In a previous post, we discussed the heavy burden of regulatory compliance, particularly as it relates to medical, financial and payment card information. Regulations are becoming more complex, threats are becoming more sophisticated, and penalties for noncompliance are becoming more severe. Many regulations now require a business continuity strategy, which is one reason why compliance has shifted from an annual review to a daily, shared responsibility across many organizations. In addition to worrying about the financial cost and business disruption caused by downtime, organizations must meet compliance requirements for data availability and protection.

Before we explain what business continuity is, let’s explain what it is not. Business continuity is not data backup, which is simply the process of copying and storing data so it can be restored if the original data is lost or inaccessible. Data backup is more of a precursor to business continuity. Business continuity is not disaster recovery, which is the process of restoring business systems and data in the event of a disaster. Disaster recovery is an important component of a business continuity plan.

Business continuity refers to the processes that ensure an organization will continue to operate without disruption during and after an outage or disaster. Most organizations will develop a plan that prioritizes mission-critical services, ensures that these services will function under any circumstances, and re-establishes non-essential services as quickly as possible.

Business continuity planning begins with identifying mission-critical services and establishing a recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO). RTO refers to the acceptable duration of time that your systems and data can be down. RPO refers to the maximum age for which data is still useful, which tells you how frequently data should be backed up. RTO and RPO calculations are based in large part upon the cost of downtime in terms of both overhead and revenue.

Business continuity planning must also include an assessment of the threat landscape and the identification of strengths and weaknesses across the organization. In addition to technological considerations, the roles and responsibilities of key personnel before, during and after an incident should be clarified to ensure that the business continuity plan is properly executed. The final steps involve choosing the best model and solution to meet recovery goals and maintain security, and educating staff about the procedures to follow in case of an outage.

For larger enterprises, the right business continuity plan can prevent millions in financial losses. For smaller companies, the right business continuity plan can keep you from going out of business. It allows organizations of all sizes to proactively and formally address a number of “what if” scenarios and avoid lost revenue, lost data, lost customer confidence, and compliance headaches. Instead of being forced to come up with plan B, organizations can implement procedures designed to avoid those negative, costly scenarios. In the case of a large-scale disaster that shuts down physical facilities, a business continuity plan can enable staff to work remotely and avoid an unsafe situation without sacrificing productivity.

Don’t wait until something bad happens to figure out how to keep your business functioning properly. Let SSD help you develop a business continuity strategy, including data backup and disaster recovery planning, to minimize the impact of downtime on your organization.