Business Continuity: Dealing With Disaster

By Samuel Greengard

Over the last few years, more than a feworganizations have discovered how swiftly and profoundly a disaster can impactbusiness. One of the worse tornado outbreaks in history rampaged across theMidwest and South regions of the United States in the spring of 2011, causing anestimated $27 billion in damage.

In addition, massive and damagingearthquakes have struck Haiti, Chile, New Zealand and Japan. The earthquake inJapan, along with a deadly and damaging tsunami, knocked out some companies forweeks and brought business to a halt.

These days, disaster recovery (DR) andbusiness continuity (BC) are not abstract concepts, as the cost of a businessdisruption can run into millions of dollars. What’s more, it can lead toresidual problems, including a tarnished reputation and brand.

Unfortunately, "Many organizationsare not entirely prepared for disasters," points out David Sarabacha,global leader for resiliency at Deloitte Consulting. ?They have inadequatesystems and processes in place to deal with an interruption when it occurs.?

As data volumes explode and instantaccess to systems becomes the standard for conducting business, there’s agrowing need to position disaster recovery and business continuity at thecenter of IT. Organizations must build an effective strategy that’s flexibleenough to deal with today’s fast-changing business environment. They mustunderstand risks and potential fallout from downtime for various systems anddata classifications, and they must look at new and emerging technologies,including the cloud.

There is no simple path to effective DRand BC. "Getting business continuity and disaster recovery right is a bigchallenge," states Bob Laliberte, senior analyst for Enterprise StrategyGroup. "An organization must understand the risks it faces and howdifferent systems and approaches create an optimal level of protection."

Designing a best- practice DR and BCstrategy can prove challenging even for the most tech-savvy businesses and ITleaders. Today, mission-critical data streams in from a growing array ofsources, including connected business partners and mobile devices used byemployees and customers, so effective DR and BC touches almost every corner ofthe enterprise.

A starting point for developing astrategy, Deloitte?s Sarabacha says, is to thoroughly understand risk levels associatedwith business events and data. In many instances, as organizations reducebusiness partners and consolidate supply chains, risk actually increasesbecause an organization is more dependent on data and systems tied into a fewernumber of companies. In addition, many industries?health care, pharmaceuticaland financial services among them?must adhere to a growing spate ofregulations. For many organizations, staying current with rapidly changingbusiness conditions is an enormous challenge.