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Business Continuity Planning and Disaster Recovery

September 13, 2023

From data breaches to natural disasters, businesses face a host of dangers — and those dangers can cost them plenty. For example, according to an IBM report, in 2022, the average cost of each data breach to a U.S. business was $9.4 million.

But the potential damage isn’t limited to finances. The issues that result from these crises can leave a company facing operational, reputational and legal woes. Business continuity planning and disaster recovery professionals consider all potential outcomes of such incidents, taking steps to ensure that organizations not only can recover, but also can continue to function amid efforts to return to normal operations.

The IBM report showed companies that were equipped with the tools to act quickly saved an average of $3 million in damage, compared to companies that were not prepared.

Advanced training in this type of planning and recovery, such as that offered through a master’s program in homeland security and emergency preparedness, can help business continuity managers and other similar professionals develop the necessary skills to mitigate potential damages.

Risks and Hazards Businesses Face

Humanmade and natural, intentional and accidental — the risks that can interrupt business operations cover a broad range of scenarios. And they all have the potential to cause great harm to an organization, even potentially putting it at risk of closing permanently. 

A single hurricane, for example, can cause damage not only to a company’s facilities but also to its capacity to produce goods and provide services. Hurricane Ian in 2022 wreaked havoc on the agriculture industry in Florida, leading to crop loss, production cuts and infrastructure damage. The financial toll was steep, with the Tampa Bay Times reporting that agricultural businesses suffered as much as $1.9 billion in losses.

The following hazards have the potential to significantly harm business operations.

  • Bomb threat — This hazard can cause a shutdown of a company’s services and emotional distress among employees.
  • Widespread financial crisis — Banking issues and economic downturns can lead to cash flow problems and decreasing sales.
  • Cyberattack or data breach — Cybercriminals can compromise a company’s information technology (IT) system and expose sensitive data, which can damage the organization’s reputation and sales, and create vulnerability for legal action.
  • Computer system malfunction — Lack of access to properly functioning electronics can lead to downturns in productivity and revenue.
  • Climate change and natural disasters — Wildfires, severe weather, heatwaves and droughts are among the natural and climate change-related hazards that can disrupt corporate functions and customer service.
  • Public health crisis — Disease outbreaks and health concerns following disasters can affect a company’s staffing levels and employee health and safety needs.

Defining Business Continuity Planning and Disaster Recovery 

Companies should have business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) plans in place to help them continue operations during and following a disaster or crisis. 

These plans help organizations minimize the amount of damage — financial or otherwise — they may incur. Additionally, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires companies to have emergency plans that include business continuity and disaster recovery information. These plans may specify how to safely maintain critical operations and who will serve as the main points of contact during and after a disaster.

When preparing for business continuity and disaster recovery, companies should consider:

  • The potential impact any disaster could have on a business 
  • The risk a company faces of encountering the disaster

Organizations should test and practice their plans for business continuity and disaster recovery. They should also train staff to execute the plans.

Business continuity planning and disaster recovery are separate functions, but they should complement each other. Coordinating each of these efforts helps businesses ensure they are prepared not only for coping with emergencies but also for emerging from them with as little damage as possible. 

What Is Business Continuity Planning?

Business continuity planning is a corporation-wide, proactive approach to long-term disaster recovery. It outlines the steps all areas of an organization will take to continue operations as they deal with the challenges and outcomes of a crisis. The plan’s contents typically address:

  • Situations likely to cause significant business disruption
  • Potential outcomes related to emergencies
  • The amount of time a business can continue to operate without the various elements it requires for doing business, such as facilities, equipment and data
  • Process adjustments to maintain critical functions during a disaster

What Is Disaster Recovery?

Disaster recovery, on the other hand, involves the predefined procedures a company must follow to return to regular operations while sustaining as little loss as possible. These plans for recovery generally focus on how IT functions should react in the hours and days following the onset of an emergency. 

The following factors should guide decisions in disaster recovery for IT operations.

  • Regulatory requirements
  • IT systems’ importance to business operations
  • Customer needs

Disaster recovery planning should cover issues such as:

  • The potential business impact of the disaster, noting how disruptions to critical functions could affect services over time
  • Priorities for addressing disruptions to various IT functions
  • Communication roles and procedures for employees and executives during a crisis
  • Responsibilities of team members in system recovery

The Role of a Business Continuity Manager 

One of the most important roles in business continuity planning and disaster recovery is that of a business continuity manager. Often serving in supervisory roles, these professionals typically work with a variety of different teams within a company to plan for and recover from disasters. Though responsibilities vary according to the organization, typical duties for this position include:

  • Developing plans for continuing business operations in the event of a disaster 
  • Establishing plans that facilitate quick recovery of IT functions during a crisis
  • Organizing regular drills to practice roles and steps outlined in BCDR plans
  • Ensuring that business continuity and disaster recovery plans are up to date and in line with regulations and industry standards
  • Monitoring organizational risk management efforts for legal and regulatory compliance
  • Serving as a coordinator for emergency response professionals and external communications during a crisis

The average salary for business continuity managers was approximately $99,200 in May 2023, according to Payscale.

Be a Leader in Business Continuity Planning and Disaster Recovery

To help avoid catastrophic financial and reputational losses, companies need to invest in business continuity and disaster recovery planning. If you’re ready to level up your knowledge and skills to pursue a meaningful career leading BCDR preparations, explore Virginia Commonwealth University’s online Master of Arts in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness program.

Through the program, you can build your expertise in preparing organizations for unexpected crises, exploring topics such as:

  • Emergency management
  • Cybersecurity law
  • Terrorism
  • Security preparedness
  • Strategic planning
  • Risk assessment
  • Public health

The curriculum offers opportunities for hands-on learning, faculty with real-world experience, and the flexibility of an online format to fit coursework into your busy schedule. Discover how VCU can help you achieve your career goals.