Business continuity is a term that is loosely defined as a set of preparatory, planning and similar activities that are intended for use in the case of an emergency. More specifically, these are meant to be employed to guarantee that the critical functions of an organization continue to operate as usual despite a serious disaster or incident that might threaten to interrupt. These activities may also be used to ensure functions return to an operational state in a short, reasonable period of time.
There are three main elements involved with continuity: resilience, recovery and contingency. Resilience refers specifically to design and engineering. That is, critical functions of a business and its supporting infrastructure is made in a way that it is unaffected by the majority of disruptions. For instance, spare capacity and redundancy being applied to guarantee that there is no material impact during disruptions.
Recovery involves the arrangements that are in place. These should be effective at restoring and recovering functions that for one reason or another fail. This is relevant to both critical and non-critical functions.
Contingency involves the organization establishing a generalized readiness and capability to properly cope with a major disaster or incident. This includes events that may or may not have been foreseen. Preparations of this kind are a last-resort reaction if recovery and resilience efforts are not adequate for the situation at hand.
If there is not a plan that is implemented in such situations, an organization may be faced with a severe disruption or threat that could lead to many negative results, including bankruptcy. Implementing a plan diligently could strengthen the survival of an organization and allow it to continue business activities normally.
Management of these kind of plans falls mostly in the category of risk management, crossing over in some fields including compliance, information security and governance. Risk is a major consideration because continuity is mainly concerned with business relationships, functions, operations, systems and supplies that are necessary to achieve the operational goals of an organization.
IT support may play a factor in planning. The foundation of continuity is program development, supporting policies and standards; and procedures necessary to guarantee a firm can go on without stopping, regardless of the event or circumstances. In order to achieve any level of continuity, the support, maintenance, implementation and design of a system must be based around this foundation. The professionals involved with producing and carrying out such plans play important roles.
Disaster recovery is a similar term, which is recognized as subset of continuity, that relates more to technology systems or IT that supports the functions of a business. This is different than planning efforts in which the focus is on advanced preparation in order to keep every aspect of an organization in operation during disruptive situations. In either case, IT support plays a notable role. This approach to organization management is highly suggested, as there are many disruptions that can occur and threaten the state of a business. The specifics and effectiveness of plans will vary considerably.