What is business continuity and how important is it?

What is business continuity and how important is it? Business continuity refers to an organization’s ability to maintain essential functions during a disaster. Business Continuity Planning defines risk management processes and procedures that aim to prevent disruptions to mission-critical services and restore full functionality to the organization as quickly and smoothly as possible.

The most basic need for business continuity is to keep essential functions running in the event of a disaster and to be down as quickly as possible. A business continuity plan takes into account various unforeseen events such as natural disasters, fires, disease outbreaks, cyber-attacks, and other external threats.

Business continuity is important for organizations of all sizes, but it may not be practical for the largest companies to maintain all functions during a disaster. According to many experts, the first step in business continuity planning is to decide on essential functions and allocate the available budget accordingly. After identifying critical components, managers can implement failure mechanisms.

Technologies such as disk mirroring enable an organization to maintain up-to-date copies of data in geographically dispersed locations, not just in the primary data center. This allows uninterrupted access to data if a location is down and protects against data loss.

Why is business continuity important?

When downtime is unacceptable, business continuity is critical. Downtime comes from different sources. Some threats, such as cyber-attacks and climate change, seem to be getting worse. Preparing a business continuity plan that takes into account any possible disruption in activities is of great importance.

This plan should enable the organization to continue its activities at a minimum level in critical situations. Business continuity helps an organization maintain flexibility in responding quickly to disruption. Strong business continuity saves the company money, time, and reputation. A long outage causes financial, personal, and reputational damage.

Business continuity requires the organization to look at itself, analyze potential weaknesses, and gather key information; Such as contact lists and technical diagrams of systems that can be useful outside of a disaster situation. In carrying out the business continuity planning process, the organization can improve its communication, technology, and flexibility.

Business continuity may even be required for legal or compliance reasons. Especially in an era of increased regulation, it is important to understand which regulations affect a particular organization.

What does business continuity include?

Business continuity is a proactive method to ensure mission-critical operations continue during a disruption. A comprehensive plan includes contact information, steps for what to do when various incidents are encountered, and a guide to using the document.

Business continuity has specific guidelines that the organization must follow to maintain its activity. When it comes time to respond, there should be no question about how to proceed with business processes. The company, customers, and employees are potentially at risk.

Appropriate business continuity involves several levels of response. Not everything is mission-critical, so it must be determined what operations must continue and what can be brought back online. It’s important, to be honest about your recovery time goals and recovery point goals.

This process covers the entire organization, from executive management down. Although information technology may enable business continuity, it requires buy-in from management and communication of key information throughout the organization. Another important field is cooperation with the security team; Although these two groups often work separately, the organization can reap great benefits by sharing information across these departments. At a minimum, everyone should know the basic steps of how an organization plans to respond.

The three main components of a business continuity plan

A business continuity plan has three basic elements: resilience, recovery, and prudence.

Organizations can increase resilience by designing critical functions and infrastructures with various disaster possibilities in mind. This can include staff turnover, data redundancy, and maintaining excess capacity. Ensuring flexibility against different scenarios can also help organizations maintain uninterrupted on-site and off-site essential services.

Rapid recovery is critical to restoring business operations after a disaster. Setting recovery time goals for different systems, networks, or applications can help prioritize which elements should be recovered first. Other recovery strategies include resource inventories, agreements with third parties for enterprise operations, and the use of converted spaces for mission-critical functions.

A contingency plan considers various methods for external scenarios and can include a chain of command that distributes responsibilities within the organization. These responsibilities can include hardware replacement, emergency office space rentals, damage assessments, and third-party vendors for assistance.

Business continuity standards

The image below shows the ISO 223XX Series standards that apply to business continuity and related activities. ISO 22398 and 22399 standards are also worth checking out.

Business continuity standards
Business continuity standards

The image below lists the Business Continuity Institute’s Good Practice Guidelines. These guidelines provide a comprehensive foundation for understanding the business continuity process and complying with the ISO 22301 standard.

U.K Business continuity standards
U.K Business continuity standards

The table below is a partial list of standards, regulations, and good practices developed in the United States by several different organizations such as ASIS International, National Fire Protection Association, Federal Financial Institutions Inspection Council, Information Systems Audit and Control Association, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

U.S Business continuity standards
U.S Business continuity standards
The difference between business continuity and disaster recovery

Disaster recovery planning, like a business continuity plan, outlines an organization’s planned strategies for post-disaster procedures. However, a disaster recovery plan is only a subset of business continuity plans.

Disaster recovery plans often focus on data and on storing data so that it can be easily accessed after a disaster. Business continuity takes this into account but also requires risk management, monitoring, and organization planning to remain operational during disruption.

Business continuity and disaster recovery planning
Business continuity and disaster recovery planning
Business continuity development

Business continuity begins with project planning. Business impact analysis (BIA) and risk assessment are essential steps in gathering information for the program.

Conducting a business impact analysis can reveal potential weaknesses as well as the consequences of a disaster for various departments. The business impact analysis report informs the organization of the most important functions and systems for prioritization in the business continuity plan.

Risk assessment shows possible risks facing the organization; such as natural disasters, cyber-attacks, or technology failures. Risks can affect employees, customers, building operations, and the company’s reputation. The assessment also details what risks may cause harm and how likely they are to occur.

Business impact analysis and risk assessment go hand in hand. A business impact analysis provides details of potential impacts on potential disruptions identified in the risk assessment.

Business continuity management

Determining who will manage business continuity is important. If the business is small, one person and in larger businesses, a team can take on this responsibility. Business continuity management software is also an option. Software (either on-premises or cloud-based) helps perform business impact analysis, create and update plans, and identify areas of risk.

Business continuity is an evolving process. Likewise, an organization’s business continuity plan should not be abandoned. The organization should communicate its content to as many people as possible. Implementing business continuity isn’t just for times of crisis. The organization should have training exercises so that employees know what to do in the event of a real disruption.

Business continuity testing is critical to its success. It is difficult to know whether a program has been tested or not. A business continuity test can be as simple as a desk exercise, where employees discuss what would happen in an emergency. A more detailed test involves a full emergency simulation. The organization can plan the test or do it without prior notice to better convey the sense of crisis.

Once the organization has completed the test, it should review how it works and update the program accordingly. Some parts of the program may go well, but other measures will need to be adjusted. A regular schedule for testing is useful, especially if the business frequently changes its operations and staff. Comprehensive business continuity is constantly tested, reviewed, and updated.

Business continuity institute

The Business Continuity Institute (BCI) is a global professional organization that provides education, research, professional accreditation, certification, networking opportunities, leadership, and guidance on business continuity and organizational resilience.

The UK-based Business Continuity Institute was founded in 1994 and has around 8,000 members in over 100 countries in the public and private sectors. Business continuity specialists and those interested in this field can use the products and services available in this institution.

The goals and tasks of the Business Continuity Institute include raising business continuity standards, sharing the best business continuity practices, training and certifying the qualifications of professionals in this field, raising the value of the business continuity profession, and developing a business case for business continuity. is work

Many of the Institute’s published resources include its Good Practice Guidelines, which provide guidance on identifying business continuity activities and can support strategic planning.

Professional membership in the Business Continuity Institute conveys internationally recognized status: certification demonstrates a member’s proficiency in business continuity management.

Business Continuity Institute branches are established in countries or regions where there are a large number of members. These segments include the United States, Japan, and India. They have elected local officers who represent the business continuity institute in their region.

Example of business continuity

There have been many ransomware attacks over the past few years. But what stands out was the SamSam ransomware attack in March 2018 on the city of Atlanta.

The attack crippled city government computer systems and disrupted countless services, including police records, courts, utilities, parking services, and other programs. Computer systems were shut down for 5 days and many departments had to perform basic tasks manually. Even after services were slowly brought back online, full recovery took months.

The attackers demanded a ransom of $52,000. But when it was over, the full impact of the attack was expected to be more than $17 million. Approximately $3 million was spent on contracts for emergency IT consultants and crisis management firms.

The Atlanta ransomware attack is a lesson in inadequate business continuity planning. The event showed that the city’s IT was woefully unprepared for an attack. Just two months earlier, an audit found 1,500 to 2,000 vulnerabilities in the city’s IT systems, exacerbated by “outdated software and an IT culture caused by ad hoc or undocumented processes.”

Which vulnerabilities allowed the attack? Most likely the passwords were weak. This is a common entry point for SamSam attackers, who use brute-force software to guess thousands of password combinations in seconds. To be honest, this is a complicated procedure that could be avoided with stronger password management protocols.

Despite the business continuity missteps, kudos to the IT professionals (internal and external) who are working to restore critical city services as quickly as possible. The city has some disaster recovery methods in place that will allow it to restore critical services. If not, the event would probably have had worse results.

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