Disaster Recovery: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

To withstand a disaster and the resulting disruption, businesses must be able to depend on the cooperation of their employees. That presumption is the fundamental belief behind a well-thought-out business-continuity plan, which, in theory, should not only account for the recovery of IT systems, but also the resumption of overall operations.

This philosophy has evolved over several decades, but some business-continuity and disaster-recovery experts believe it is in danger of devolving.

“If we go back, way back, in history it was disaster recovery in the IT perspective that started the whole thing, and that was were the focus was; so when you said the term disaster recovery, you thought about protecting your technology,” says Barney Pelant, principal with Barney F. Pelant and Associates, a disaster recovery consultancy. “It was not until the ’80s when people started to recognize that it wasn’t just an IT issue, it was a business issue. So we started driving this from a business perspective for a while, and the term changed from disaster recovery to contingency planning to business-recovery planning to business-continuity planning to business-continuity management.”

Despite of all the progress that has taken place within the typical enterprise in unifying business-side and IT-side business-continuity efforts, there has been a regression recently that is so pernicious that even the terminology has reverted back to the old days.

“What happened in that whole process is [that while] it came together, it’s now come back apart again,” he explains. “It is unfortunate, but what has happened is, business continuity does not intend to imply technology strategy, and technology is back to the terminology of disaster recovery. There is this gap that is getting wider and wider.”

The gap isn’t just in terminology, either. As David Sarabacha, western region leader for Deloitte & Touche’s Business Continuity Management services group, puts it, many technology executives tasked with disaster recovery efforts aren’t communicating at all with those in charge of the rest of the business continuity planning.

“I’ve got a few clients who are experiencing that exact thing, where I can talk to the CIO and have one conversation and then talk to the head of the business-continuity management program that might sit in the risk group, and they don’t even talk to each other,” he says.