The very thought of any kind of "planning" related to "disasters" may seem the work of pessimists. However, in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, it has become very clear that every organization must have plans in place to guide their activities in the wake of even the most unforeseen of events. Under any circumstance, firms need to be able to ensure the safety of their employees and the survivability of their critical business functions.
To meet these needs, many organizations have gone to great lengths to reevaluate their existing disaster-recovery plan. And other companies have begun to develop such plans for the first time. Some firms had previously been reluctant to invest in the development of such a plan because the process is difficult, time-consuming, and costly, with no apparent return on investment. In fact, as with your business insurance, you never want to have to use a disaster-recovery plan. Even if you do use it, you don't make money; you just take action to limit your losses.
But there's a lot to be said for limiting your losses, as the disaster of 9/11 truly exemplifies. The damage to brand reputation that can occur when an organization is out of business is potentially disastrous. And let's not forget the other, newly discovered reason to develop and implement these plans: our national interest. The U.S. is unique in that so much of our critical infrastructure is in the hands of the private sector. In a very real sense, the fate of our businesses and the fate of our nation are tied together.
So far, I've used the term disaster recovery with no mention of business continuity, an equally popular industry term. These terms have separate but related meanings. However, they can be addressed simultaneously in plans that lay out how the organization will detect and respond to any event that may threaten its ability to conduct businessfrom the initial detection of the event all the way through the ultimate recovery and resumption of "normal" processes. We'll take our lead from the U.S. government and group these plans together under the umbrella of continuity-of-operations planning (COOP).