The word “disaster” is often associated with the word “unthinkable”.   That isn’t to say we can’t and don’t think about disasters but it is human nature  not to, even as we look at ways for our businesses to continue to be successful.  Yet any plan for business continuity needs to factor in disaster avoidance and disaster recovery before the “unthinkable” happens.
Disaster avoidance within the scope of business continuity relies upon a thorough understanding of business processes and their dependencies.  Fundamental to this is gaining an understanding of exactly what kind of business an organization conducts, what business processes are truly critical, what data is truly valuable, and how that data can be protected and recovered when necessary.    Today, enterprises of all sizes are learning that implementing disaster avoidance processes cuts down on costs in the long run.  For companies that never thought they needed to foster disaster avoidance or create a business continuity plan, the question now becomes: Can they afford not to?

Apples & Oranges (& Pears)
How does an organization provide for business continuity with an ever-growing amount of data to be backed up – and potentially lost?
A bank, for instance, operates on a very different business model than a package delivery service. But while the type of data each organization might value may be vastly different, safeguarding that data is equally important to each organization’s business continuity.  Both will find it prudent to invest resources in large-scale disaster recovery plans, although the implementations will differ based upon regulatory and economic considerations as well as client expectations.
Let’s ponder the value of disaster avoidance and disaster recovery within the context of business continuity for another type of business relationship: a company that provides outsourced services and its client(s).  With the growth of outsourcing, disaster avoidance and recovery have taken a much more prominent role as smaller specialized companies are called upon to provide services historically handled in house.  It’s not uncommon for departments such as HR and payroll to rely on an outsourced payroll processing company to provide many services, such as issuing paychecks or handling direct deposits.  But how does the payroll company back up its data?  What plans are in place to restore any data lost?  If that data is backed up solely on tape, and the tape is damaged, it represents a single point of failure.  Can the departments in the client company reconstruct from their own records the data necessary to cut paychecks for the week?  Possibly, but that certainly isn’t why the client is paying the payroll processing company.  Obviously, the payroll company’s disaster avoidance and disaster recovery plans become a major factor in that company’s own business continuity.
It would be easy to say that it is a case of improving data storage technology to the rescue. But storage technology is just a piece of the puzzle, and fostering disaster avoidance means looking closely at the details and standing back to look critically at a company’s unique business and data needs and the supporting IT infrastructure in order to appreciate – and safeguard – the big picture.

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