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What is Business Continuity?

Business continuity is an organization's capability to maintain mission-critical functionality during and after a disaster. There are myriad disruptions that can cost organizations time, money and productivity. Modern organizations have a list of potential disruptions that extend beyond natural disasters. Service outages, security breaches and industry competition can represent significant threats to business.

Business continuity allows organizations to:

  • Enable seamless workforce productivity during any kind of business disruption, planned or unplanned
  • Protect and control business information by maintaining IT control in the datacenter
  • Simplify continuity planning and operations using the same everyday infrastructure that supports the organization during routine operations

In the past, organizations would rely on a complex series of physical provisions to maintain operations during disaster scenarios. From a technology perspective, IT stakeholders would need to arrange for endpoints such as new desktop computers and networking technologies to maintain a patchwork of systems until normal operation could resume.

Today, cloud technologies, redundant systems and strategic planning keep businesses running when the unexpected occurs. Large organizations may be able to keep all of their functionality throughout a crisis. Small or mid-sized companies may focus on keeping critical functions active until the crisis passes.

What is the purpose of a business continuity plan?

An optimized business continuity plan encompasses three main components. First, a company needs to be resilient. That means key business functions are designed within the context of potential disasters. The business continuity team assess each function for weaknesses and susceptibilities, then establish protections against each. This supports ongoing risk management policies.

Second, stakeholders prioritize functions and determine which need to be brought online first. Disaster recovery is a key factor, and the faster functions can return to an operational state, the less likely the organization is to sustain lasting damage. IT stakeholders set disaster recovery time goals and develop action plans. After mission-critical functions return to working order, team members work down the list of priority functions, utilizing third-party support as needed.

Third, organizations require a contingency plan with branching paths that describe chains of command, stakeholder responsibilities and any necessary technical knowledge necessary for established disaster scenarios. Finally, an optimized business continuity plan includes an impact analysis to determine how successful recovery efforts were. Likewise, a disaster report shows stakeholders how the process can improve in the future.

With these three elements, an organization can weather crises, assess damage quickly and recover as soon as possible. It's also important to understand that a business continuity plan is a living document which must be updated regularly as the organization adopts new technologies and processes. As organizations grow to scale, they adopt new solutions and infrastructures; these must be accounted for in the plan, or disaster recovery challenges could become augmented by unexpected bottlenecks.

What technologies support business continuity?

Integrated technologies supported by cloud platforms give modern businesses the ability to plan for, react to and recover from crises, whether they be natural disasters, cyber attacks or supplier failures. These technologies support full critical business functions and crisis management:

Hosted desktops and applications

Virtual apps and desktops as well as SaaS and web apps are ideal for business continuity as they allow users to access their applications using any device in the event a disaster renders company data centers and offices useless.

Unified endpoint management

In the event of a disaster, employees should have the ability to access their apps and files from any location using any device. Unified endpoint management allow organizations to securely deliver apps and data to employees regardless of the endpoint, network, or the user’s location.

File sync and share

In a disaster, the availability of critical files is essential to continued operations. Cloud-based file sync and share tools give stakeholders the power to access company data from anywhere on earth. Furthermore, policy-based control options and sophisticated security protocols ensure data remains in an untarnished state throughout the disaster. In the event of a serious breach, encryption tools and remote wipe options keep sensitive information safe from malicious actors.

Collaboration

Keeping teams connected throughout crises is critical to resiliency and recovery goals. Optimized contingency plans leverage collaboration tools to shift workloads to teams outside of the disaster zone. Importantly, collaboration tools utilize cloud technology to provide near instant access to critical functions to authorized stakeholders, as dictated by the contingency plan.

Cloud networking

In normal situations, cloud networks give organizations the ability to expand their resources as needs spike. In the event that a disaster strikes the primary data center, disaster solutions can spread virtualized resources across secondary locations, limiting downtime or eliminating service outages completely. These solutions provide reliability and performance throughout the disaster, giving stakeholders the time necessary to maintain business operations.

How to support risk mitigation with business continuity solutions?

In a competitive business environment, disruption can cost organizations significantly. To ensure teams can stay productive and IT stakeholders can meet recovery time objectives, leaders need to make strategic investments in resilient technologies. Supporting these tools, strategic policies and standardized continuity activities empower stakeholders to maintain control in even the worst disaster scenarios.

At its core, a business continuity plan is a strong framework to support an organization when the unexpected occurs. By predicting potential crises and identifying mission critical functions, organizations increase their opportunities for overcoming monumental challenges with ease. A systematic approach ensures everyone understands their roles and has the greatest chance of success.

The three pillars of resilience, recovery and contingency reinforce organizations, giving them the ability to support internal teams as well as external stakeholders. With Citrix Cloud and the aid of cloud technologies and dynamic infrastructures, the most dangerous crises become manageable.

Additional Resources:

White Paper: Guidelines for Maintaining Business Continuity
Case study: How CIOs Can Ensure Business Continuity
How to Ensure Business Continuity and IT Disaster Recovery
Explore the Citrix Cloud Business Continuity Advantage