Optimize business continuity with cloud services
Business continuity (“emergency management”) is about maintaining business operations in the event of substantial damage events. Cloud services can help maintain or quickly restore IT-supported business processes in a targeted manner. Learn what business continuity is, why it’s important, and how the cloud can help you optimize your business continuity management (BCM).
- Business continuity management is essential
- Definition of disaster recovery
- Addressing BCM holistically
- Cloud as part of business continuity
- Finding expert advice
Business continuity encompasses all the necessary measures companies must take to ensure they are still capable of minimizing damage in the event of an emergency. Although this applies not only to IT, the latter plays a significant role in the digital world as ever more business processes are IT-based and business continuity thus increasingly depends on the proper functioning and accessibility of IT resources.
Companies are also increasingly interconnected by public network infrastructures today. Not only can these IT infrastructures be compromised by natural disasters, they also provide a potential vulnerability for hackers. Not to forget internal sources of danger such as human error, disruptions to internal IT, software errors and data theft.
While IT can itself be a source of danger, if correctly designed it can actively help minimize damage in the event of emergency. The cloud in particular has an essential role to play in this, as companies can leverage the targeted use of cloud services to make IT-based business processes not only more cost-efficient but also more fail-safe.
Malfunctioning IT resources can cost a company tens of thousands of dollars in a matter of minutes today. If business-critical applications such as databases, online stores or even the company’s own data center are affected, even higher losses can quickly result. Business failures have even more severe effects on listed companies, as the Meta case (Facebook) showed.
Massive disruptions there at the beginning of October 2021 prevented the use of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram for a whole six hours. This not only annoyed the 3.5 billion users who regularly access these applications. The failure also had a direct impact on Meta’s stock market value, which subsequently took a 4.9 percent dive (equivalent to a loss of $47.3 billion).
This example also shows how dependent many other companies now are on the availability of individual services. After all, users not only include private end customers. Many smaller companies rely on Facebook or similar instead of having their own website, which is why their business success depends increasingly on their visibility on these platforms. It’s safe to assume that all companies have similar dependencies. Every company should thus consider the possible failure of third-party providers that ensure its business continuity management.
Although making at least one person in the company responsible for business continuity management has proven generally effective, this does not always work in practice, as a survey of more than 1,000 companies across all industries (published by the digital association Bitkom in October 2021) found. It shows that although 51 percent of companies have certain emergency management regulations, 44 percent still have no emergency concept whatsoever.
“Theft, espionage and sabotage can hit any company and become an existential threat. However, only half of companies in the Germany have regulated processes and immediate measures, such as emergency management measures, in place.” (Bitkom)
What sort of incident requires which type of management approach?
Malfunction, emergencies, crises and disasters according to BSI Standard 200-4 (Source: BSI)
As mentioned above, business continuity encompasses all measures required to continue business operations in the event of an emergency. Business continuity management is thus primarily concerned with the strategic and overarching aspects of processes and procedures in an emergency. This includes classifying which processes are particularly critical to the company and worthy of protection, which specific procedures take effect in an emergency, personnel planning, etc.
Disaster recovery (DR) is part of business continuity. DR includes all IT measures taken to maintain the services required for operations or restore them as quickly as possible. These include, for example, plans to quickly rebuild a server setup or restore it from backups.
Business continuity is intended to ensure that companies can maintain or continue their operations even in emergency situations. This requires both developing strategies in advance to minimize possible risks and establishing predefined processes and concrete measures that take effect in an emergency. It is thus advisable to address business continuity holistically, create a business continuity plan and specifically include disaster recovery. This allows damage to be minimized and existential threats to be avoided.
Creating a business continuity plan
All business-critical processes are specified in the business continuity plan, while suitable processes and procedures are defined to minimize interruptions and damage. In addition, the measures required to ensure the restart of operations as quickly and smoothly as possible after a potential failure are precisely regulated.
For this purpose, maximum tolerable downtimes and specific procedures for the restart process should be defined for each process, depending on their business relevance. These measures vary, of course, depending on the nature of the emergency or the cause of the business interruption. After all, the response to a natural disaster is different from that to the departure of personnel. It is also a good idea to conduct regular drills and tests for the emergency plans and associated procedures. Doing so helps companies establish a certain basic routine. This gives everyone involved the confidence that they are well prepared for a possible emergency and capable of taking the right actions.
Business continuity measures for restarting operations
The restart of operations can be roughly divided into the following phases, for each of which specific measures should apply:
- Urgent measures
- Measures for starting the emergency mode
- Emergency operations
- Transition from emergency operations back to normal operations
- Follow-up on the individual incident that triggered the emergency
Risk assessment as the basis for business continuity management
The following overview helps companies identify and assess potential risks and set up suitable emergency processes to ensure business continuity. The BSI (German Federal Office for Information Security) has published a detailed list of other elementary threat situations.
- High water/floods
- Building failure
- Power outage
- IT resource failure
- IT processes
- Change in personnel
- Service provider default
- Partner default
The use of cloud services has now become established in almost all companies and industries, since the cloud can make IT-supported business processes more flexible. Although the main reason for using the cloud is to save costs, the use of cloud services also automatically makes IT resources and digitalized business processes more fail-safe and available.
The cloud not only helps ensure the redundancy of individual systems, data and processes, companies can also leverage cloud services to build up geo-redundancies and thus make targeted preparations for a crisis. It thus makes sense to actively include cloud services as part of business continuity and leverage them for contingency planning.
Cloud as failover
One of the most important security-related aspects is the system landscape. After all, having resilient and secure applications and data available at all times is more important than ever in the digital age. Redundancy is essential in this context. This means holding additional resources in reserve in the event of a failure of the primary instance. If companies do not want to operate their systems in the cloud at all or not completely, they should at least have a failover strategy to the cloud. This effectively protects companies from major damage in the event of IT failures at their own site.
Leveraging know-how from experts
Although most companies are aware of the increased risk of IT failures, small and medium-sized companies in particular find it very difficult to make the necessary personnel and financial investment on their own. They can nevertheless transfer at least part of this responsibility by moving their applications to the cloud.
Providers take over the complete operation and maintenance of a company’s IT resources in the cloud. Using the cloud can be more cost-effective than in-house operation, while avoiding the risks involved with infrastructures and IT resources that are not optimally maintained. Cloud providers can also provide companies with advice on appropriate protective strategies as well as backup and recovery solutions, and implement them in consultation with the customer.
Disaster recovery as a cloud service
Companies that want to go one step further can opt for disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) in the cloud. DRaaS complements cloud data protection with the capability of quickly restoring backed-up data or applications after an incident. This holds true even if a company still runs most of its business-critical applications in its own data center. As an additional location, the cloud once again offers increased availability, since outsourcing data, applications and services to a cloud provider results in high availability times and fast recovery times.
Since data recovery processes can also be tested very easily in advance in the cloud without impairing the production instance, companies are well prepared in the event of an actual damage event. If an emergency really does occur, all the necessary resources are available. Companies can also restore operations immediately if desired thanks to easy-to-use self-service tools. This minimizes downtime very efficiently while reducing sales losses to a minimum.
Don’t leave the availability of your business-critical data and applications up to chance: we would be pleased to advise you on leveraging the cloud for your business continuity.