Business Continuity, Contingency or a Disaster Recovery Plan?

What’s the difference between a Business Continuity Plan, Contingency Planning, and a Disaster Recovery Strategy?

If this year has tested your business to its limits, now that you have a little more breathing space, if you haven’t already got one, you may want to introduce a business continuity plan. But where do you even start when there’s are plenty of different plans or strategies that all sound rather similar?

It can be difficult to understand the difference between business continuity, contingency planning, and a disaster recovery strategy.

In this blog, we explain the differences, which will help you decide what you might already have in place and where you need to focus your attention.

DRP

What is Business Continuity?

In simple terms, a business continuity plan ensures that, in the event of a disaster happening or your workplace becomes inaccessible, your business can continue to operate with as little interruption as possible.

A disaster could be a natural disaster, or it could be related to theft, or even terrorism. However, it could also be (and is more likely to be) a cyber attack, human error, adverse publicity, or deliberate damage caused by a disgruntled employee – sadly, this does happen!

As we’ve seen for the best part of this year, a business continuity plan may involve being able to quickly mobilise employees to work from home.

What Must a Business Continuity Plan Include?

A business continuity plan must consider all possible eventualities that pose a risk to your business. Nobody saw the pandemic happening, but those who already had a business continuity plan that considered a national emergency and the need to pivot to working from home, found 2020 a lot easier.

Large global incidents aside though, you need to ask yourself a series of questions – something we always do when we put together a business continuity plan for our clients. The list of scenarios could be anything from a flood, through to your reliance on third-party suppliers and cyber attacks.

It’s important to create a business continuity plan that is bespoke to your business.

Here are some of the things your business continuity strategy should plan for:

  • Temporary relocation of premises
  • Data backups
  • Remote working from home or another location
  • Reallocation of roles to staff
  • Using contractors and suppliers as a fallback
  • Ability to protect and restore personal data in line with GDPR

What is a Disaster Recovery Strategy?

Having a Disaster Recovery Plan should be business-critical, yet only 30% of companies have one.

Disaster recovery is the term used to describe the returning of business operations to normal after a disaster. If daily business operations have been interrupted, your disaster recovery plan will transition your continuity measures back to normal processes.

There’s a very real threat facing business today though; assumptions are being made that a backup strategy is the same as a Disaster Recovery Plan. Sadly, it’s a contributing factor to 7 out of 10 small businesses folding within a year of a major data breach.

Do you know exactly how long it would take your existing backup solution to restore all your data? Considering over 33% of lost data is financial or customer information. How long could your business survive? These are answers you would confidently know if you had a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP).

It’s much easier to consider the risks if you think of backup as a copy of your data and the Disaster Recovery Plan (or strategy) as the insurance that enables its recovery.

Things you should consider when creating a Disaster Recovery Strategy:

  • Who needs to be involved in the planning?
  • How will you recover from data loss or infrastructure failure?
  • Who will be responsible for various recovery tasks?
  • How frequently should we stress-test our DRP?
  • What are the benefits of outsourcing the process to a company like Agile?

As we discussed in our previous blog on cybersecurity, you’ll also want to be certain that your data is being backed up. Your data might be located on a server but exactly where is it and how is it protected?

You might also have heard of the term DRaaS. This stands for Disaster Recovery as a Service. Essentially, it’s a category of Cloud computing that protects applications and data from a disaster or service disruption at one location by enabling a full recovery in the cloud. This means that your business can operate virtually, in a secure cloud location, whilst your primary systems are being restored.

At Agile, we have our own DRaaS replication service. This involves replicating either your physical or virtual servers into our local data centre in Colchester, Essex. It’s a fraction of the cost of traditional IT disaster recovery solutions and DR systems.

What is Contingency Planning?

A contingency plan prepares a business for any potential events that could significantly impact day-to-day operations. This could be anything from the loss of a critical member of staff through to physical and environmental disasters.

Within your contingency plan, you’ll need to consider which aspects of your operations are business-critical. This could be a ransomware attack, a core supplier or contractor entering insolvency, or dare we even say it, another SARS virus!

Plan for a broad range of possibilities and what will action your contingency measures.

So, what’s the Difference Between the Three Types of Plans?

Whilst they are related, it’s easiest to think of them in the following way:

  • A contingency plan is advanced planning to prepare your business for future events
  • A business continuity plan is a temporary solution to keep you up and running in the event of an incident
  • A disaster recovery strategy returns operations back to normal after a disaster has happened

In reality, a business needs a plan that encompasses all three. Here at Agile Technical Solutions, we can help you plan ahead.

Our business continuity plans have seen our clients quickly pivot to home working this year. Moreover, in an environment where cyber attacks are on the increase, we put in place all the necessary protection and stress-test your systems with regular DR simulations.

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