Getting Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery confused can be a costly error. The two terms are mistaken worryingly frequently, but misunderstanding these terms can lead to inadequate preparation for a disaster, putting your business at risk. Losing data and facilities is a frequent cause of businesses closing. An important part of combating this is considering Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery, and what aspects of both are essential for a successful recovery plan.
Business Continuity is the collection of processes and procedures an organisation performs to guarantee vital business functions continue during and after a disaster. A Business Continuity plan attempts to protect the company’s essential services and give business the best chance to survive long-term. It involves finding a way to revive services back to normal functionality as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Disaster Recovery is a small part of overall Business Continuity. This involves technical planning in order to save technical data for the sole purpose of recovering it later in case of a disaster. This can be from a minor loss of a set of data to major damage to a whole data centre. There is more to it than making sure copies of the data are kept off-site, as a significant natural disaster might make off-site data inaccessible.
One mistake a business can make is to assume that they are safe because they already have a disaster recovery plan in place. Disaster Recovery is only a plan for data to be retrievable by the employees of a business. Other considerations such as critical personnel, key business processes, recovery of vital records, and how to contact key vendors and clients, are essential to keep a business afloat in the event of disaster.
What’s the difference between Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery?
Whilst Disaster Recovery is data-centric, Business Continuity is business-centric. Data is inaccessible during a disaster, and the role of a Disaster Recovery plan is to retrieve that data as quickly as possible. Business Continuity deals with maintaining a business during a disaster and ensuring that everything is in place for the data to be retrieved with as little downtime as possible.
Disaster Recovery Methods
Backup is the process of making a secondary copy of your data that can be restored to use if the primary copy is lost or corrupted. This is usually done through a point-in-time recovery procedure. Point-in-time Backup takes a copy of data on a regular repeated cycle, such as a particular time every day. If a disaster or failure corrupts or loses data, then you can back up your system to a point in time to when there were no problems with your system, thereby recovering all of the data that was accessible to you at that particular time. Such a system requires a tape library, usually comprising VTL doing disk-to-disk backup and somewhere to store archived tapes.
Replication lets businesses keep data in two places simultaneously through combining hardware and software solutions. If one building’s server fails, the data and application can be ‘failed over’ to another system. This can be done immediately; save for a slight pause, it’s possible that a user wouldn’t notice that anything had gone wrong.
Replication solutions can be synchronous or asynchronous, meaning that transferring data to a remote location can be immediate or with a short time delay. Synchronous solutions work in real-time, which allows secondary copies of data to be replicated immediately in conjunction with primary copies.
This can only be achieved with the right infrastructure. One popular solution is clustering, which replicates data between multiple systems, allowing you access to the data from a secondary source in the event of disaster. Active/active clustering is ideal, as it allows different applications or services running on the cluster to access the same data at the same time.
A Combined Approach
Both methods have their strengths; backup focuses on compliance and granular recovery, so data can be restored from any time. Replication on the other hand focuses on business continuity and minimising recovery time.
It’s unlikely that replication will replace backup, as replication is more expensive to set-up and maintain. Replication requires investment into another identical infrastructure, which basically doubles your company’s IT expenditure. Unlike backup, replicated copies made with data replication don’t store historical versions of data from preceding days, weeks and months. Some companies would not be allowed to remove their backup system as they are legally required to retain their physical tapes for a particular number of years.
Conversely, backup probably won’t replace replication as having access to your data at a remote site isn’t efficient for a disaster recovery plan. Backup doesn’t ensure the continuity of options in the same way replication does. Also, the regular ‘snapshots’ of data that backup solutions take can slow down your organisation’s production environment. The best practice for a solid data protection strategy is to combine aspects of both methods to circumvent their disadvantages.
So, Business Continuity or Disaster Recovery?
In order for your company to recuperate from a disaster, it is essential to work out a Business Continuity plan as well as a Disaster Recovery plan. After all, it’s not enough to just recover your data; there needs to be a strategy to get it back into operation.
They are separate ideas with individual focuses, but they are interdependent and ultimately share the same objective: preparing your business for potential disasters or failures, and safeguarding a quick recovery with minimal losses.
You may have decided to implement better infrastructure to safeguard your company from disasters. However, to find the right solution for you, it’s necessary not to just consider the internal factors of the business, such as the company’s size, industry and required outcomes, which can affect how much data you need and where it can be stored, but external factors as well. These include customer need, economic demands, environmental possibilities and supplier deviations. The amount you spend on a solution also depends on how vital it is to minimise downtime of your operations. With all this to consider, how do you work out what solution suits your specific needs?
Software Advisory Service can provide non-chargeable advice from our team of experts that helps you find the right infrastructure for you, reducing your risk of being ruined by a disaster. Contact us via the button on the right to get impartial and non-chargeable advice.