions to your operations.
Thanks to modern technology, this often involves using cloud-based services that allow your workforce to access them from anywhere as long as they have an internet connection. So if you anticipate that employees can't get to the office due to a blizzard (or the office becomes inaccessible due to a fire or other type of damage), your team can still work remotely and operations don't suffer.
Products like Office 365 offer this type of flexibility, along with the security standards that your network administrators demand. G Suite by Google Cloud offers a similar suite of office tools, including email, calendar and document and data storage.
Business Continuity can also be achieved with powerful backup devices that allow you to flip over immediately from your server to the backup device, in the event of a failure.
What it specifically means to keep mission-critical functions running during a disaster will vary from business to business, as will the solutions. What's important is going through the exercise of planning for a disaster, investigating the "what if's", discovering the hidden risks and then working with your IT service provider to come with a plan to prevent the worst case scenario.
Why You Need Disaster Recovery
You need it because disaster happens.
In fact, about 1/3 of small and mid-sized businesses report disruptions that last 24 hours or more each year, according to the National Federation of Independent Business survey.
And we've said it before and we want to say it again - having your data backed up is NOT the same thing as disaster recovery.
Having a data backup covers the "disaster" portion, but doesn't address the recovery in DR.
Because if all you have are some backup tapes, then the next thing you'll be asking yourself or your IT Manager is "Now what do we do?"
DR is the answer to that crucial question. But if you haven't already arrived at this answer long before the disaster actually strikes, you're going to waste precious time.
DR means that you already know how to restore from backup, that you've tested it, and that you know it works. You know your RPO (Recovery Point Objective) and your RTO (Recovery Time Objective).
In other words, you know from what point in time your data was backed up (a week? a day? an hour?) and you know how long it will take to restore it. Because the difference between a bare metal backup and a file-level backup is substantial.
DR means much less downtime because you're not wasting time determining HOW to get back to business, but you're instead following the approved plan you already have in place.
Why You Need Business Continuity
If DR means less downtime, business continuity means little to no downtime. And let's face it, time is money isn't a popular expression for nothin'!
Business continuity means you have walked through all manners of catastrophic scenario - loss of a key employee, natural disaster, physical location is destroyed, a malware infection - and determined what contingencies or backup measures need to be put in place to prevent that occurrence from disrupting operations.
And while minimal disruptions may be unavoidable, business continuity will certainly get you back to zero faster than anything else.
Business continuity isn't always going relate to technology either, but oftentimes technology can help to solve the issue.
For example, if a key staff member departs suddenly, where/how would you access his/her files?
If they were all saved to a personal laptop, you may find yourself missing critical or proprietary data. But by accepting that potential reality, you will probably also see the value in having files backed up to a shared server, or cloud-based storage.
As another example, if a fire were to destroy your building, wouldn't you want to be able to communicate quickly with your employees, your vendors and your customers? That isn't just about IT - it's about protecting your brand. But with planning, you can take advantage of modern technology tools to ensure that those communications channel are available to you, no matter what.
The reality is that as human beings, we all tend to look on the bright side and assume that the bad things will never happen to us or our business. Bob will never leave the company, that hurricane will never hurt, Ian is always really careful with his morning cup of Joe around the main server and Janice knows better than to click on that malicious attachment.
And snowstorms never happen in March either.
Corsica Tech's expert IT solutions are both affordable and innovative, allowing businesses of any size toenjoy world-class IT management services and access to modern, flexible technology tools and resources. With a focus on quality, reliability and exceptional customer service, we can help you make technology yourcompetitive advantage. Request a Call today and speak with one of our experienced Account Managers.