Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery – Part 1
Blog written by Andrew Bogard, IT Professional at Doherty Associates.
This week I was working for a customer consulting on an infrastructure design for their new Line of Business application. Part of this involved looking at their Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery requirements. What I found most interesting about this customer was how well developed their plans were in these areas. From this experience I thought a series of posts about some key topics that are important to most businesses would be appropriate.
In this first post I’m going to outline some key terms and distinctions between them when you begin your Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery journey.
In part 2 I will discuss how important Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery are as a business function and not just an IT function. At the same time I will talk about where to start your BC/DR planning, by identifying the key processes within your business or department and then prioritising them.
In part 3 I will outline some of the technical challenges that will be faced when trying to actually implement your BC/DR plans.
In part 4 I will wrap up with some final steps that are important to keeping your BC/DR plans valid and up to date.
Key Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery terms.
Business Continuity is generally used to define the tasks and steps that need to be taken by a business to ensure that it is able to keep functioning. In other words it is the steps that you take to make sure you can:
- Continue to deliver your product to your clients
- Continue taking payments from your customers
- Continue dealing with complaints from your customers.
In short, BC covers everything you need to do to make sure you can provide your customers with what you have promised and to resolve any problems that they have in that process.
In most cases, especially for smaller businesses, the key of business continuity will be that the business is in a function but not necessarily optimal state. It can operate but maybe not do everything that it would normally do. The key to an effective Business Continuity strategy is identifying the key tasks that the business needs to perform to function in a basic manner. An effective business continuity plan should cater for a wide range of scenarios that affect the normal operation of the business, from minor (eg. adverse weather) to major (such as all staff not able to access the office).
Disaster Recovery is more about getting your business back to normal after serious incidents. This is the process of restoring your applications, computers, finding new premises. All the tasks you would need to complete if your server(s) fail, your office burns down or many other possibilities.
The biggest difference between Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery is that Business Continuity may be the steps you take while everything is broken and other people are trying to restore your systems.
Recovery Point Objective (RPO)
Recovery Point Objective is a simple one. Its key focus is on how much data the business is able to lose in the event of a disaster. For example if your company completes a backup of its data once per day then your recovery point is up to 24 hours old.
Recovery Time Objective (RTO)
Recovery Time objective is the other piece of the puzzle, it is most focused on the time it will take to complete your disaster recovery.
The most commonly used term in discussions about BC/DR, and what many people assume is the only part of the whole puzzle. It is the task of making sure you have another copy of your business data/server/application in the event of a disaster (which you hope will never be needed).
Restore is the process used to return your systems to normal after a disaster. It relies on having a working and viable backup of the systems your business runs.
In some cases it may be that your business has very low RPO and RTO requirements. In short, you can’t afford to lose much data and, you can’t afford for the system to be offline for anything more than a few minutes. When these are the requirements then some form of High Availability (HA) system will be needed. Most HA systems involve a few key technologies:
- Data Replication
- Load Balancing
This finishes my summary of the most important terms in the BC/DR picture, keep an eye out for Part 2 where I’ll help you start the most important part of your Business Continuity / Disaster Recovery journey!