Jun 27, 2024

Disaster recovery and business continuity: A guide for business leaders

Disaster recovery and business continuity: A guide for business leaders

Over the past few years, we have had the privilege of engaging with numerous cybersecurity leaders around the world regarding the crucial topic of communication security within their organizations.

These enlightening conversations often explore the challenge of ensuring secure and reliable communications during incident response.

For business leaders who will (likely, inevitably) confront some level potential disaster, gaining a deeper understanding of both disaster recovery and business continuity can prove invaluable when quick thinking and decision-making become required during an incident.

With the increasing volume of cyber attacks, natural disasters, and other unexpected events, disaster recovery and business continuity planning have become essential components of any organization's overall security strategy.

Whether it's a ransomware attack that brings down your entire IT infrastructure or a hurricane that floods your office, the continued success of your business depends on your ability to recover quickly and continue operating as smoothly as possible.

This article will provide an overview of disaster recovery and business continuity, highlight why they matter more than ever, and offer the best advice for business leaders to successfully manage the most challenging incidents.

What is disaster recovery?

Disaster recovery in a business context refers to the set of strategies, policies, and procedures that an organization puts in place to minimize downtime, data loss, and operational disruptions in the event of a disaster or significant disruptive event.

These disasters can be natural, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, or wildfires, or they can be human-made, including cyberattacks, data breaches, power outages, or hardware failures.

When is comes to disaster recovery, we have much less control over the disaster than we do over the recovery.

That's why the most critical part of disaster recovery is developing a disaster recovery plan to ensure that critical business functions can continue to be resumed after a disaster.

For many organizations, disaster recovery primarily focuses on the restoration and recovery of an organization's IT systems, data, and technology infrastructure following a disaster or disruptive event.

At Mode, we like to think of disaster recovery as prioritizing the restoration of the most critical infrastructure and resources to enable an effective business continuity plan (which we will cover shortly).

Its main goal is to minimize data loss and downtime, ensuring that critical IT services can be restored quickly. Disaster recovery plans should be tailored to the specific needs of your organization, taking into account the criticality of the systems, recovery time objectives (RTOs), and recovery point objectives (RPOs).

So one size doesn't fit all.

What is business continuity?

Business continuity refers to an organization's ability to maintain essential operations and functions during and after a disruptive event or crisis. In contrast to disaster recovery, which often focuses on restoring IT systems, infrastructure, and resources, business continuity has a broader scope and encompasses all aspects of an organization's operations.

This includes having contingency plans in place, such as alternate work locations, communication strategies, and backup systems.

The primary goal of business continuity planning is to ensure that a company can continue to deliver its products or services, meet its obligations to customers and stakeholders, and recover as quickly as possible from various types of disruptions.

Although there will always be some level of disruption to internal operations, we like to think of an effective business continuity strategy as ensuring the organization is ready to minimize the impact on service of product delivery to its customers in the event of a critical incident.

React quickly through disaster recovery, and push on through business continuity.

Why do they matter to organizations?

As the saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail.

Disaster recovery and business continuity planning should be a top priority for every organization. The consequences of not having a robust plan in place can be dire, including financial losses, reputation damage, and even business closure.

Reacting (instead of proactively preparing) to the chaos of a disaster can have the following consequences:

  1. According to a report by the Ponemon Institute in 2017, the average cost of a single data breach was $3.62 million, highlighting the importance of having a solid disaster recovery and business continuity plan. (Ponemon Institute, 2017)
  2. 25% of businesses do not reopen after a disaster. (Federal Emergency Management Agency - FEMA, 2018)
  3. In some high-profile legal cases, businesses have faced lawsuits and financial penalties for failing to adequately protect data or maintain operational continuity during disruptive events.

Best advice for business leaders to successfully manage disaster recovery and business continuity

To ensure successful disaster recovery and business continuity, here are some of the best practices business leaders should follow when preparing their response strategy:

  • Risk Assessment: Conduct a thorough risk assessment to understand potential threats and vulnerabilities specific to your organization. These can include natural disasters common to your geographic location, civil or political unrest in your region, cyberattack vulnerabilities, possible supply chain disruptions, etc. Brainstorm a list with other business leaders in your organization who have intimate knowledge of each business units biggest risks. Together, you can paint a picture of the most risky areas in your business.
  • Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Planning: Develop a comprehensive disaster recovery and business continuity plan that includes recovery objectives, strategies, and tools. We won't go into every detail of a disaster recovery and business continuity plan, but there are many guides and templates available online to guide your preparation.
  • Testing and Training: Regularly testing the plan is crucial to uncover any gaps or weaknesses. Additionally, it is essential to ensure that all members of your organization receive proper training on the plan. This is particularly important for establishing accountability and responsibility within the team.
  • Data Backup and Redundancy: Implement data backup and redundancy solutions to protect critical data and ensure it can be recovered in case of data loss. After the physical security of personnel, proprietary data is one of the most challenging losses for businesses.
  • Communication Planning: Establish communication policies to notify employees, customers, and stakeholders about the situation and recovery efforts. When disaster strikes, your plan is the best tool for maintaining order and driving business continuity. However, proper communication strategies are critical for rolling out your plan in times of crisis. Especially in the event of a cyberattack when networks can no longer be trusted. Mode helps organizations to effectively communicate during a disaster recovery and business continuity scenario by keeping their team communications secure and out of band.

Depending on your risk and impact assessment or the level of internal expertise at your organization, you may consider outsourcing disaster recovery and business continuity to third-party providers who can help you develop a plan and effectively respond when an incident occurs.


In conclusion, disaster recovery and business continuity planning are critical components of a comprehensive security strategy. The best advice for business leaders is to take steps to develop a robust disaster recovery and business continuity plan that is tailored to the specific needs of the organization, regularly test the plan, and ensure that employees are trained and aware of their roles and responsibilities. It's impossible to plan for everything, but taking these steps can help minimize the impact of unexpected events on an organization's operations and reduce the risk of reputational and financial losses.