The Evolution of Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery in a Cloud-First World

The Evolution of Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery in a Cloud-First World

By Matthew Vulpis

Organizations often underestimate the importance of a business continuity plan, and don’t notice its absence until disaster strikes and it’s too late. Though business continuity correlates to preparedness, many enterprises still overlook the importance of having a backup plan.

Threats including extreme weather and cyberattacks seem to be getting more detrimental and more common. This makes it essential for modern-day enterprises of all sizes to have a business continuity plan that considers potential disruptions to operations.

Business continuity is a proactive way to ensure mission-critical operations proceed during a disruption. A comprehensive plan includes contact information, steps for what to do when faced with a variety of incidents and a guide for when to use the document. It also features clear guidelines for what an organization must do to maintain operations, so if the time comes for response, there should be no question about how to move forward with business processes.

A business continuity plan helps the organization maintain resiliency in responding quickly to an interruption. Strong business continuity saves money, time, and company reputation, while an extended outage risks financial, personal, and reputational loss. A continuity plan should enable the organization to keep running at least at a minimal level during a crisis.

“The adoption of cloud 20 years ago, when it was just emerging, was largely driven by the need for business continuity and disaster recovery,” said Ryan Walsh, Chief Operating Officer at MSP cloud marketplace Pax8. “When IT teams were responsible for managing their own physical infrastructure – servers, LANs, WANs, email and phone systems, shared drives, document storage and more – and when the majority of employees worked in company locations, they began testing cloud services for backup purposes.”

“Only a few years ago, options for continuity were limited and typically included a second physical location that housed data in the form of tapes,” Walsh said. “This required businesses to construct a second physical site, which is complex, expensive, and unattainable for most companies. Using traditional methods means that, when disaster strikes, backup tapes must be retrieved, shipped to remote site, and properly configured to complete the restoration process. Even without any complications, this further prolongs and deepens the crisis, while being costly, time-consuming, and limited in their effectiveness. The cloud has changed all of this, but the cloud must also – itself – be addressed with continuity solutions.”

In recent years, advances in technology have significantly impacted the way business executives and IT professionals think about their business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) plans. Designed to help maintain a company’s operations on a day-to-day basis, as well as in the face of unforeseen risks, such as a fire, flood, earthquake, terrorist attack (both physical and digital), the importance of continuity has risen to the board level. Business executives, IT professionals, and MSPs must work together to design and deliver a solid, holistic plan.

“One of the fastest growing categories on our broad cloud-only marketplace is continuity, with solutions from the best vendors in the space, who are succeeding because their solutions eliminate complexity and reduce capital expenditures in exchange for flexibility and increased ease of deployment,” said Walsh. “Cloud-based continuity solutions make it possible for businesses with more limited budgets and resources to implement robust and comprehensive strategies.”

Natural disasters are one of the biggest reasons companies need reliable continuity plans, but the dramatic rise in cyberattacks and wireless security threats, along with more severe weather events, are changing the landscape. But, that’s not all.

“The other major shift is the surge of employees and contractors who work from home,” Walsh said. “Every organization – every family – every individual – had to adapt quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic, and cloud solution providers truly rose to the challenge to help protect society and the economy, and those on the Pax8 marketplace played exceptional roles.”

When it comes to continuity, organizations, especially SMBs, need a strategy that is cost efficient, easy to manage and reliable. Walsh says cloud-based systems offer all three of these advantages to MSPs.

More than 90 percent of companies with a trusted backup and disaster recovery plan were able to survive ransomware attacks. On the other hand, 93 percent of companies without disaster recovery who suffer a major data disaster are out of business within one year, demonstrating the difference a continuity plan makes and its importance.

The three key elements of a continuity plan are recovery, contingency, and resilience.

For recovery, rapidity is crucial. Setting recovery time objectives for different systems, networks or applications can help prioritize which elements must be recovered first. Other recovery strategies include resource inventories, agreements with third parties to take on company activity and using converted spaces for mission-critical functions.

As for contingency, a continuity plan should have procedures in place for a variety of external scenarios and can include a chain of command that distributes responsibilities within the organization. These responsibilities can include hardware replacement, leasing emergency office spaces, damage assessment and contracting third-party vendors for assistance.

Finally, an organization can increase resilience by designing critical functions and infrastructures with various disaster possibilities in mind. This can include staffing rotations, data redundancy and maintaining a surplus of capacity. Ensuring resilience against different scenarios can also help organizations maintain essential services on location and off site without interruption.

While having a plan in place in case of emergency seems like a no-brainer that every enterprise would ensure, the numbers tell a different story.  Only 30 percent reported having a fully documented disaster recovery strategy in place, while 32.1 percent reported having a plan that outlines the specific business critical applications and components that need to be recovered.

“The lack of companies creating continuity plans can be attributed to the abundance of technological and digital know-how expected for disaster recovery in today’s digital era,” Walsh said. “Until now, with more automated, intelligent and flexible cloud-based continuity solutions, organizations of all sizes can protect their most critical assets.”

Edited by Erik Linask
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