How to Create a Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery Plan

In this article, we’ll discuss one of the most important keys to successful business continuity: disaster recovery plan.

Since disasters can strike at any time – and since the consequences of a disaster can be quite dire for an organization – it is critical to develop a disaster recovery plan.

These plans are specifically designed to restore normal business operations in the event of a major disaster, such as a natural disaster or an IT-related disaster.

Below, we’ll discuss a few important tips and best practices when implementing disaster recovery and business continuity efforts.

Begin with an Emergency Response Plan

An emergency response plan is the immediate response that an organization should undertake in the first few minutes following an emergency.

These plans are intended to cope with emergencies that threaten human life, such as fires or severe weather events. They are not applicable in every situation, however – a cyber attack or another type of digital disruption, for instance, would not require an emergency response.

These plans focus first and foremost on the protection of human life, through actions such as:

  • Evacuation
  • Seeking shelter
  • Sheltering in place

As with any other business continuity effort, preparation is key to success, since it is impossible to know where or when an emergency will occur. 

In many countries, there are regulations that govern the implementation of these plans, so those should be reviewed before developing an emergency response plan.

Next, Design a Business Continuity / Disaster Recovery Plan

As we have seen, emergency response plans are aimed at preserving human life.

Business continuity and disaster recovery plans, on the other hand, emphasize the need for protecting and restoring important business functions.

There are several stages within the business continuity management life cycle:

  • Analysis. Before designing a plan, it is important to analyze potential risks and threats, then design continuity plans that address those risks. Risk assessments, for instance, will assess which potential risks could impact an organization, and a business impact analysis will predict how those threats would impact the organization’s operations and performance.
  • Design. Plan designs will be based on the information collected in the first step. Each plan will address a certain type or category of disruption, such as severe weather events or IT disruptions. The continuity plan will then outline a series of actions aimed at protecting and restoring key business functions, as well as training and exercises designed to ensure that employees can implement the plan effectively.
  • Implementation. As mentioned, a business continuity plan may be implemented alone, or it may follow an emergency response plan. To ensure that the plan is implemented successfully, it is important to test and validate the activities through drills and exercises. 
  • Evaluation. Once the plan has been implemented, it is important to evaluate its performance. Employee surveys, status reports, discussions, and other data sources can be used to analyze the actual performance of the program. That information, in turn, can be used to improve future continuity plans.

Though different professionals will model the above life cycle differently, the basic outline remains the same. 

Business continuity plan templates can be a useful resource for those with limited experience in this field. Professionals that wish to deepen their knowledge of this field may wish to take courses or obtain a certification in business continuity management.

Prevent and Mitigate Disruptions with Risk Management

Risk management is a business discipline that assesses potential risks to a business, then develops strategies for mitigating or even avoiding those risks.

These strategies can include policies, procedures, and protocols that proactively aim to reduce the threats posed by certain types of disruptions. Safety protocols, for instance, can completely prevent many workplace accidents, keeping workers safe and reducing the need for disaster recovery efforts.

There are several risk management strategies:

  • Avoid. Risk avoidance seeks out ways to completely avoid a particular type of risk. As mentioned above, implementing safety protocols in the workplace is a common risk avoidance strategy. Another way to avoid certain types of risks can be worksite selection – certain types of severe weather events, for instance, can be avoided by choosing an appropriate location for the business.
  • Reduce. Risk reduction strategies are another common way to mitigate risks. An organization may not be able to prevent a natural disaster, for example, but it can reduce the impact of that disruption by creating effective disaster recovery plans.
  • Share. By sharing the burden of a loss or disruption, multiple parties can lessen the impact that the impact would have if only a single party were required to bear that impact. If one branch of an organization is severely compromised, for example, workloads may be redistributed to other branches in order to lessen the impact of the disruption.
  • Retain. Retaining a risk refers to simply accepting the risk in spite of the costs. Since risk management applies to a wide number of disciplines above and beyond business continuity, this may be a viable strategy in certain cases. However, it is less applicable in disaster recovery or business continuity, which are primarily aimed at minimizing threats as much as possible.

Business continuity and disaster recovery planning are designed as methods for reducing the impact of a disaster or business reduction. These efforts, therefore, only represent one tactic taken by risk management.

Ultimately, risk management, disaster recovery, and business continuity are all part of a comprehensive approach to improving an organization’s ability to effectively handle business disruptions. A holistic strategy should include both response plans as well as proactive strategies aimed at managing risk and improving organizational resilience.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.