Continuity and backup planning go hand-in-hand. Business owners don’t like to think of the worst happening. The prospect of all of their hard work over many years being jeopardised by an event beyond their control is something that can fill even the most hardened of business leaders with dread – and with good reason.
In the modern digital age, the most worrying potential event of this variety is often an interruption in business continuity – or some kind of event that prohibits the business from operating (COVID-19, we're looking at you) as it otherwise normally would.
That’s why many firms choose to invest in a business continuity and backup plan to help keep their organisation up and running even when serious threats to stability such as hacks or outages occur.
We'll look at how data backup can play a vital role in ensuring that business continuity can happen even during the most challenging times.
Backup and Continuity - What's the difference?
In the modern age, most people are roughly aware of what data backup is and how important it is.
However, the trap into which many people fall is that the definitions get mixed up, and there quickly comes a point at which all of these terms including disaster recovery, business continuity and more are all mixed in together.
It’s important to first disentangle the terms, and be sure that the right one is being referred to each time.
Data backup refers to storing information, either crucial or not crucial, in a secondary location as well as in the main location.
Disaster recovery specifically refers to making sure that there is a process in place to ensure that this data can be recovered in the event of a major problem.
Business continuity is broader still and refers to the ongoing commitment that a firm needs to make to ensure that its core tech-based functions can still persist no matter what life might throw at it.
Together, Backup and Disaster Recovery form the very foundation of your business continuity plan.
Identify what could interrupt continuity
Before writing a data backup plan and identifying how it might interact with data backups, it’s first vital to make sure that you know what a business continuity threat looks like.
To some extent, this is likely to depend on the nature of the business. For a business leader in the manufacturing industry, for example, it’s probable that business could continue in some form even if there was a server downfall or something similar. It may be that only functions that are non-essential on a day-to-day basis (such as accounting) would be affected at least at first, and hence client servicing would not be interrupted too much.
However, for many corporate and professional-level service businesses, a data outage would be a disaster from the moment it happened. If the primary ‘product’ served to a client is computerised in some way, such as documents or spreadsheets, then a server crash could lead to instant wipe-out for a whole host of core business functions.
Threats to data can take many forms from malicious cyberattacks, natural disasters and even simple employee error and it's important to ensure your BC/DR plan covers these eventualities.
Develop a continuity and backup action plan
Once your business has worked out what a data breach or loss would mean, it can work outwards from there to find out what an action plan might look like.
The first place to start here is cost. Ask yourself the question ‘How much would we lose if we were unable to carry out normal business functions?’ This is a tough thing to do, but it’s often the only way to ensure full buy-in to allocating resources for a business continuity plan.
The next step is to be sure that the action plan meets your businesses specific requirements. Which core data functions are absolutely necessary for business activity to continue? It may, for example, be the capacity to create and edit documents stored on a local computer. Or perhaps it’s something broader, such as the continued functioning of a whole private server.
There’s also a time dimension: losing customer data stored in the last week could cause some issues, for example, but losing all data from all time could have a major effect on a businesses customer engagement plans.
Once you have a list of functions, you can then identify what your plan needs to cover to ensure that you can carry on business as usual in the event of data loss. This might be making sure you have access to cloud-based software alternatives that employees can log into from home. Or it could be making sure that a secondary server can kick in.
However, a plan like this will almost always include backing up and a data retention policy that ensures that all relevant information is securely stored.
The role of cloud backup
Cloud backup refers to the storage of core data on a secondary, physically removed location. It’s difficult to imagine any business continuity plan that does not integrate backups in one variety or another, given the level of data that even the most ‘offline’ of firms tend to accumulate once everything from financial recording to human resources records is factored into the equation.
It’s also worth pointing out that cloud backup is not a silver bullet. A firm will still have to choose between the public cloud and the private cloud, for example, and if it opts for the private cloud, it will have to ensure that it is compliant with all relevant regulations and that it has invested properly in all of the relevant technical security measures.
However, as a node in a business continuity plan, cloud backup is well worth investigating.
Few people deny that backing up crucial data is a very important aspect of protecting an organisation’s resources. Data is the lifeblood of so many organisations, and it would be very foolish to risk throwing all of that away.
However, as this article has discussed, it’s no use looking at data backup in isolation. It’s also important to look at data backup as a broader phenomenon, and as part of a process of business continuity. By working out a plan for disaster recovery in the event of a data problem, your business can ensure that its data is strategically backed up and protected.