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What is a short business continuity history?

From mainframes to the cloud, the business continuity profession has seen a lot over the decades. How did we get to the business continuity process of today?

Most of the early focus in business continuity history was on protecting large data centers with dozens of mainframe system components in the 1970s.

For example, some large mainframes were water-cooled, which meant piping that supplied chilled water to the cabinets had to be protected in case of a disruption. We no longer have such worries, as most systems are now air-cooled. Technology has certainly evolved throughout business continuity history, going from acres of mainframe and minicomputer cabinets to racks of servers with more processing speed than a dozen cabinets with multiprocessors in a fraction of the floor space.

Interestingly, process cooling systems are relatively unchanged from the 1970s. They still occupy large cabinets on the perimeter of a data center, pushing chilled air into the room. Temperature and humidity are still concerns, just as they were in the 1970s.

Business continuity procedures morphed into an actual profession in the early 1980s. However, the mission throughout business continuity history has stayed the same: Protect the organization and its business processes, employees, the technology used by the business processes and the facilities needed to house the business.

Business continuity procedures, such as gap analyses and risk assessments, have been around for a long time, whereas business impact analyses are more recent, first appearing in the early 1980s. The business of protecting and storing valuable business assets, such as data files and vital records, predates disaster recovery (DR) and is today one of the most important preventive measures an organization can implement to remain operational following a disaster.

Business continuity and DR standards are the norm today; in the past, employees simply followed a logical set of procedures and activities in an emergency. About the only early standards were regulations from the Federal Reserve, Comptroller of the Currency, New York Stock Exchange and other financial regulators that required banks and other financial institutions to have documented methods for protecting data and recovering from a disruptive event.

The federal government introduced its first standards concerning business continuity procedures in the 1990s, creating the terms continuity of operations (COOP) and continuity of government. Today, all federal agencies must have COOP programs, and most states have similar requirements.

As DR and business continuity history has progressed, the procedures have become more structured and process-based, with standards to provide the structure; software products to facilitate the process; and cloud-based products to protect data, recover and relaunch critical applications and databases.

This was last published in March 2018

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