Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Disaster Recovery Vs. Business Continuity

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Many IT departments think disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity

(BC) are the same thing. As a result, they tend to take a largely

technology focus on the subjects.

And that’s a problem, according to Michael Croy, director of business

continuity at Forsythe Technology Inc., a Chicago-based IT consultancy

and infrastructure firm specializing in BC and risk management.

”Many people are still confused by the terms DR and BC,” says Croy.

”It is critically important that the DR plan is based on a solid BC plan

that has taken into account the reality of the business requirements for

recovery. If the DR plan cannot meet the requirements of the business

units, it is of no value.”

Croy says business continuity plans touch all functions of a business —

from personnel to facilities to IT. In terms of a hierarchical view,

business continuity is at the top. Below it is the disaster recovery

plan. And under that come technologies, such as enterprise backup,

recovery and restoration.

But true disaster recovery extends much more broadly than backup

processes by using mirrored sites and replicated data to respond to an

event. Similarly, business continuity goes well beyond disaster recovery

by encompassing every aspect of company operations that could be impacted

by a situation. Human resources, power supply maintenance or backup,

transportation, food, health and safety issues all fall within business


The IT department with its disaster recovery plan is one element of a

larger business continuity scenario.

John Glenn, a certified business continuity planner based in Clearwater,

Florida, agrees that IT administrators need to take a wider view.

”Most people, especially MIS/IT folks, think BC is just a new name for

DR,” says Glenn. ”The difference is that DR for IT focuses solely on

IT, and what IT perceives as the business unit’s requirements. BC, on the

other hand, should focus on the business units and, by extension, all the

resources required by the business unit.”

Industry observers say it’s clear that disaster recovery is one element

of business continuity. While IT is junior to BC as a whole, the IT

organization plays a central role in business continuity.

”It’s a big mistake to think the IT department is the only department

needed to develop, test and recover the business,” says Gartner analyst

Roberta Witty. ”It is advisable to form a business continuity program

with a dedicated team of people with a senior management sponsor.”

IT, though, would provide one representative to the core BC committee.

According to Witty, the committee would be comprised of anywhere from two

to five members, depending on the size of the organization. This group

would take a wide view of potential disasters.

For example, consider employee health and welfare during an event. In a

regional outage, you can’t expect personnel to show up for business

recovery if they are having serious problems at home related to the

event. You must support them and help employees be better prepared at

home for disasterous events. The American Red Cross, she says, can be

brought in for this kind of training and awareness building.

Michael Gruth, head of system and network support at Deutsche Borse AG,

the German exchange for stocks and derivates, says the IT staff tends to

find it easier to relate to the hardware, software and networking

components of DR. He has assembled an Alphaserver/OpenVMS cluster over

two sites five kilometers apart. In the process, he discovered there is a

lot more to DR than additional Alphas and switches.

”Do not forget things like having an office at your mirror site for

remote management,” says Gruth. ”Also, don’t forget the human factor.

While it may sound harsh to think about having additional employees to

recommence business in the event of a tragedy, this is the reality we

live in since 9/11.”

To help IT come to terms with a broader scope than disaster recovery,

some IT organizations are dropping the term in favor of business


”We have gotten away from the term ‘DR’ as it assumes the facility is

not available,” says Jeff Russell, CIO of The Members Group, an

Iowa-based company that provides card processing and mortgage services to

credit unions. ”BC, on the other hand, deals with how we continue

despite business interruption.”

State-of-the-Art Pencils

Disaster recovery projects can easily run aground or fail to be funded if

they are done in isolation. Glenn says it is essential to begin every

initiative from the business continuity perspective in order to give

technology its correct business context.

”Every organization I know about puts BC/DR under the IT umbrella,”

says Glenn. ”My preference is to put BC — of which DR is a subset —

under the CFO, CEO, COO… someone with some real clout.”

To make his point about business continuity not being a matter of

technology, Glenn enters the debate about what is the best platform for

disaster recovery, or what technological elements are most critical.

Should you use OpenVMS or UNIX, mirroring or disk-to-disk backup, SAN or

NAS, or all of them? Glenn cuts through the complexity and vendor hype

with a simple answer.

”My number one DR or BC technology is pencil and paper,” he says.

”Seriously, it’s not about platforms or technologies.”

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