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Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery: What Your Customers Need to Know

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Does it really matter if your customers and prospects know the difference between business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR)?  It does if they want to avoid the disastrous impact not having a plan for either can have — and if you want to increase sales opportunities for DR solutions.

BC enables a business to continue operations. DR enables an organization to recover from a disaster.  Both are about not letting an event disrupt business operations for any longer than necessary. But it’s important to understand that BC and DR, while similar, are really two different things.  By understanding the differences, and helping your customers and prospects distinguish the two as well, you can better position Peak 10 solutions — including the Peak 10 Recovery Cloud (a Disaster Recovery as a Service solution); managed data replication; and  hot sites, cold sites and warms sites  — that can prove vital to helping your customers thrive and survive.

BC Keeps Operations Going

One of the key differentiators between BC and DR is that BC is business centric while. DR is data-centric. BC keeps a business operating; DR recovers data. BC entails a comprehensive strategy that allows a business to function during and after a disruptive occurs. The word “during” is important here because ideally a business should be able to continue operating normally at all times.  It’s also essential to keep in mind that a disruptive event doesn’t have to be a natural disaster like a hurricane or unexpected ice storm.  It could be a flu epidemic that keeps staff at home, a power outage or a cyber-attack.

A BC plan has into take into account a broad range of possible scenarios and include strategies for keeping operations going in spite of them.  That might mean moving operations to a temporary location with all the logistics of doing so spelled out in the plan.  It might require key employees to work from home in which case the plan will need to specify the resources needed to make that happen, which employees will be involved and how communications and workflows will occur.

The Data Side of BC

Data is essential to the day-to-day operations of most companies. A BC plan will typically require that data be accessible with little or no downtime should a disruptive event occur. Ensuring that is the case usually involves a combination of hardware and software technologies that keep data in two different places at the same time. For example, if a power outage takes out on-site production servers, data and application “fail over” to another system located somewhere else.  If all goes as planned, end users won’t experience a disruption.

BC does go far beyond data recovery, however. It also focuses on what data and applications are most important for keeping a business running.  All data and applications are important but with BC, the most critical data and applications get first priority.  That’s where factors such as recovery time come into play.  Among the questions that need to be addressed:

  • What needs to be recovered first in order for your customer to continue operations?
  • What do your customers’ customers need in order to be satisfied and confident of your customer’s stability?
  • What do your customers’ business partners require to continue order fulfillment and delivery?
  • What do vendors need to continue working with your customers?

Determining the most important criteria to keep a business in business – and putting plans in place to make sure it happens – is the crux of BC.

DR: Get Your Data Back

DR is a subset of BC. In terms of IT, it is focused on getting essential data and systems back up and running after an event that disrupts operations. The idea is to save data somewhere so that it can be recovered after the disruptive event. 
DR can be as simple as ensuring that data is backed up remotely even if it can’t be accessed or used immediately.  As with a BC plan, a DR plan may classify some data as more important than other data, which means it gets recovered first.  The speed at which it is recovered also gets noted in a DR plan.  Some data may need to be recovered right away while other data can wait days or even weeks.  Recovery time needs will influence how data is recovered.  There are many recovery tactics, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Many companies are finding that disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) solutions, such as the Peak 10 Recovery Cloud, that use cloud resources for DR serve their needs well.

Even if your customers have a plan for recovering data after a disruptive event, their work is not done.  Data can’t be recovered if a DR plan doesn’t work, and the only way to tell if it will work is to test it.  This is one of those areas where even if you don’t provide DR planning services or consultation, you can win points with prospects and customers by helping them see the benefits of DR testing.

Ready or Not

Companies put a great deal of time in to training, migration and rollout when a new application is brought on.  They also need to put sufficient time into developing a DR plan that makes sure that application isn’t lost and can be accessed when it’s needed.   Retrofitting a BC/DR plan after the fact is inviting risk so the time to think about both BC and DR is early on – at the design phase.

Bottom line: BC and DR are both essential to all organizations if they expect to stay viable.  To be effective, both also need to be ingrained in the culture of organizations.  You can’t do much to about that. What you can do, however, is help your customers and prospects understand the differences between BC and DR and the need for both.  Equally important, you can provide them with solution options that will fit into their plans and help ensure their continued success.

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About Peak 10

"Our values are the foundation for everything we do at Peak 10, and are ultimately what enable us to earn our customers' business and their trust."
David H. Jones,
Board Member, Peak 10 + ViaWest