High Availability, Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity: What’s the Difference?

If you think your company is ready for a disaster because you backup every day, or that you don’t need to back up because you have highly redundant servers or storage, think again!

High availability, disaster recovery and business continuity planning are separate yet interconnected aspects of your IT ecosystem. Here’s an overview of the differences and why you need all three:

High Availability — Resilient wired and wireless networks

Systems designed with high availability in mind protect against interruptions and prevent outages from happening in the first place.

Your wired system, or Local Area Network (WLAN), includes a storage technology called Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) that writes data across multiple discs. Redundancy is good! It’s like a big rig truck with multiple rows of tires — if one of the disks (tires) blows out, the system (truck) can keep driving down the highway anyway.

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Your wireless system, or Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN), is designed so that everyone can get online with any of their devices whenever they need to and with the signal strength they need. The number of access points you have and where they’re located prevent things like interference, crosstalk and channel overlap.

There is, of course, a risk-versus-cost aspect to designs that include redundancies and multiple access points, so you’ll want to choose the right balance for your company.

Disaster Recovery — The ability to quickly recover from an IT emergency

Disaster recovery includes two parts — your plan to deal with an IT emergency, aka your Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP), and your ability to put your plan into action. Only 4% of IT emergencies are caused by natural disasters. Most are caused by hardware failures and human error so every organization needs a DRP and skilled professionals to execute it.

Your DRP is based on your optimal Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and your Recovery Time Objective (RTO). RPO is the “point” that you return to after an IT disaster. For example, if you back up every 24 hours, your RPO is a maximum of 24 hours ago. RTO, on the other hand, is how quickly you can restore to your RPO and get back to business. This includes activities like the time it takes to get your spare equipment to start running your backups if your primary equipment isn’t working. Most people don’t think about RTO. They know they have a backup and feel confident that they’re covered. Running an actual test can usually cure that!

Testing is critical to any DRP — how else do you know it works? You will undoubtedly find things that need fine-tuning and may find issues related to availability (wired, wireless and/or cloud) and overall business continuity that need to be added or changed.

Business Continuity Planning — How, exactly, will your entire business keep functioning during an emergency?

Business continuity planning is a major exercise, and it’s much bigger than IT. It covers all the bits and pieces of continuing to run your business in the aftermath of a disaster. It begins with an in-depth understanding of your internal and external threats and includes logistics for all kinds of emergencies, like natural disasters, sabotage, fire and power grid failures. Where are people going to work? What equipment will they use? Who will provide the space? How will you communicate with one another? How will you keep the supply chain flowing?

A company’s chief operating officer typically owns the responsibility of maintaining and coordinating the business continuity plan, with the company’s IT experts contributing to planning the information and communications systems portion.

Of course, the likelihood that your business continuity plan will actually work depends on your disaster recovery plan working, too. And everyone being able to get back onto the network and online with a strong enough signal.

Leapfrog works with clients to optimize all three of these interconnected areas — our goal is to help you keep your business hopping as efficiently as possible no matter what happens. We design highly available wired and wireless networks, plan and test DRPs (then execute them, when needed — usually remotely using advanced tools), and work with continuity teams to plan and write the IT portion of continuity plans. As a managed IT service provider, we also handle all of the training, testing and maintenance procedures that go along with keeping all three aspects in tip-top shape. Feel free to contact us for more information. We’re here to help.