How to Create a Business Continuity Strategy

One of the things our customers ask us about most often is how to build a business continuity/disaster recovery (BC/DR) plan. While most customers think of hurricanes and tornadoes, it’s important to note that natural disasters aren’t the only thing you need to plan for. There are far more common events like bad software, misconfigured networks and hardware failures that can cause real problems.

To discuss BC/DR, we turned to our resident expert, Mike Cybyske. Mike is a crisis manager at Qwest and is responsible for overseeing our corporate Crisis Management Team. This is the first installment in a series where we’ll discuss BC/DR. Today, we cover the strategic elements of a BC/DR strategy. In future pieces, we’ll discuss the technology considerations and how to evaluate a solution.

As a business continuity expert for a large business, what are your top recommendations for customers looking to implement a BC/DR plan?

Recognize that you can’t protect everything. It’s important to identify the business critical functions and who is critical to supporting your business. Know what your critical functions, vendors and suppliers are and what you would stand to lose if they were unavailable for a few hours, day, or weeks.

What are some of the primary elements of creating a BC/DR plan?

A good plan should address four key elements: building, systems, equipment, and personnel, and contingencies for the loss of any or all of them. This multihazard approach allows flexibility in responding to the disaster and reduces planning redundancy since it is not event-specific planning—hurricane, tornado, winter storm, etc.

How have the risks a company may face evolved over time?

One risk that every company faces is changing technology. As technologies change and corporations adopt them for increased productivity or cost savings, consideration of business continuity is often an afterthought, if at all.

What is your biggest challenge in implementing a BC/DR program?

My biggest challenge is ensuring executive support. Trying to implement a corporate wide program from the bottom up or individually within each business unit is difficult. An effective program requires a strategy that incorporates all departments and their participation from the top down which can only be accomplished when corporate leadership understands and supports continuity planning.

What do you think are the common challenges businesses face when planning to implement BC/DR solutions?

One of the biggest challenges is getting leadership to spend money they don’t have to prepare for things they don’t think will happen. You have to educate leaders, build support and set realistic expectations. You have to educate them on the risk and how their operations will be impacted. And you need to focus on bringing together all the pieces of data – threats, impacts, risk tolerance, financial situation – and then synthesize them so that the solution is sustainable long-term.

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  1. Jimmy

    For medium to small companies.. Think Virtual. How can I make this network come alive again in the least amount of time with the least amount of effort.
    For small companies. Vmware has partnered up with Acronis and Storage Craft and you can ( assuming you’ve done it right) take your full backups and produce a virtual server.
    Note: I didnt speak about IOPS , CPU , memory or other areas that should be addressed.

    Larger firms can afford offsite datacenters.

    Stage 1. Backup //media SAN, DAS, tape.
    Stage 2. Recovery
    Stage 3. Full Backup and Recovery
    Stage 4. Full Disaster- Backup – Recovery and Business Cont.

    You should have a plan for each stage.