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How to Leverage the Cloud for Business Continuity Planning

February 1, 2021Cloud

Business disruptions are becoming more common, according to IDC’s 2019 State of IT Resilience survey. In fact, ninety-one percent of organizations experienced some kind of business disruption within the past two years, while the same number reported an IT-related disruption. The results of these disruptions vary, but are often significant, including loss of revenue, reputational damage and customer loss.

With disruptions on the rise, organizations need to be prepared for the unexpected, and the best way to do this is to create a Business Continuity Plan (BCP). A BCP is more than a disaster recovery plan, which focuses on a specific type of incident. A BCP identifies all the processes and potential scenarios that could impact business operations and establish courses of action. IT is a key focus of a BCP, but it also encompasses supply chain, human resources, payroll and health and safety — in short, everything involved with keeping a business running in case of a malware attack, natural disaster, server failure or other major disruption.

Assess the impact of each workload and system

The first steps in building an effective BCP are a risk assessment and business impact analysis. A risk assessment identifies risks to various assets, reveals any potential gaps in your protections and highlights where you need additional controls. The business impact analysis determines which business functions are most important to your operations and establishes acceptable downtime for each of them.

Once you understand the importance of each workload or system and the impact it will have if it goes down, you can decide what kind of service level agreements (SLAs) you will need. For example, a payroll system that can be down for several days with little impact won’t require the same SLA as a transaction processing system that is highly disruptive if it is down for even five minutes.

IT plays a key role in helping you meet your SLAs. There isn’t one single technology or set of technologies that are universally used by all organizations, but several are commonly used to boost IT resilience and help ensure business continuity. Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) is one frequently used solution. DRaaS replicates your data and hosts it in the cloud, allowing you to quickly switch to your backup systems if your production environment goes down. But DRaaS by itself won’t ensure business continuity. It needs to be complemented by a long-term backup and retention strategy for your data.

Cloud Plays a Key Role in BCP

Cloud has quickly become a cornerstone of most business continuity plans. In fact, Aptum’s recent Global Cloud Impact Study found 89 percent of senior IT decision-makers see cloud as essential to business continuity. This shouldn’t be a surprise since replicating data from one location to another can be complex and expensive. But a cloud solution can make the process more efficient, simpler and faster if it is architected correctly. For example, Amazon Simple Storage and Azure Blob Cool Storage can replicate and protect your data in the cloud, Azure can be set up to extend your SAN storage to the cloud, or you can configure local Amazon S3 object stores to maintain an immutable copy on-site and replicate it to the cloud.

Simply moving workloads to the cloud isn’t going to meet the requirements of your Business Continuity Plan. You need to follow best practices — for example, ensure all your data is secure; optimize your cloud workloads for business continuity; and move at a pace that works for your organization. Faster isn’t necessarily better. You may also find some legacy workloads won’t work optimally in the cloud, which makes a hybrid infrastructure a good option.

Maximize your investment in business continuity

Even after shifting workloads to the cloud, not every organization may realize the maximum benefits. This is because moving workloads to the cloud requires significant planning and expertise that organizations often don’t have in-house. This can be especially true in a hybrid environment, as your BCP needs to encompass all your critical IT infrastructure. To realize the full benefits of business continuity in the cloud, and maximize your investment, businesses should partner with experts who understand the big picture as well as the subtle nuances of cloud transformation.

To gain more insights and help to develop a plan for your business to withstand any disruption, you can download our new eBook titled Business Continuity Planning in the Cloud.

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