Business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) are mistakenly used interchangeably, when in reality they are two separate solutions.
For the purpose of this Q&A however, the assumption will be that — in principle — they are the essentially the same.
Most businesses think of business continuity as just an insurance policy, and while it does offer that kind of protection, a solid BC plan can offer so much more than that basic level of protection. (Also read: What is business continuity and how can I implement a successful remote work environment?)
Having a strong business continuity plan in place could be the driving factor in a firm’s survivability through an unpredictable event, whether it’s a natural disaster, cyberattack, pandemic or any other external threat.
But while we’ve all heard that same story countless times from countless industry experts and vendors, many businesses are still hesitant to act.
I suspect cost plays a big factor along with the time, energy and expertise that’s required to create, manage, and maintain a business continuity/disaster recovery program.
Unlike larger organizations, small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) don’t typically have the luxury of making mistakes.
Depending on the situation, a single misstep could be the difference between shutting the doors or continuing operations. Regardless of size, with advancements in technology and flexible billing models, it is easier than it seems to initiate a business continuity solution using cloud-based services.
Before exploring all the viable technology options out there, the starting point is understanding not only the risks but what needs protecting and why.
At the very least, generate a list of all critical tangible and intangible assets and start thinking about financial, regulatory, brand, and/or operational business impacts by not having a plan in place.
Here are some strategies on how to start sorting through the various solutions available:
The “Easy Button”
Minimal protection; low cost, with a low barrier to entry:
Over 90% of phishing scams and malicious activity start with email. Technologies like Mimecast & Proofpoint offer solid protection at an affordable price.
Consumption of Office 365 doesn’t mean your data is protected. Typically, for under $3-$5 per user, you can get your critical data from email and Sharepoint backed up.
Backup as a Service
A simple way to replicate your data offsite, ideally in a public cloud. Your infrastructure would have to already be built at the time of a disaster before you can restore data this way.
Initiate your DR environment relatively quickly:
Technologies like Zerto create a software “runbook”, essentially pre-packaged recipes designed to bring an entire environment into the cloud or a 3rd party data center.
Cloud Service Provider
Leverage tools built into many major hyperscale cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and GCP; this makes it very easy to replicate across multiple regions.
With an active/active approach, production traffic is load balanced between two data centers (this carries a high cost). This balances workloads to prevent any single node from being overloaded, resulting in a marked improvement in throughput and response time, so the increased cost could potentially be mitigated with increased productivity.
Storage frame replication to 3rd Party datacenter or Colocation
Storage vendors such as EMC and NetApp have replication mechanisms built-in to them (typically at an additional cost). In using the vendor’s replication, customers can simply copy the data from one location (storage array) to another (with the same vendor), thus allowing further backup of data.
Be sure to have infrastructure attached to the target storage frame for faster recovery.
This provides backup version of virtual machines which can be kept and used to restore the machine in the event of lost or corrupted data. Vendors like VMWare and Nutanix offer great native replication tools.
It can be easy to get lost in the myriad of business continuity options available, but keep in mind, a hybrid approach is absolutely fine; there is no obligation to stick with one method over another.
And, even more importantly, leveraging agnostic technology experts who are armed with numerous years of expertise, can guide you through the BCDR maze with ease.