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21st March 2023

Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Planning

Ever thought about how your business or organisation would keep functioning if you lost critical web services and systems? I bet some of you probably have, but I also suspect that for many, it may be in your mind, but other things distract or take priority, and it just gets put on the back burner.

Well, returning to the theme of my past life in good old corporate land in the 1980s/1990s, disaster recovery was paramount within the IT and systems departments.

We would maintain detailed recovery plans including key personnel registers, their contact details, standby rota, detailed systems recovery and restore procedures, and importantly, at a minimum on an annual basis, a full disaster recovery simulation.

This simulation would follow the premise of a surprise TOTAL system failure. This failure could be anything from a power outage to a total loss of a data centre.

In those days, most large corporate's had their own data centres, and often the tests would involve relocating all the systems to a backup data centre, typically provided by organisations such as IBM.

On a designated day, the key personnel would be contacted and required to pitch up to the backup centre, then follow the recovery guides, completely restore all of the organisation's key systems, and then test. The scope of these exercises was enormous, often testing required all aspects of the organisation’s systems, from networking and telephony systems to remote office and branch access to the restored environments.

Documentation was key. Every stage was documented, test scripts were documented and checked off, and total recovery time was documented. Even to the extent that the organisation would know to the Pound the cost impact of a system failure and recovery, so time was always of the essence.

Roll forward to the 21st Century, what's changed? Well, the importance of digital systems is even more so, with most businesses being web-centric and highly transactional, the imperative is even greater.

The global pandemic of 2020/2021 brought this into stark focus when suddenly we were all living in lock downs and not able to access offices. Many businesses at the time needed to rapidly change working practices and systems to enable remote working. This was a classic example of where having a robust Business Continuity Plan was essential. Let's face it, how many SMEs considered prior to Covid-19 what would happen if we lost our office?

The good thing in today’s world is that being web-centric, we are not necessarily bound to a location. However, today’s digital systems live in the cloud, and even with all the benefits of redundancy, geo-location and virtualisation, these systems can and do fail.

Often it is taken for granted that backups of your website and core business data are handled automatically by your web provider, but have you ever tested a Restore? Or tested recovering a lost virtual server for example?

With the ever-present threats of cyber-attacks, data corruption and hijacks, how would you stay in business? Even something as simple as a router failure or broadband provider issues could have a serious impact. We know that even the slightest downtime can affect a business’s reputation.

However, one of the benefits of the new age of web-centric cloud-hosted digital systems is that there is a vast array of tools readily available to assist with putting together robust disaster recovery and business continuity plans.

My advice would be for businesses to get curious, and start asking the question, what happens if? Then at a very minimum start developing a Business Continuity Plan including:

  • Key Personnel and contact details
  • Key Systems and networks required to stay in business
  • Key suppliers and contact details
  • Banking and Accounting Access and Processes
  • Remote working procedures
  • System backup and restore procedures


Then, think about trying to test a recovery scenario, simulate a failure and document the steps required to recover. From something as simple as recovering a single file, through to total loss of a web service, loss of network access or corruption of critical business data.

I’m thankful for my experiences from those days in corporate land, this grounding has helped me in many ways in thinking about my own business continuity plans, and in turn, being able to offer this experience to my clients.

If you would like to understand more about the areas of BCP and Disaster Recovery, then please feel free to drop me a line, I would love to be able offer you some insight.