Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery – Part 2

In my first post I outlined some of the key terms that are used in most Business Continuity or Disaster Recovery conversations. This post will be focused on how much BC/DR is in fact a function for the entire business rather than just something that IT needs to concern itself with. At the same time I will outline the most important step in planning for BC/DR, knowing your key processes and systems.

Business Continuity – Not just for the IT Team

Small Business and their Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery plans.

Over the past few years I have spoken to many small and medium sized businesses about Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery. The most common thing I have seen is that the majority of small businesses do not have a Business Continuity or Disaster Recovery plan. Most, but by no means all, of these businesses outsource their IT operations to a 3rdparty provider. By extension they assume that this is something taken care of by that provider and, to an extent, it is. A provider will not willingly put themselves into a position where they are liable for losing a client’s core infrastructure. But consider this, the provider will start off by ensuring that they can recover, they will be guided by the business on what an acceptable outage is and how much money an organisation is willing to spend on a particular backup product. What they won’t do is investigate your business processes, identify the critical ones to your business and then design a solution that can be used to ensure that those processes can continue as quickly as possible.

Identify your Business Processes and their supporting systems.

Understanding your businesses processes is the most important part of designing a practical Business Continuity strategy. Knowing what the key business processes within each team are, you are ready to identify what systems they need. In some cases, especially in small business, this is probably a group of files or folders on your shared file server. In others it is a key database application or perhaps it is just email.

Prioritise your processes and identify their outage tolerance.

Once you have identified your processes the next thing you need to do is calculate their priority to the business and in this, the most important rule is: If everything is the highest priority, then nothing is the highest priority! We all know what happens when you constantly receive emails from one person that are all flagged as urgent. We start to ignore them! The same rule applies to BC/DR. If every system is a priority then it is impossible to effectively work on restoring the business to an operational state.

Every business has critical processes that need to happen every day, week or month and if they don’t the company is losing money. Similarly every business has key processes that are not critical and if they were pushed back for a week or two, while it may cause other problems for the business it would not be a financial loss to the organisation. Some of these processes may be of critical importance at a particular time of year, such as year-end for the finance team or the insurance renewal and then be not as critical during the rest of the year. All of these factors need to be identified.

Of upmost importance when deciding the priority of systems is to calculate the costs to the business in the event of an outage. Without knowing the cost of an actual outage it is impossible to do a meaningful comparison of what options you have to reduce the impact of any given outage. If the cost of adding redundancies to the systems you need is ten times greater than what the financial loss to the business will be, then unless you have 10 unplanned outages during the lifespan of the infrastructure, then it is a waste of money that can be better spent elsewhere.

Identify where your team can work.

It is quite possible that whatever event conspires against your business that it may mean people cannot get into your office for a period of time. Identify what steps you could need to take in the event that this occurs. Can people work from home? Do you have a DR Site that you can move to? Will you need to hire office space?

Discuss with your IT Provider or Team

When you are armed with all of this information, you are then ready to engage IT, with an achievable budget that the IT team can meet and a firm business benefit in mind. IT Guys, including me, will always look at a system and find how to make it the most available it can be usually forgetting the cost implications, without a realistic budget and outline of the costs of an outage you may find that you end up with systems that are more redundant than you need. Help your IT people actually line up their technological goals with the real business objectives.

Stay tuned for part 3 where I will talk about some of the real world technical challenges that your IT team will face when trying to implement your business continuity or disaster recovery plans!


To continue reading the blog on Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery, please view Andrews personal blog here – 

TOPICS: An IT Pro Confesses, business continuity, disaster recovery

Written By: Jacob

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Blog written by Andrew Bogard, IT Professional at Doherty Associates.