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What is Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery? The Difference Between BC vs DR

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Updated 1st May 2024, Rob Morrison

What is the difference between Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery?

Both business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) are essential for any modern-day organization, but the differences between the two may sometimes be difficult to pinpoint in some contexts. There are also plenty of examples of how they are treated as one, with the acronym BCDR gaining more and more traction over time.

However, proper business continuity and disaster recovery planning processes require understanding how these terms differ. The most significant difference between the two is the scope – business continuity is broader, while disaster recovery is more specific.

To make it easier to understand how the two terms differ from one another, we are going to go over each of them in detail.

What is Business Continuity (BC)?

Business Continuity is an overarching sophisticated course of action enacted when something goes wrong within an organization and stopped only when the organization resumes its normal operations. It can also be defined as the capability of a company to both plan and respond to unexpected situations that cause business interruptions.

Business continuity planning covers every single aspect of an organization, ranging from office buildings and employees to IT infrastructures, business partners, and more. Such a plan details how each element of the system is supposed to act to ensure that the damage of a business disruption is as little as possible – covering responsibilities of different user groups, actions that have to be taken, and more.

What is Disaster Recovery (DR)?

Disaster Recovery is much more specific in its use cases – it is created to recover data and infrastructure after some sort of event has rendered them inoperable. It ensures that the most critical elements of the IT infrastructure have as little downtime as possible with minimal data loss, with its main target being the company’s information and infrastructure.

A Disaster Recovery plan is always part of a more complex BC plan. The brunt of disaster recovery planning is covering how data, applications, and IT infrastructure can be restored after an outage or a disaster. As a separate entity, a disaster recovery plan is more targeted toward restoring the technical state of an organization. In contrast, business continuity plans as a whole might not be as specific as disaster recovery plans – which is why the combination of the two (BCDR) is becoming more and more popular.

Essential elements of both Disaster Recovery planning and Business Continuity planning

There is a lot of common ground between BC plans and DR plans. Both of them share a rather similar approach to planning as a whole, among other similarities. Even though DR seems to be far more targeted towards IT infrastructures than BC does, both of them have several key considerations that have to be kept in mind when planning a response to a disaster.

  • Cybersecurity is an especially important topic, with the number of ransomware attacks growing at an alarming pace each year and thousands of companies being affected by data breaches on a yearly basis. In this context, implementing different cybersecurity measures is typically a good idea.
  • Backups are one of the most basic approaches to data security as a topic. The topic itself is wide and sophisticated, but the most basic backup and recovery solution – tested regularly – is an essential element of practically any modern IT infrastructure.
  • Cloud computing is mostly an addition to the previous point, greatly improving the convenience of backing up and recovering data and applications to and from a location that is not physically connected to the organization’s infrastructure in any way (making it much more difficult to be affected).
  • Communication is an essential element of any disaster recovery plan, ensuring that all the different elements are coordinated and the entire disaster recovery or business continuity plan is moving along.
  • Redundancy is an umbrella word for technology that tries to make at least some elements of the system available even when the rest of the infrastructure is affected by some sort of disaster. This kind of approach is usually reserved for some of the most critical systems and elements of the infrastructure.
  • Remote accessibility significantly improves the convenience of restoring information and infrastructure without being physically in the location of the office or the server location. Remote access makes it possible to initiate and control BC and DR plans from home or other locations, reducing potential downtimes of an organization.

At the same time, mentioning the differences in BC and DR goals would be wise. Without going into much detail, we can summarize the most significant differences between the two using the table below.

DR plan BC plan
Covers planning for the technological part of the infrastructure Yes Yes
Aims to continue business operations No Yes
Aims to minimize downtime and restore the IT infrastructure Yes No
Covers planning for the staff-oriented operations No Yes
Covers planning for the supply chain No Yes
Creates a response plan to a disruption of sorts Yes Yes

It would be unfair to say that one plan is less effective than the other since each tries to accomplish different goals. None of these plans contradict each other, either. In fact, there is a completely standalone term that explains the combination of business continuity and disaster recovery plans.

What is BCDR?

Since business continuity and disaster recovery plans tend to focus on different elements of the same process, it is not that uncommon for organizations to try and create a single plan that includes elements of BC and DR. This kind of combination is called BCDR, or Business Continuity Disaster Recovery plan.

BCDR is a crisis management process with the primary goal of returning the entire organization to its everyday business tasks after a disastrous event. It is supposed to combine the improved focus on the technical side of the process from DR plans while also covering all of the necessary steps from the disaster event itself to the moment the entire infrastructure is back to normal.

General advantages of Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery planning

Not only BCDR planning makes it easier for organizations of all sizes to handle threats and disasters, but it also helps with better understanding of the infrastructure as a whole, potentially leading to workflow management improvements. Some of the biggest advantages of BCDR are:

  • Lower data breach costs. While it is possible to eliminate some possible reasons for data breaches, it is practically impossible to be protected against all of them at once. The situation is made even worse by the fact that new cyberthreats are developed on a regular basis, and no one is safe from accidents or the “human error” factor. What companies can do is create BCDR plans that streamline an organization’s recovery to a normal working state as much as possible, greatly reducing the amount of money a company loses by being in an inoperable state

The average price of a data breach incident during the entire year of 2023 was around $4.45 million USD. Being able to reduce the cost of a data breach by lowering the amount of downtime is a tremendous financial advantage for any company.

  • Lower downtime. Recovering from an incident as fast as possible provides multiple benefits. The primary benefit is relatively obvious, and we have already mentioned it above—the business downtime price. Another advantage of a faster recovery for a company is that company’s reputation in the eyes of a customer.
  • Lower regulatory fines. Many industries are subject to strict regulatory and legal frameworks today. Financial data, healthcare data, and personal information are some of the most common data types subject to some standard, be it GDPR, HIPAA, etc.

Building a Business Continuity Plan

All disaster recovery plans are usually far more specific and targeted compared with business continuity plans. It also varies significantly from one company to another because of each company’s different priorities.

However, what we can do is describe four steps of a BC plan that would be included in all of these plans:

  • Perform BIA (Business Impact Analysis).

Understanding what risks are most likely to affect a specific organization is the foundation of an effective business continuity plan. A Business Impact Analysis plan (BIA) is the key part of this step. BIA represents the process of finding and evaluating different events and disasters (as well as their effect on a company’s operations).

A good BIA is an overview of every single threat that might happen to an organization, including both internal and external threats. Some BIAs also identify the potential chances of each threat and vulnerability happening, making it easier for companies to prioritize major threats over minor ones.

  • Plan responses for every threat.

Once the list of potential threats in the form of BIA is complete, the next step is to plan efficient responses to every threat. The nature of the response and the overall approach will depend heavily on the severity of the threat itself and other factors. The end goal of this step is to have efficient and time-sensitive responses to all threats that were identified in BIA.

  • Identify critical roles and assign responsibilities.

Even the most thoroughly planned incident responses are dependent on how well the team members are going to execute them. As such, assigning roles and responsibilities to different team members is vital to make sure that all of the recovery plans proceed as swiftly as possible.

Some threats also affect communication channels, such as Internet connections and cellular networks. Planning secondary communication channels for these specific instances would be a good idea.

  • Test the plan and update it regularly.

Even the most thorough and detailed business continuity plan might still have some flaws that are only going to reveal themselves once the disaster occurs. In this context, testing business continuity plans is just as important as creating them

Creating a Disaster Recovery Plan

Disaster recovery plans are somewhat more narrow in comparison. An organization’s IT infrastructure is the main target of a disaster recovery plan. Despite its smaller scope, a disaster recovery plan also requires multiple people to be involved in the process – due to the need to develop, implement, test, and document various elements of a DR plan.

Ensuring that critical business elements are recovered as soon as possible if a disaster occurs is the primary goal of a disaster recovery plan. It is not uncommon for DR plans to involve multiple stakeholders from different departments to make sure that the entire organization’s needs are met during the recovery process.

Despite the fact that the entire disaster recovery process is iterative and ongoing, there are at least five different phases to the process that differ drastically from one another:

  • Commitment and Authorization
  • Prioritization
  • Technical Approach
  • Plan Development and Implementation
  • Testing

Commitment and Authorization

Commitment to developing a disaster recovery plan from all management levels is an essential part of the whole process. A proper understanding of why disaster recovery is necessary needs to be conveyed to multiple stakeholders to ensure that the company can allocate not only time and attention, but also money and resources to this process.

First, it is recommended that as much information as possible be gathered about the existing disaster recovery policies – including their latest updates, the capabilities of each measure, and the person responsible for enforcing these policies. This step is technically optional, but it is recommended in most cases to better understand how the company operates as a whole.

Second, the most significant part of this step is all about convincing the stakeholders of the necessity of creating a disaster recovery plan. Clear and concise communication is an absolute requirement for this step, and even a presentation for the higher management would be beneficial to the overall success of the campaign.

Another vital part of this segment includes deciding who is going to be included in the disaster recovery process:

  • The working group implements and tests disaster recovery plans while also defining the technical side of the process.
  • The steering committee provides oversight for the disaster recovery process while authorizing resources such as time and money to develop new and improved instructions.

Prioritization

This is a much more sophisticated phase than the previous one since it covers both the identification of risks and the measures that are taken to prevent them. There are five main parts to this phase:

  1. Evaluate all of the applications and services in the system to determine the most important ones. Each department of the business has to be involved in this evaluation process to receive the most up-to-date information from trusted sources.
  2. Identify the maximum data loss amount for the company, the overall server outage impact, as well as the longest service downtime that is still somewhat acceptable by the company. There are four severity levels of the potential impact that the outage of a service or an application might cause:
    1. Minor impact results in low monetary losses and can be dealt with relatively easily.
    2. Moderate impact represents significant change in business operations without a direct threat to the provision of processes and services.
    3. Major impact implies a significant threat to the provisioning of processes and services the company offers, it usually requires executive involvement to be solved or worked around.
    4. Catastrophic impact represents major problems for the business as a whole, requiring immediate involvement of the entire executive team. Major property destruction, multiple threats to human lives, and immense monetary losses are potential consequences of the catastrophic level of impact.
  3. Perform an assessment of all the threats and risks that may potentially disrupt applications, processes, and IT services. Each risk must have the potential implications and the necessity to perform some sort of strategy to mitigate it.
  4. Prioritize IT services in order of their importance to the overall company’s functioning. The expected recovery time for most companies is 24 hours for the essential infrastructure elements, 72 hours for important parts of the system, and 2 weeks or more for the rest of the list. Before you can proceed, all stakeholders must agree with the priority list.
  5. Determine which services should receive the recovery plans first. The list above is very helpful in determining which infrastructure elements should receive their disaster recovery plans sooner.

Technical Approach

This phase covers most of the technical research for the entire plan; it is used to determine what kind of technological solution is needed for solving the consequences of every single disaster that has been found – and whether it is possible to be proactive and solve some of them beforehand. Similar to how the previous phase was constructed, it is possible to separate the technical side of the topic into four smaller sub-topics that follow one after another:

  • Determining whether it would be more efficient to try and prevent the issue (risk) before it happens or to prepare the recovery solution for when it happens. This can be a very challenging process, and parameters such as the Recovery Point Objective and Recovery Time Objective are essential for this stage. For example, it is much preferable for services with more strict RPO/RTO requirements to try and prevent issues instead of reacting to issues happening (since the downtime cost is usually massive for these services).
  • Figuring out measures that could be taken to prevent and respond to incidents, such as finding an alternative site that can be used as the recovery facility. The new facility must meet all of the company’s requirements in terms of scale, lower, and infrastructure complexity. The reason why the mirror data center is needed in the first place is to act as a safeguard against potentially disruptive events or incidents that might render some or all of the primary infrastructure useless for a period of time, if not permanently.
  • Calculating cost estimates for the aforementioned safety measures is the last element of this phase. This also includes creating a detailed implementation schedule and obtaining approval from the aforementioned steering committee.

Plan Development and Implementation

As we have mentioned before, there are two groups of users that should be included in the process of developing a disaster recovery plan: a working group and a steering committee. The former defines the technical side of the plan while the latter makes decisions and authorizes budgets.

Creating a proper disaster response process is also an important step, even though it is less about the technical details of working with specific tasks and more about how the entire company should react to any kind of issue. There are four main steps in an average disaster response process (assuming that the incident occurs right before stage 1):

  1. Assessment of the incident’s nature and the severity of the impact.
  2. Notification of the entire recovery team while initiating the recovery process and following its progress.
  3. Initiating service continuation as normal once the recovery process is complete. Testing of the current state of the system.
  4. Performing incident analysis and survey.

Following a very similar logic, it is necessary to develop a detailed plan for recovering every single service and element. These would differ from one another quite significantly, but the core structure of these processes remains relatively similar:

  • The current state of the system is analyzed.
  • The recommended approach to recovering from an incident is determined.
  • The situation is analyzed once the service is back up and running.

The last step is essential for the ongoing improvement of all recovery processes, with or without the disaster recovery plan. This is also how we transition to the last phase of the Disaster Recovery plan creation.

Testing

The last and most important element of a disaster recovery plan is its testing phase. All previous efforts would be virtually useless if the plan itself is not thoroughly tested before it is actually needed. Thorough testing is the only way to determine whether a DR plan even works without causing an actual incident for your company.

Three main test types could be performed for DR plans:

  1. Full Failover Testing. The most expensive and time-consuming test that also involves some risk to the company’s everyday operations. However, this test is also the closest one to the actual incident-related situation and offers the most results for further analysis.
  2. Disaster Simulation. The middle-ground of DR plan tests; disaster simulation involves a mock disaster simulation without any risk to the existing tasks and processes. The simulation in question might involve communication channels, personnel, supplies, documentation, software, and even hardware. Disaster simulations are usually split into three distinct types:
    1. Component tests. Small-scope test operations that are performed for individual environment elements, mostly performed multiple times throughout the year at random intervals.
    2. Environment tests. A process for testing moderately complex environments (for example, a combination of firewalls and routers at once), it can offer limited functional testing capability but is closer in its results to an actual disaster.
    3. Real-time tests. Tests that are performed for all environments at once in a single day, covers both functional and connectivity testing, it can even isolate production elements. One step away from full-on failover tests.
  3. Tabletop Walkthroughs. It is mostly a technical review of the plan on a verbal level, it involves all of the team members gathering in a meeting room and going through each step of the plan to look for bottlenecks or weaknesses in it.

Creating and executing a disaster recovery plan can be very challenging. We hope that our guide brought enough understanding of what a DR plan is and what it entails at different phases.

Use cases and examples of different BCDR plans

BCDR plans are often different from one another since many different industries have their priorities and goals when it comes to disaster recovery and business continuity. Some of the most prominent variations of a BCDR plan are:

  • Network recovery plan. Network service interruptions are the main target of this plan, helping companies recover from issues such as connection loss, Internet access disruption, and other similar issues. Modern organizations rely a lot on networked services in their day-to-day operations, so it is very important for network recovery plans to be as efficient as possible.
  • Communication plan. A plan that covers all of the necessary steps that the organization takes in the Public Relations (PR) department. Proper communication with the organization’s clients and partners is essential in minimizing the reputational damage an organization might take from a data breach or some other disaster.
  • Virtualized recovery plan. Being able to have an efficient plan for recovering VM instances is also crucial for a lot of companies since virtual machines have plenty of use cases themselves, such as testing, high availability, emulation, and so on.
  • Crisis management plan. A plan that details the response for a very specific type of incident – which is why it is also often called an incident management plan. A crisis management plan includes step-by-step instructions on how an organization is supposed to handle a cyberattack, a natural disaster, a power outage, or some other type of crisis.
  • Data center recovery plan. A plan that covers the essential recovery steps for a data center after a power outage, a cyberattack, or a human error. Data centers are usually subject to strict compliance requirements from multiple government entities, making the topic of fast and efficient recovery extremely important.

BCDR plan example: Hurricane Sandy and a major financial institution

BCDR plans can be somewhat difficult to comprehend, even after seeing their overall structure in detail. As such, we can take a well-known example of a properly constructed BCDR planning process that saved an entire building’s worth of business operations amidst a massive flood.

The company in question is a well-known financial institution in the US. The specific building that will be the focus here is located in Lower Manhattan, NYC. That part of the city was subject to a devastating hurricane, Sandy, in 2012, and there have been multiple flooding and power outage situations everywhere.

The company office building managed to evade this kind of fate, and their BCDR preparations are the reason for that happening. We are going to try and go over all of the measures that the institution took to avoid flooding damage and power outages, separating them into multiple important categories:

  • Proactive measures

A significant infrastructure upgrade was the first obvious step that was taken in preparation for the disaster. Some examples of such upgrades are flood barriers and electrical system upgrades (to gain as much elevation as possible to avoid flooding), with the primary goal of preventing at least the critical infrastructure from being affected during the flood.

Remote access capabilities were also tested thoroughly beforehand, including introducing an internal VPN that allowed many employees to keep working without being on-premises. Laptops and network access were also prepared and provided to those employees in advance.

The organization’s financial information was also stored in multiple data centers that were geographically separate from one another, utilizing features such as data mirroring and fast access to ensure that the customer financial services were not interrupted even if one of the locations lost power.

  • BCDR plan activation

As the hurricane closed in, multiple protocols were initiated in the company and its Lower Manhattan office. This included checking whether the trading floors had extra backup power and connection solutions and the ability to trade remotely if necessary.

The essential staff of that company’s branch was provided accommodation near the building in multiple hotels to ensure they could reach the on-site location if their expertise was required. All employees were also introduced to emergency communication channels, offering regular status updates via several communication types simultaneously for continuity purposes.

One of the biggest testaments to the institution’s level of preparation was that the institution’s building was one of the few that remained operational and with power during the flooding itself (even if they were running their own generators at the time). Multiple articles were written about the situation and how the company prepared everything.

  • The result of the flooding

At the end of the day, the flood barriers managed to protect the structure from significant damage, and the backup power sources, such as generators, made sure that the business remained operational before, during, and after the disaster has passed. This situation has given the company a significant boost in market stability and client confidence since the overall damages from Hurricane Sandy were massive.

  • Post-flood review

After the hurricane, a thorough review of the company’s existing DR and BC plans was performed, highlighting areas for potential improvement due to the BCDR framework being tested during a real disaster. This allowed the institution to focus on improving remote access capabilities and investing in diversifying data storage location options. The entire situation is well-known in the industry and is often used as a case study for multiple beneficial frameworks and systems, including BCDR plans.

This case study shows how a single institution managed to avoid major damage to its facilities during a large hurricane by implementing several different business continuity and disaster recovery practices. This kind of example is one of many that happen on a regular basis, but such events are often few and far between, especially when it comes to data breaches and other topics that concern information security.

BCDR and cyber security

As we have mentioned before, both BC and DR plans are created to address various issues, ranging from natural disasters to ransomware and cyber threats. Now that we have an example of how a physical disaster can be dealt with using a BCDR plan, it is time to discuss what these plans can do to protect against cyber threats.

Many different elements of business continuity and disaster recovery plans contribute to the overall cybersecurity effort within an organization. Surprisingly enough, cybersecurity-oriented elements in BC and DR plans tend to differ, which is why it is easier to review them separately

Disaster Recovery plans and cybersecurity

As we have mentioned before, DR plans tend to be more down-to-earth and specific than BC plans. The most significant focus for any DR plan is post-event recovery (be it after a cyber attack, a natural disaster, etc.). Some of the most significant elements of a DR plan geared toward cybersecurity topics are presented below:

  • A detailed explanation of what to do after a certain event occurs. If the system is hit with a cyber attack, the most likely sequence of steps is going to be “isolate affected storage elements – eliminate malware – restore backup”.
  • A detailed analysis of the situation after it occurred. Something that all systems should do after a cybersecurity disaster of sorts is to perform an investigation to understand:
    • How did the situation in question happen?
    • How significant was its damage?
    • How can it be prevented from now on?
  • A thorough preparation for data loss events. Some of the most obvious steps to ensure data availability and its complete integrity during and after a cyber attack is to create backups – including cloud backups, off-site backups, and other variations of the process to ensure that original information could be restored as soon as possible if something happens.
  • A frequent testing and analysis of all the existing DR measures. The number of data breaches has been steadily increasing for years now, and malicious software is constantly evolving and improving itself to this day. Reviewing existing DR measures, analyzing their speed and effectiveness, and introducing new measures into the plan are all important as the means of being prepared if nothing else.

Regulatory compliance is also an essential topic in this context, but it will be reviewed further in this article. Other than that, it is safe to say that a DR plan contributes quite a lot to an organization’s overall cybersecurity effort, ranging from setting up and testing existing systems and measures (including backups, which is arguably one of the most important ones) to detailing the processes that have to be performed if a cybersecurity incident actually occurs.

Business Continuity plans and cybersecurity

Business continuity plans, on the other hand, are much less recovery-specific and have bigger tasks in mind – which changes their cybersecurity priorities quite a bit. There are multiple ways in which BC plans can help with cyber threat protection, including:

  • A detailed coverage of all communication during a disaster. This includes both the communication measures, and the persons that have to be contacted first when something happens.
  • An overview of all existing cybersecurity measures, including antivirus software, firewalls, and intrusion detection. Understanding what the company already has makes improving upon existing measures much easier.
  • A communications plan with different partners. Stable communication within the company is important during stressful events, but having secure and reliable communication with different partners is just as important to ensure that one of the partners is not used as a weak link in the system.
  • A thorough risk management plan. Risk assessment is often a centerpiece of a business continuity plan, creating a brief overview of all the potential risks and what can be done to mitigate every single one of them.

Business continuity plans are slightly different in their contribution to cybersecurity efforts, but both BC and DR plans are essential in establishing a robust and secure system that can withstand a multitude of threats.

Training courses revolving around Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery

BCDR can be a rather challenging topic for many users since it requires many different details to account for. Luckily, the industry is aware of these issues, so plenty of training courses and other learning materials are available on the Internet that attempt to explain the topic of DR and BC to a certain degree.

There are multiple different courses that businesses and organizations provide for disaster recovery, business continuity, BCDR, and more. One good example of such a training course is ISO 22301 – a Business Continuity Management System Training Course that is designed to cover different aspects of business continuity as a topic.

This course applies to most use cases in the industry, no matter their size, making it easier to locate disruptive threats, prepare for them, and recover from the aftermath of such events. Business continuity management can also be helpful when it comes to providing competitive advantages, increasing the company’s reputation, and other benefits already mentioned in the article.

ISO 22301 is just one example of how training courses might help companies in developing disaster recovery and business continuity plans. There are plenty of other similar examples, as well, expanding on a somewhat confusing topic of BCDR as a whole.

BCDR planning and regulatory compliance

Business continuity and disaster recovery plans are often mentioned in various regulatory frameworks on different levels and cited as a requirement for multiple industries. This makes BCDR planning somewhat relevant in the context of various regulations, both local and global. In fact, we can even separate the two to simplify the explanation.

Local regulatory practices and BCDR

Many regulations are considered local simply because it can be difficult for one area or location to spread its standards over the entire world. As such, even large-scale regulatory frameworks such as GDPR (EU) or CCPA (US) are considered local – and request personal data protection at a specific level. BCDR planning contributes a lot to information protection as a whole, including protection measures, recovery capabilities, and incident notifications.

High availability that BCDR plans rely on is also a frequent requirement in industry-specific cases, including healthcare, finance, and so on. A similar logic applies to the necessity of performing audits and generating reports about the existing BCDR measures. This requires all BC and DR plans to be highly detailed and kept up-to-date to ensure compliance at all times.

Global regulatory practices and BCDR

The number of regulatory frameworks and regulations that exist for specific areas or industries is relatively high, and all of these frameworks have to be satisfied using BCDR planning, as well as other measures. Some of the most well-known examples of regulation-heavy industries are:

  • Healthcare (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, General Data Protection Regulation)
  • Telecommunications (Federal Communications Commission, Network Reliability and Interoperability Council)
  • Energy (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, North American Electric Reliability Corporation)
  • Finances (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Basel III)
  • Manufacturing (Environmental Protection Agency, Occupational Safety and Health Administration)

Plenty of other industries are also regulated to a certain degree, but these five examples are some of the most commonly mentioned industries in this context. This is where the line between local and global regulatory frameworks gets somewhat blurry due to the nature of a modern-world business that can work in one country while also storing clients’ information from all over the world.

As such, multiple standards are in place to regulate these exact situations. For example, the ISO 22301 for Business Continuity Management standard was created specifically for use cases where a single company must simultaneously meet regulatory requirements in several countries.

It is also not uncommon for different local regulations to govern local customer information being transferred outside of the local territory (GDPR is the most popular example of such a regulation). Many BCDR plans have a separate section for measures that are explicitly taken for compliance reasons, especially when it comes to data sharing.

Since BCDRs are regularly created to ensure continued availability and constant access to the service in question, the importance of such plans grows even more when created for companies that operate in multiple countries. One of the bigger goals of many BC and DR plans is to ensure that all local (and global) requirements and compliance rules are met.

The most significant threats to the continuity of an organization

The number and variety of threats an average organization might face regularly is genuinely staggering. The overall situation is made even worse by the fact that most of these events are extremely difficult to predict and expect, making the task of protecting against them that much more challenging. To make it easier to offer at least some potential threats to the continuity of a business, we can separate them into four categories:

  1. Natural disasters and climate changes. This category covers some of the most expected causes of physical damage to an organization’s infrastructure – heatwaves, storms, droughts, earthquakes, and floods.
  2. Data breaches and cyber-attacks. A category that has been getting more and more attention in recent years, it covers malware, ransomware, and every other type of solution or method that could potentially disrupt the day-to-day operations of an organization, causing business downtime, revenue losses, and customer dissatisfaction.
  3. Infrastructure failures. A relatively broad category that mainly includes accidents that cause disruptions in a company’s infrastructure, such as productivity loss, data loss, and other problematic consequences.
  4. Power outages. There is an argument that this specific issue belongs to the “infrastructure failures” category. However, power outage-related issues alone are disruptive enough to be mentioned separately here. The overwhelming majority of organizations rely on equipment powered by electricity – and even planned power outages might cause a lot of discomfort for an average organization, while unplanned outages are highly problematic to almost any business.

All of these issues differ rather significantly, and it can be incredibly challenging to limit the scope of each one on the go. Business continuity planning and disaster recovery planning help businesses survive such events with minimal damage.

The importance of BCP and Disaster Recovery plans

BCDR planning dramatically improves an organization’s chances of going through disruptive events without significant profit or client losses. Some of the elements of a BCDR plan also act towards reducing the likelihood of potentially disastrous events happening to the infrastructure in the first place.

Alternatively, organizations that do not have a BCDR plan in place are far less likely to survive a single major outage or disastrous event to begin with. A rather well-known statistic states that 4 out of 5 businesses cannot tolerate more than 12 hours of downtime without significant losses to their business operations.

Without a plan of action for all organization members, returning to normal operations less than 12 hours after a disaster occurs would be challenging. The value of both DR and BC plans is difficult to overestimate in circumstances like these.

The future of BCDR

Business continuity and disaster recovery planning are inevitably affected by different trends and changes in associated industries. One of the most significant changes in recent years that practically everyone knows about is the introduction of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence into multiple industries, providing an entirely new set of advantages and features to existing solutions.

BCDR plans are not immune to any of these changes, and there are plenty of technologies, trends, and changes that are either going to affect the BCDR planning in near future or have already been implemented to a certain degree. A number of common examples for such technologies and trends are presented below.

  • Integration of ML and AI in multiple forms. The potential for changes regarding BCDR and artificial intelligence is significant. These systems can automate complex disaster recovery processes, improve upon existing risk assessment techniques, and improve resource allocation during disaster recovery.
  • Virtualization and cloud storage. While both techniques have been in the industry for quite some time, they still grow and evolve regularly. They can offer faster recovery times in the form of virtual DR networks, better disaster recovery protection and data recovery via cloud storage, as well as other potential efficiency gains.
  • Green and sustainable IT industry. There is a significant push towards sustainability, lower energy consumption, waste reduction, and many similar trends. This is already affecting the way DR facilities are built and maintained, and even some of the business continuity measures are now forced to be more energy efficient or to generate less waste during recovery.
  • Cybersecurity enhancements. Naturally, the cybersecurity industry as a whole is also implementing a lot of AI and ML-oriented practices in their regular operations, including better incident response coordination systems, more thorough threat detection systems based on AI network monitoring, and many other potential options.
  • Regulatory technology. Compliance as a field of its own grows in tandem with technology, and it become so sophisticated over the years that an entire new branch of software spawned – Regulatory Technology, or RegTech. The primary goal of such software is to ensure adherence to various compliance regulations, and it is easy to see how such software can affect the BCDR planning by improving the company’s ability to ensure its compliance to any regulatory framework.

The BCDR field as a whole is susceptible to many different factors and technologies, and it would have to keep evolving to keep up with the overall technological progress. It is difficult to predict how some technologies will affect this specific industry, but the influence of some of the more apparent examples could already be seen in practice.

Conclusion

It is very difficult to say that disaster recovery plans are more valuable than business continuity plans and vice versa. In most cases, it is less about choosing between two types of plans and more about prioritizing one plan over another. IT-centric companies would most likely prefer to concentrate on disaster recovery plans before attempting to create business continuity plans, while less technology-centric organizations would prioritize BC plans.

Both plans are extremely important for practically any company on the market, and proper knowledge about the topic is necessary for creating robust and effective BCDR planning workflows. Fortunately, there are also other ways to simplify the creation and implementation of BC or DR plans, such as using third-party software.

There are a good number of different solutions on the market that could assist a business with setting up a BCDR plan. For example, comprehensive backup and recovery solutions such as Bacula Enterprise can offer many different options in terms of data security, and comprehensive recovery tools and techniques to support a disaster recovery strategy and ensure business continuity (and more).

Bacula Enterprise is a highly secure, powerful backup and recovery platform designed to enhance the security and versatility of data protection efforts for a business. It can play a key part in an organizations’ digital transformation program and is also a great way to improve upon various BCDR plans, including:

  • Support for multiple storage types and OS variations for easier implementation of backup and recovery across multiple environments. This saves significantly on resources via a single pane-of-glass solution.
  • Easy scalability that can match any company’s growth capabilities without losing on performance or security measures. The scalability is both on the technical side – and on the licensing side (no data volume charges).
  • Disaster recovery automation capabilities significantly improve the speed and efficiency of data restoration processes, and multiple restoration methods allow for many customization options to benefit the Systems Architect.
  • Impressive levels of information security capabilities with data encryption across the board, anti-ransomware tools and role based access GUI.
  • Detailed reporting capabilities, which are a great advantage regarding compliance topics and audit trails.
  • Advanced deduplication technology to save storage space
  • Vastly increased sustainability of the product, over other vendors

As a highly scalable, secure backup

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the goals of an average BCDR plan?

In the most basic terms possible, there are five main goals that each BCDR should pursue:

  • Assessing the current state of a business, setting priorities, and identifying potential threats in the process.
  • Another vital part is evaluating risks and providing solutions to them. Regular risk evaluation and thorough analysis of the results ensure all potential gateways for issues are accounted for.
  • The combination of risks and solutions creates the basis for a BCDE plan. It should be tested regularly to ensure that all planned measures and actions are functional and capable of doing their job. Multiple plan testing solutions for DR and BC plans exist, and many of them can also be used simultaneously for better results.
  • Once the priorities regarding sensitive data are set, it would also be wise to learn the location of this data, ensuring that the recovery process can start at any time and that no regulatory frameworks are broken.
  • Responsibilities are another essential element of any BC or DR plan. They ensure that all employees know what to do if a disaster happens. This is even more important for disaster recovery teams, as they must be able to be contacted anytime.

What is the most significant difference between DR and BC plans?

A business continuity plan covers the bigger picture in an organization’s context, preventing any and all operational disruptions from happening, no matter what part of the company is affected.

Alternatively, a disaster recovery plan is more focused towards the practical and physical aspects of dealing with trauma to an organization, and typically mainly covers the steps necessary for the IT infrastructure to recover from a disaster or other event.

Why is it essential for BCDR plans to be in place in an organization?

BCDR plans are necessary for organizations to survive disasters and disruptive events without the company going out of business as a result. A proper BCDR plan helps the company prepare for potentially harmful events including providing a detailed course of action for if such a catastrophic event actually happens.

About the author
Rob Morrison
Rob Morrison is the marketing director at Bacula Systems. He started his IT marketing career with Silicon Graphics in Switzerland, performing strongly in various marketing management roles for almost 10 years. In the next 10 years Rob also held various marketing management positions in JBoss, Red Hat and Pentaho ensuring market share growth for these well-known companies. He is a graduate of Plymouth University and holds an Honours Digital Media and Communications degree, and completed an Overseas Studies Program.
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