A business continuity application is software used to help develop, manage or implement an organization’s business continuity plan and maintain its operations during a crisis or other unexpected disruption.
Business continuity application software tends to fall under one of two general categories. The first are applications that help an organization analyze its risks in various crisis scenarios and then develop a business continuity plan (BCP) to minimize operational disruptions. Examples in this category include software that can help analyze and estimate the real costs and other impacts of an outage to a particular business function. Applications in this category are often known as “business continuity management applications.”
The second are applications that an organization uses to implement various facets of its BCP and manage its operations during a crisis. A data backup and recovery tool is one example of a business continuity application in this latter category. These are sometimes known as “business continuity solutions.” In some cases, these two categories work together as part of an integrated solution.
In both cases, these technologies are part of an organization’s overall strategy and toolkit for ensuring operational continuity and resilience in the face of unexpected or unwanted risks to its mission.
The foundation of a robust BCP is an in-depth analysis of the organization—its processes and workflows, its physical assets, its different departments and their business functions, not to mention all of the interdependencies among different teams and services. This evaluation can be a vast undertaking, especially in larger organizations.
A business continuity management application can help guide and track that analysis, as well as create the necessary protocols, processes and communications for implementing and managing a BCP during a crisis. A business continuity management app, then, is a software tool for not only developing a plan but also managing its implementation when needed. Key examples of business continuity planning needs that these applications address include:
- Risk assessment and/or threat modeling: While crises such as an infectious disease outbreak might potentially impact any organization, other risks and threats are more specifically connected to location, industry and other factors. A business continuity management application can help identify and assess an organization’s particular risks or threats and how they might disrupt its operations.
- Business impact analysis (BIA): This methodology for resilience planning examines critical business functions and assesses the real costs—whether financial or quantified in a different unit of measurement—of disruptions to those services.
- Process and workflow development: With risks properly assessed and their disruptive impacts quantified, you can then begin to build, test and optimize processes for ensuring continuity and resilience during incidents.
- Dependency mapping: One pitfall in business continuity planning is failing to identify how an interruption to one business function or service could subsequently impact other areas of the organization and its partners or customers. A business continuity management app can build a thorough map that documents these connections and interdependencies so that they are properly accounted for in the BCP.
- Communications: Communicating instructions and other information is critical to business continuity and crisis management. Organizations can build communication templates and protocols for various notifications, recipient groups and so forth.
- Testing and optimization: Organizations also use business continuity management applications as part of their longer-term schedule for regularly reviewing their BCP and making updates as needed. Moreover, the app can be a backbone for testing different components of the BCP to identify opportunities for improvement during “business as usual” conditions, rather than during an actual crisis.
The broader group of business continuity applications comprises the various software and other tools a business uses to ensure it can effectively implement its BCP if necessary, and to operate indefinitely in crisis or disaster conditions. These include all of the solutions necessary to keep people connected, to ensure access to critical data and systems, to keep information and people secure, and other needs. Some examples include:
- Digital workspaces: Remote work enablement is a crucial feature of virtually any BCP or crisis management strategy. Digital workspace solutions ensure that people can rapidly transition to working from home or another remote location in scenarios where they can no longer safely go the office or other work location. These solutions enable people and teams to continue communicating and collaborating in real time, including via video and chat, as well as to share files and other project work. They’re also a key tool for making sure employees have uninterrupted access to the information and systems they need while mitigating IT security risks.
- Data backup and disaster recovery: Data backup and IT disaster recovery tools are also mission-critical facets of a BCP. Most incident or disaster scenarios—from a cyberattack to a hurricane to technology failure to a simple human error—pose risks to corporate data and services. Regularly backing up that data—and ensuring you have the software tools necessary to rapidly recover and restore it during an incident—are critical to operational continuity and resilience.
- Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI): VDI is a tool for quickly and securely delivering the desktop experience remotely, including access to corporate applications. This is another powerful option when normal operations are interrupted or suspended, especially if employees are unable to access their company-issued devices.
- Cloud and virtualization infrastructure: Some organizations will lean on cloud computing or virtualization infrastructure to maintain critical services during a disruption, whether it’s a local failure (such as a fire) or a more widespread disaster.