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What is BCDR – A Guide to Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery

Business continuity and disaster recovery aim to keep an organization operational. These are interrelated practices focusing on creating resilient data infrastructures for businesses. Since every organization, whether a small operating business or a large enterprise, depends on technology to provide services and generate revenue; business continuity and disaster recovery focuses on continuing operations during and after a disaster.

Customers expect applications and services to be always available, and while mission-critical data can tolerate almost no downtime, even non-critical data has very little tolerance. This is because service disruption isn’t just a common nuisance to the customers; instead, it can lead to financial losses and reputational damages. In the worst case, it can mean permanent business closure.

Business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) are essential parts of risk management and recovery plan. But what are the differences between both? How do you develop and implement a BCDR policy?

What is BCDR?

Business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) is a set of policies, tools, and procedures that enable the recovery or continuation of business-critical operations in the event of a disaster such as ransomware attack, human error, malicious deletion, and natural disasters.

‘BCDR’ is a compound term. It refers to planning, documentation, testing, training, and backup and disaster recovery solutions – with the goal to minimize downtime for critical systems and reduce data loss.

Business Continuity (BC) encompasses all activities that allow a business to remain operational during a disaster. Disaster Recovery (DR) focuses on restoring business critical IT operations to get the business back up and running after a crisis.

Business continuity and disaster recovery go hand-in-hand. This implies that it’s necessary for administrative and technology executive to work together to plan, and execute rather than develop disparate schemes in isolation.

Why is it important to have a business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) plan?

Business continuity and disaster recovery planning allows organizations to recover quickly from disruptive events such as ransomware attacks, human error, hardware failure, natural disasters, etc.

Without a well-thought out and tested BCDR plan, organizations risk extended downtime and data loss as decision makers struggle to rely on guesswork to get things back up and running. Alternatively, with a BCDR plan, everyone, including the IT personnel and administrative staff, knows what to do, how to do it, and which tasks to prioritize to get the optimum results.

Every 11 seconds a ransomware attack targets an organization. In other words, when it comes to ransomware attacks, it’s not a matter of “if” rather “when”. If an organization does not have an effective BCDR plan, they’re at risk of a ransomware infection which leads to disruption, data loss, and consequent financial and reputational damage.

What is the difference between disaster recovery and business continuity?

The terms disaster recovery and business continuity are often used interchangeably, the two aren’t the same. Here are the differences between business continuity and disaster recovery:

Business continuity is about protecting business operations and preparing for disasters capable of disrupting day-to-day operations. It is about keeping your business running as usual during a disaster such as ransomware attack, or a natural disaster.

Disaster recovery (DR) is a subset of business continuity (BC). It focuses on recovering IT systems, as quickly as possible, in the event of a disaster; ensuring shorter recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery point objectives (RPOs).

Disaster recovery includes planning and documenting data recovery procedures, testing recovery processes, and regularly making sure critical backups, snapshots, and replicas are completed without error and available for recovery when needed.

While disaster recovery focuses on restore critical IT operations, business continuity goes a step further by addressing how to continue business operations while recovering from a disaster. For example, in the event of a ransomware attack, how to continue operations while the IT systems recover? How to protect unaffected systems from the ransomware? Who to inform? How to contact affected customers and employees?

The goal of business continuity and disaster recovery is to make sure that business operations continue with minimum downtime during and after a disaster. The difference is that business continuity is a proactive approach and is focused on making sure that day-to-day business operations are not disrupted. While disaster recovery is reactive, and focused on restore IT infrastructures to prevent data loss.

Building a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BCDR) Plan

For simplicity, let’s look at the two components for a BCDR plan separately:

A business continuity plan contains management procedures, vital contact information, and a walkthrough of what the IT and management needs to do – making sure that there’s no room for guesswork during a disaster.

On the other hand, disaster recovery plan includes detailed responsibilities of the DR team, planning and testing disaster recovery solutions, goals of the plan, detailed guidelines of how to execute the plan, incident response operating procedures, steps to recover the data, detailed guidelines on using the backup and DR solution(s), and authentication procedures.

A good BCDR plan is clear, well-documented and provides a well-defined set of actionable steps to enforce business continuity and recovery procedures. Your BCDR plan should outline the steps needed to keep your company running in the event of a disaster while also minimizing the risk of downtime and data loss.

Here’s what you need to do to device a reliable BCDR plan:

  • Identify mission-critical systems and data.
  • Prioritize hot-tier workloads and infrastructure.
  • Calculate RPOs and RTOs.
  • Create a DR plan template
  • Purchase and configure DR solutions
  • Regularly test DR – Ensure RTPOs are as required
  • Test and update the BCDR plan regularly

Creating a BCDR policy is one of the initial steps in building a BCDR plan. This policy defines the foundations of the processes needed to establish a vital set of metrics like key risk indicators and performance indicators.

How to set up business continuity and disaster recovery

There are a number of ways to set up a BCDR plan, including:

  • Outsourcing BCDR to third-party firms who use their own tools to help plan, create, test, and execute BCDR for your organization
  • Hiring managed services to help your in-house IT team with BCDR planning and execution
  • Outsourcing business continuity and using on-prem and/or cloud-based disaster recovery solutions
  • Planning business continuity in-house and using on-prem and/or cloud-based disaster recovery solutions
  • Outsourcing BC planning or planning it in-house with disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS).

Organizations, such as clinics, legal departments, school districts, financial services providers, have limited resources to spend on business continuity and IT. For such organizations, getting a third party to plan and manage your business continuity and disaster recovery is the better choice. This saves time, money, and enables them to build a BCDR solution they can rely on

Furthermore, using cloud-based services such as disaster recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) also helps organizations reduce hardware costs and get experts to manage data protection without having to hire dedicated IT staff. This makes disaster recovery more accessible for organizations with limited budget.

Testing Your BCDR Plan

Testing a BCDR plan assures that the business continuity and recovery procedures will perform as intended. BCDR testing also helps identify vulnerabilities and areas that need improvement.

BCDR testing can range from simple tabletop exercises and conversations to full-scale simulations. Tabletop exercises bring all the required participants together to walk through the steps embodied in the plan. This type of testing helps the relevant people become aware of their roles in the BCDR plan and provides an opportunity for the BCDR administrators to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of the plan.

On the other hand, full-scale testing requires the administrators to simulate a disaster and the participants to react to it as per the BCDR plan. Full-scale testing, however, requires considerable time, rigorous employee participation, funding, and the use of backup and disaster recovery systems.

Consistent and periodic testing increases the organization’s resilience since BC and DR plans are updated continuously. How often BCDR should be tested depends largely on the organization. Generally, quarterly tabletop exercises can be performed to prepare for an annual full-scale test simulation.

Customize Your Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Solution with StoneFly

StoneFly offers a range of data protection solutions that facilitate SMB, SME, and enterprises to custom-build their BCDR solution as per their requirements and budget.

  • StoneFly DR365V Veeam-ready backup and DR appliance with automated air-gapped and immutability. 8 to 36-bay turnkey backup and DR solutions that enable users to backup physical, virtual, cloud servers, automate backups, directly spin up VMs on DR365V, and more.
  • StoneFly DR365 Veeam-Immutable Veeam Air-Gapped (VIVA) air-gapped nodes with built-in network and power controller. Add automated air-gapping and immutability to your existing infrastructure with purpose-built air-gapped nodes.
  • Veeam cloud connect to Azure: Complete cloud backup and restore package with Veeam Cloud Connect backup, built-in management server, & Azure cloud storage with air-gapping, immutability, 1-click direct restore to Azure, and integrated data services.
  • StoneFly backup and disaster recovery as a service (BDRaaS): Hosted and BDRaaS for businesses looking to get reliable ransomware protection with remote air-gap and immutability.

Need help finding the right solution for business continuity and disaster recovery? Contact our experts today.

Conclusion

A business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) plan protects an organization from disruption, downtime, and data loss in the event of a disaster such as ransomware attack, human error, accidental/malicious deletion, natural disasters, etc.

It is imperative for organizations today to have a clear BCDR plan in place. The failure to do so can have significant business, financial, and legal implications for the business and its stakeholders.

The best BCDR solution for your business is one that’s well-documented, regularly tested and updated, and conforms to your requirements and budget.  

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