4 Business Continuity Planning Essentials


Think Big Picture To Craft An Effective Business Continuity Plan

The following article is a brief overview of our new eBook on crafting an effective business continuity plan. Data is essential for all types of organizations today, so ensuring access to mission critical applications and data following a disaster is critical. However, business continuity and disaster preparedness are about so much more than that.

In other words, you might have important apps up and running somewhere, but that doesn’t matter if your office is underwater and your employees are at home without power. You need to consider the business as a whole in order to satisfy your customers needs following a disaster event.

The first step for many businesses is to conduct a business impact analysis (BIA). Detailed instruction on conducting a BIA is outside the scope of this article, but the point is to:

  • Identify potential events that could negatively impact normal business operations
  • Calculate the likelihood that each event may occur
  • Quantify the impact that the event could have on your business

For example, if your data center is in Florida, a hurricane is a possible event; its likelihood is high (during hurricane season); and your business could be negatively impacted in a big way if downtime is significant. You get the idea. There are a wide variety of threats to any business ranging from natural disasters to security breaches to random accidents—a leaky pipe can have the same impact as a flood if it’s directly above a critical server.

Once you have that stuff sorted, you can move on to crafting specific plans for risk mitigation, disaster response and continuity of operations. In this ebook, you will learn four distinct but interconnected business continuity planning essentials.

Ensure Employee Well-Being

Communication during and following an emergency presents a variety of challenges. So, crafting an employee safety and communication plan that works is absolutely essential. The specifics will vary widely from company to company, but your emergency safety and communication plan must address the following:

  • How the company will ensure employees are safe during a disaster event
  • How it will communicate essential information to employees following the event

The first part will depend heavily on the nature and location of your business. Safety planning for a large manufacturing facility will obviously be very different than for a small real estate office, for example. Because of this, it’s very difficult to provide specific best practices for this part of your BC/DR plan. However, the key is to match your safety plan to the specific needs of your organization. For the second part, you will need to first gather a variety of information and make sure that it is well documented, easily accessible and stored in a number of secure locations. This should include up-to-date employee contact information (email, mobile and home phone numbers, emergency contact information, etc.). It should also include a methodology for contacting employees.

Keep Customers In The Loop

Managing customer relationships is obviously critical to the ongoing success of your business. As such, it is important to craft a plan for distributing information to your customers during and following a disaster event. The scope of your customer communications plan will vary widely depending on the nature of your business.

Obviously, not every glitch in operations will merit reaching out to your customers. However, if an event occurs that is likely to impact them, it is essential to communicate the details of the issue and explain the steps you are taking to mitigate it. This might mean direct communication to your customers, but it could also mean messaging via traditional and social media. Failure to do so can have a negative impact on the reputation of your organization.

Take the way Toyota responded to reports of self-accelerating vehicles back in 2009-2010 as an example. Instead of acknowledging the issue and assuring customers that the company was investigating the problem, the company opted to cite user error in a classic example of blaming the victim. The problem was eventually pinned on floor mats, gas pedal design and faulty electronics; and although Toyota spent billions to replace accelerator components, their initial response created distrust among customers.

You will also need to handle a wide array of incoming communications following a disruption. Depending on the nature of your business this could mean: support requests, high volumes of email and phone traffic, social media activity from frustrated customers, media interest—the list goes on and on. Your organization’s ability to respond to customer needs following an event will have a direct impact on reputation.

Enable IT Uptime

To understand the IT piece of disaster recovery and business continuity today, it helps to look at the not-so-distant past. It really wasn’t very long ago that backup meant daily incremental and weekly full backups to tape or a dedicated disk backup target. Duplicate tape copies were created and shipped offsite for disaster recovery— typically to a secondary site maintained by the business or to a tape vaulting facility (e.g. Iron Mountain). Many businesses continue to use this model today, and depending on your recovery needs it may be perfectly adequate.

However, disaster recovery from offsite tape can be painfully slow. First, you need to retrieve the tapes from an offsite location. Once they are back on premises, you must ingest data to your backup server. At that point, you can restore data and applications to your primary servers. This, of course, means considerable downtime.

When creating an IT disaster recovery plan, it’s important to understand two concepts: recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO). RTO is the amount of time that it takes to get a system restored following a failure or disaster event. So given the example above, your RTO might amount to 48 hours or more. RPO is the point in time to which data can be restored following the event. So, if you performed a backup at 6pm each night and a server failed at 5pm the following afternoon, your RPO would be 23 hours and any data created during that span would be lost. For many organizations this was unacceptable.

So, rather than relying on tape for disaster recovery, some organizations replicated data to a secondary site that mirrored their data center for DR. However, this approach historically required a massive investment in hardware, because it required two sets of identical servers, storage, switches, software etc. Not to mention a secondary data center facility. Remote replication allows users to fail over operations to a secondary site in the event of a disaster, which improves RTO, but is well out of the reach of most businesses financially.

Keep Business Moving

As noted above, many organizations today have limited tolerance for application downtime. If your employees or customers do not have access to essential applications and data, there will be a direct impact on productivity and revenue. While this sounds obvious, many organizations do not consider the actual costs of downtime for a business. To better understand the cost of downtime, consider the following example using our RTO calculator.

Let’s say your business has 100 employees and on a typical day average hourly revenue is $1,500. In order to perform daily tasks, employees need access to email, a large database and a variety of file-based data. Let’s say the sum of this data amounts to 2 TB and you perform an on-premises incremental backup at 6pm each day which is also copied to a cloud backup service.

Given these parameters, a full restore from a local backup would take 8 and a half hours and downtime would cost your organization $34,000 in lost revenue. When you look at restoring 2 TB from a cloud backup following a disaster, the picture gets considerably more bleak. To restore that same 2 TB over the Internet from a cloud service it would take 6 days, 9 hours and 42 minutes and the cost to your to your business in lost revenue would be $614,800. Obviously, these numbers will vary widely from business to business, but this example clearly illustrates the importance of being able to continue operations while primary servers and storage are being restored.


Disaster recovery and business continuity planning should be considered a critical aspect of running a business. However, many organizations disregard it completely. Others have some kind of plan in place, but fail to grasp how time consuming the recovery process can be and the the associated cost of downtime. The good news is that today’s data protection technologies and services have greatly improved the IT piece of the business continuity puzzle. There are a wide array of options in the market today at different price points, which enables you to select a product or service tailored to your specific business needs.

As you may have noticed, testing your plans has come up throughout this article. The importance of testing business continuity/disaster recovery plans can not be understated. Testing is the only way to reveal gaps in your plans and address them proactively—not while you are frantically trying to pull the pieces back together after heavy rains deposited a foot of water in your lobby.


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