The Importance of Continuity of Operations + IT Disaster Recovery Plans

Business operations can be disrupted in many ways, for instance in an event of a disaster. A disaster could be natural, environmental or man-made. Man-made disasters could be intentional (e.g. acts of a terrorist or a criminal) or unintentional (that is, accidental, such as train derailment or a vehicular collision). Other causes of disruption may be human factors such as employee sickness or death, and family emergencies.

Such disruptions can be partial, which leaves some portions of the company functional. Or it may be fully disruptive, leaving the company totally incapacitated due to the disruptive event. The increasing frequency and types of threats – coupled with recent environmental changes and disasters – have increased awareness of business and government entities for the need of Continuity Of Operations Plans that will enable them to continue their essential functions during these events.

A Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) is a set of tools and processes which an organization should observe and implement to ensure that its essential functions continue to be performed during a wide range of emergencies or unplanned events, such as the scenarios stated above.

A COOP includes a plan to continue operations if the place of business (e.g., an office, work site or data center) is affected by these adverse conditions. A COOP typically explains how the business would recover its operations or move operations to another location. For example, if a fire destroys an office building or data center, the people and business or data center operations would relocate to a recovery site. The plan could include recovering from different levels of disaster which can be short time, localized disasters, to days long building wide problems, to a permanent loss of a building.

In relation to the COOP, an Information Technology Systems (IT) Data Recovery Plan (DRP) is also necessary and should be complementary to the COOP. Given that many companies have increasing dependency on information technology to run operations, a disaster recovery plan is important to ensure the recovery of business data, assets, and facilities. Recovery strategies should be developed for Information technology (IT) systems, applications and data. This includes essential networks, servers, desktops, laptops, wireless devices, data archives and connectivity.

By definition, a data recovery plan (DRP) is a documented process or set of procedures to recover and protect the business information technology (IT) and communications infrastructure following the occurrence of a disruptive event (disasters, denial of service, hacks, etc.). Such a plan – documented in written form – specifies procedures that an organization is to follow in the event of a disaster to recover these assets. It is a comprehensive statement of consistent actions to be taken before, during and after a disaster.

The importance of ensuring the continued operation and rapid recovery is paramount to the business survival of any company. A company-wide Disaster Recovery Plan is an extensive undertaking that must be initiated seriously and promptly.

PURPOSE AND OBJECTIVE

COOP is an effort to ensure that the capability exists to continue essential company functions across a wide range of potential situations. The primary objective of a COOP is to enable an organization to function during a disaster, emergency or other unplanned event and to re-establish normal business operations within a reasonable time frame.

The objectives of a COOP plan include:

  • Ensuring the continuous performance of the essential functions/operations during a disaster situation, emergency, or unplanned event
  • Protecting essential facilities, equipment, records, and other assets
  • Reducing or mitigating disruptions to operations
  • Reducing loss of life, minimizing damage and losses; and
  • Achieving a timely and orderly recovery from an emergency and resumption of full service to customers

In every COOP plan, there are benefits that can be obtained from the implementation of a data recovery plan. Some of these benefits are:

  • Providing a sense of security
  • Minimizing risk of delays
  • Guaranteeing the reliability of standby systems
  • Providing a standard for testing the plan
  • Minimizing decision-making during a disaster
  • Reducing potential legal liabilities
  • Lowering unnecessarily stressful work environment

It is important to ensure and validate Continuity readiness through a dynamic and integrated Continuity Test, Training, and Exercise program and operational capability. Therefore the plans and procedures will be tested periodically as specified in the test program of the COOP plan.

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