How to Maintain Business Continuity and Recover From Disasters - Security Boulevard

How to Maintain Business Continuity and Recover From Disasters

As the saying goes, “stuff” happens, and for most organizations, it’s not if, but when, an unexpected event will threaten to shut down operations. From natural disasters to system crashes, unplanned emergencies can put your business’s processes, data, and future in jeopardy.  

Is your organization prepared with a plan and ready to continue operating through a crisis? Can your team recover assets, protect sensitive data, and minimize damage while maintaining compliance? Will your organization remain trustworthy and resilient in the eyes of your customers?

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, ensuring that your organization can maintain business continuity and recover from disasters is more challenging than ever. This article will discuss Business Continuity Disaster Recovery (BCDR) and how to protect your business and customers during these trying times.

What is BCDR?

BCDR is a set of guidelines and procedures used to assist an organization in maintaining operations, recovering assets, and remediating damage in the event of a disaster.

Business continuity focuses on the minimal requirements necessary to keep processes, assets, human resources, and partnerships operational during and after an incident. Disaster Recovery is one part of the business continuity plan and is concerned with the restoration of IT infrastructure and hardware. 

Why is BCDR Important?

BCDR is critical today for several significant reasons. For one, having a BCDR plan helps organizations function through disasters, saving revenue, and reputation while boosting confidence with customers. 

Second, a healthy BCDR plan will ensure the safety and wellbeing of your most valuable organizational resource: your people. Maintaining employee health and safety is the most critical requirement for business continuity and recovery should a disaster strike. Remember, your business success during a crisis rests on your people, so protecting them with a robust safety plan must be a priority.

Third, BCDR plans help protect data. How important is this? According to industry experts at Yeo and Yeo, a top national business advisory firm, “If your business were to ever lose its data, it could likely be catastrophic. Nearly 70% of businesses that lose their data quickly go out of business”. 

Fourth, COVID-19 has disrupted business operations and forced organizations to adopt a broader view of business continuity. Most BCDR plans include protocols for other assets, yet few consider human resources. The pandemic has forced organizations to change the operational processes, procedures, and tools they use to get work done. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has added a new layer of necessary precautions, with many organizations adopting social distancing, masks, and testing to curb infections and maintain employee health during the crisis. 

At this time, it’s more important than ever for businesses to have an updated BCDR plan in place that considers a broad range of operational issues, including employee health and safety, remote collaboration, securing corporate and personal devices in a remote work environment, IT service disruptions, and vendor risk.

Related resource: How to Stay Continuously Secure and Compliant In a Remote Work Environment 

Developing a BCDR Strategy


Developing a strategy for surviving a disaster starts with understanding the risks, identifying your processes and assets, and calculating the business cost of potential losses. Your strategy will center around a plan designed to maintain operations and address the recovery of assets and functions in the aftermath of a disaster. 

For organizations creating BCDR strategies in 2020, obstacles abound. But it’s important to remember that business disruption provides no excuse for lax compliance—customers will pay close attention to how well you serve their needs and protect their data during a crisis. Employees will be counting on you for clear communication and processes to follow. In addition to today’s strict data protection regulations, organizations must account for the massive disruption and broader scope of business continuity concerns created by the pandemic. 

Areas of Coverage In a BCDR Plan 

There are a variety of areas that need to be addressed in a comprehensive continuity plan, and what you address depends on your particular organization’s operations. Regardless of your specific circumstances, you need to address the following issues. 

Triggers: Create an outline of the events that would set your plan in action. 

Leadership: Specify how the leadership team interacts and what happens if a team member is unable to perform their designated role. 

Work from home policies: Since we’re several months into the COVID-19 pandemic, you probably already have a work from home policy with specifics around the rules of engagement. However, you may need to re-assess the security policies and access controls you have in place to ensure employees are accessing sensitive data and corporate systems through secure channels from home. 

Communications. During a crisis, communication with your employees, customers, and partners is critical, so make sure to outline policies for how you communicate, when you communicate, and what methods of communication you will use. 

Teams. In addition to leadership planning, each team leader needs to develop a contingency plan for their team. Outline who will be second in command and what each team member will be responsible for. 

Vendor contingency plans. You likely rely on several mission-critical technology providers to run your business. Make sure that you contact each vendor to ask that they provide you with the latest version of their continuity plans. 

Building Your BCDR Plan

To form a comprehensive business continuity plan, you’ll need to complete the following steps: 

Risk Analysis: The first step to building out your business continuity plan is to conduct a risk analysis. This should be cross-functional, and it will help identify points-of-failure within your organization and issues that you need to address. We recommend that your organization prioritize the risks based on potential business impact. 

There are six major areas of risk that your organization will need to address in an emergency: 

  • People: How will your business be impacted if a critical individual is unable to continue work due to illness or death? How equipped are you as an organization to conduct business remotely? 
  • Operational: How will the threat impact the physical operations of your organization? How will the facilities be impacted? Will there be issues with distribution? 
  • Technical: How will your business be impacted by failures in technology, including technology failures in business-critical applications or technology failures in your own product? 
  • Security: What security issues are you vulnerable to — either physical or digital — and do you have the right security controls? At this time, it’s particularly important to have appropriate security policies to enable your employees to securely access corporate systems and corporate data from their homes. 
  • Financial: Can you continue to generate revenue and keep customers happy? Are there financial issues impacting your ability to continue to operate? 
  • Communications: Do you have contingency plans for communicating with each other, your employees, your customers, and other stakeholders? 

Business Impact Analysis (BIA): A Business Impact Analysis is a critical assessment step that is completed using an Operational Financial Impacts Worksheet to tally the total operational and financial costs of a business disruption event. These costs may include loss of income, increased expenses, regulatory fines, contract penalties, and customer defections. BIA results weigh heavily in the formation of recovery strategies.

Recovery Strategies: These carefully devised backup plans may be the most vital component of a BCDR. When operations crash or a pandemic strikes, your organization’s blueprint for replacing critical assets and functions becomes all-important. Organizations design recovery strategies, create manual workarounds, and obsessively backup data to restore business functions to the minimally acceptable levels in the event of a disaster. For example, look at how many organizations are maintaining operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the main pandemic recovery strategies is establishing work from home policies on safe networks for remote workers. Another strategy is initiating protection protocols like social distancing and masks for those employees who can’t work from home. Companies can also hire temporary workers to fill in for employees who are too ill to work during the COVID-19 crisis.

Resilient organizations work with a well-defined plan, including recovery strategies, to help navigate the entire process, from early response through full incident recovery. According to Deloitte analysis, an organization’s recovery playbook should map the path to six key macro outcomes:

  • Recover and grow revenue
  • Increase margins and profitability
  • Optimize assets, liabilities, and liquidity
  • Accelerate digital transformation 
  • Support the workforce and operating structure
  • Manage stakeholder expectations while proactively addressing risks

Plan to Maintain Operations: Maintaining business operations through a crisis isn’t for the faint of heart—or the unprepared. Be ready with a tested plan to stay up and running through turbulent times. Start by conducting a risk assessment and performing a thorough Business Impact Analysis. Identify mission-critical assets and functions, know the recovery strategies for each, and establish a reliable emergency communication channel. 

BCDR Standards

ISO 22301 is the primary standard used for governing business continuity and helping organizations prepare for, respond to, and recover from disastrous events. This guide provides a set of protocols and procedures to plan, implement, monitor, and continually update business continuity management systems. ISO 22313 is an extension of this standard that explains specific regulatory clauses.

ISO 27031 is the primary standard for designing Disaster Recovery plans. This guide focuses on information and communication technology planning requirements for both data security and organizational operations. ISO 27031 includes the four critical action steps of disaster recovery—planning, doing, checking, acting.

In addition to ISO 22301, there are a few more noteworthy standards for business continuity. ISO 27001 focuses on information security management systems, ISO 22320 discusses incident response prerequisites, and ISO 31000 highlights general risk management and resource allocation with business continuity.

The Importance of Testing Your BCDR

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

The worst time to discover a flaw in your BCDR plan is during an emergency. Smart organizations continually test and update their BCDR plans, especially in times of rapid change, like a pandemic. 

Testing methods can start with table-top exercises, where members of each business unit discuss plans and try to identify gaps. Structured walk-throughs go a step further, with team members walking through their duties, complete with disaster role play for authenticity. Disaster simulation testing goes all in to replicate emergencies, and nothing is spared to deliver authenticity in these full-scale drills. 

BCDR plans are your business’s lifeline during an emergency, so testing should be prioritized throughout the organization. Larger organizations should conduct table-tops quarterly and smaller organizations biannually, while full BCDR field tests should be run yearly by all enterprises. Best practice suggests running disaster recovery tests separately at least twice per year to minimize organizational disruption.

Testing should challenge your plan with the goal of continuous improvement and updated resiliency. Team members should regularly gather to review the plan and adjust as necessary. 

Keep Your BCDR Plan up to Date

Keeping your organization’s BCDR plan current and handy has never been more critical as businesses adjust to the reality of a COVID-19 world. Modern enterprises must integrate compliance into daily operations while keeping updated plans in secure, accessible locations such as in a compliance operations software to verify their responsibility on COVID-19 risks. Today’s customers demand nothing less.

Ultimately, resilient organizations that can prove their ability to operate through disasters, keep data safe, and remain compliant will prevail long after the COVID-19 pandemic. Being prepared with an updated BCDR plan is an essential first step and one that all organizations will be thankful they took.  

About Author

Mark Knowles is a freelance content marketing writer specializing in articles, e-books, and whitepapers on cybersecurity, automation, and artificial intelligence. Mark has experience creating fresh content, engaging audiences, and establishing thought leadership for many top tech companies. He is based in the sunny state of Arizona but enjoys traveling the world and writing remotely. 

Banner photo by Morning Brew on Unsplash

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