The Digital Resilience Guide: 7 Steps To Building Digital Resilience

The question is: are you fully prepared to adapt to what may come…cyber incident, recession, severe weather?

With unexpected events like a global pandemic, businesses see the need to improve their resilience against digital disruptions. That’s because disruption is a certainty — and resilience has a strong ROI. Digital resilience helps businesses respond successfully to these kinds of unexpected events.  Under such circumstances, digital resilience enables you to:

  • Continue your critical business operations.
  • Provide uninterrupted customer service.

This article explains digital resilience, its key elements, how it differs from cyber resilience and its importance. We’ll also discuss strategies for organizations to implement digital resilience — and why it’s so challenging to do so.  

What is Digital Resilience? 

Digital resilience is the ability to prevent, respond and quickly recover from events that have the potential to disrupt:

  • Key business processes
  • Service delivery
  • Access to technology

A digitally resilient organization can spot early signals of disruption (from real-time data) with an aim of preventing or reducing the impact on mission critical service delivery. Digital resilience is a foundational component of business resilience, encompassing security, IT and engineering.

In short, it's the capability of an organization to continue its business operations uninterrupted during disruptive events, such as natural disasters, cybersecurity incidents, pandemics, power outages and hardware and software failures. An organization with high digital resilience can quickly detect, prevent and recover from such crisis situations. It enables you to provide uninterrupted customer service, minimize financial losses and prevent reputational damage. 

(See how Splunk helps people build digital resilience: preventing major issues, absorbing shocks & accelerating transformation.)

What are the key elements of digital resilience? 

Digital resilience encompasses several components that help an organization thrive during disasters. For instance, the key elements of a digitally resilient organization include: 

  1. A strong cybersecurity strategy to protect the digital assets of the organization from cyber threats. This strategy also includes ways to identify emerging cyber threats
  2. Detection, rapid response and recovery from incidents. 
  3. Identification, detection and management of risks and vulnerabilities.
  4. A robust business continuity plan that helps maintain essential business operations during disruptions.
  5. Regularly testing your digital resilience strategies and filling the identified gaps.
  6. Awareness across the organization of how to act during disruptions. 

How does digital resilience differ from cyber resilience? 

Digitally resilient organizations can adapt to various disruptions that can impact their business operations, reputation or financial stance. These events include ransomware attacks, unauthorized data access, and non-cyber incidents like natural disasters, power outages, and equipment failures.

In contrast, cyber resilience specifically focuses on protecting the digital assets of an organization from cyber threats. It involves mechanisms such as encryption, firewalls, access control and data backup and recovery strategies.

So, we can say that cyber resilience is only one part of digital resilience. It is a broader concept than cyber resilience, covering everything needed to run the business smoothly during disruptions.

Why is digital resilience important for businesses? 

The importance of digital resilience was greatly highlighted during and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Digitally resilient businesses could continue to operate remotely regardless of the lockdowns and social distancing measures created by the pandemic.

Digital resilience helped businesses quickly transition to remote work, allowing employees to communicate online through video conferencing. They could also utilize remote access mechanisms to access their business-critical information systems.

However, businesses with inadequate digital resilience strategies struggled to survive this new norm. Some companies were racing against time to adapt to working from home, implement their incident response capabilities, and access internal systems. That means that digitally resilient businesses could gain a competitive advantage — over the unprepared — to maintain their operations and serve customers.

Steps to achieving digital resilience

Digital resilience cannot be achieved overnight. It requires careful review, implementation and maintenance of comprehensive digital resilience strategies. These strategies should encompass all the areas of the organization that could be affected by various disruptions.

The following are the go-to measures you can take to achieve (and maintain) digital resilience in the long term.

Step 1. Assess the current systems of your company

The first step in becoming a cyber resilient organization is reviewing your current digital ecosystem. Then, you should see if it is aligned to achieve the key goals of the business during any form of disruption. It helps organizations identify the gaps and the things that could go wrong in the event of a disruption. 

This assessment should also include identifying vulnerabilities and threats to their digital systems. Risk assessment enables organizations to prioritize areas for improvement and implement appropriate measures to mitigate risks.

Step 2. Modernize outdated systems

One major hindrance to achieving digital resilience is having old IT infrastructure and systems that are not adaptable to changes or cannot survive disasters. For example, companies may still maintain in-house data centers and rely on them for their entire business operations. Yet, these data centers could be subject to power outages, natural disasters, etc., and require a dedicated team to maintain them 24 hours per day. 

To become digitally resilient, you must invest in cloud-based technologies and robust hardware and software solutions. Especially, cloud-based services provide the flexibility and scalability required to serve rapidly increasing demands without any downtime.

Step 3. Invest in robust cybersecurity strategies

Cybersecurity is the critical component of achieving cyber resilience. Organizations must have robust cybersecurity measures like zero-trust security, data encryption, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems to proactively identify and prevent potential cyberattacks.

Cybersecurity should also include training employees on cybersecurity best practices, such as:

Step 4. Build cross-functional crisis management

Coordination across different departments of an organization is critical for managing and resolving many unexpected events successfully.

For example, a security breach should be handled across security, IT, legal and any other department as appropriate. The reason is that disruptions to business operations can have far-reaching consequences beyond just the loss of critical data. For instance, a cyberattack may affect the IT systems of an organization and impact customer reputation and legal compliance. 

Step 5. Implement a business continuity plan

A business continuity plan (BCP) outlines the organizational measures to ensure the continuity of critical business operations during various disruptions. A BCP needs to include and clearly state:

  • The key people to inform
  • Communication procedures and expectations
  • Dependencies between systems
  • Ways to restore critical functions like backup systems

Organizations must keep their BCP up to date by testing it regularly and identifying gaps.  

Step 6. Continuously monitor digital systems

Monitoring digital systems is critical for achieving digital resilience. It helps organizations to:

  • Identify potential vulnerabilities and cyber threats in advance.
  • Discover performance deficiencies that can lead to system downtimes.
  • Provide rapid incident response.
  • Maintain compliance with industry regulations.

Monitoring should cover servers, databases, networks, applications and data. It should also include conducting regular vulnerability scans, log analysis, traffic monitoring, evaluating system performance metrics, etc.

(Learn about continuous monitoring & network security monitoring.)

Step 7. Adopt automation 

Automating incident discovery, response, and remediation tasks enables organizations to recover quickly from unexpected events. For example:

  • Auto-restarting machines and auto-scaling help mitigate application downtimes.
  • Auto-detecting malware and automatic backups help eliminate the impacts of data breaches.
  • Machine learning models can be trained to identify and classify unusual patterns of network traffic and allow systems to stop malicious traffic automatically. 

Digital resilience benefits organizations

Digital resilience is essential for any company. It brings several benefits to an organization, such as profits, customer satisfaction and an overall good business reputation. Following are the key benefits of maintaining strong digital resilience. 

Minimize downtime costs

Unexpected disruptions can lead to downtimes in critical IT systems and infrastructure. These downtimes can lead to businesses losing profits and facing financial losses due to cyber threats like ransomware, phishing attacks, etc. They may also have to spend a lot of money to restore their critical systems and data.

Digital resilience enables organizations to recover quickly from disruptions. It helps minimize downtime costs and ensure critical systems remain operational despite any incident.

Get a competitive advantage

Organizations with strong digital resilience can reduce the risks of costly cyberattacks, financial losses, and reputational damages while adapting to changing market conditions. Consequently, such companies can build more trust with their customers as reliable businesses. This trust in turn helps them get high returns on their investments, maintain better business partnerships, and have a positive reputation. All these things contribute to a competitive advantage.

Increase innovation

Digital resilience strategies can also motivate businesses to invest in new technologies as they become more confident in responding to incidents. This self-trust and confidence help them build innovative products, improve their business operations, and ultimately gain competitive advantages.

Improve customer experience

Digital resilience enables organizations to deliver uninterrupted services to their customers during disruptions. It improves the overall customer experience while reducing customer turnover. 

Challenges to achieving digital resilience

Achieving digital resilience is a continuous process that can be challenging for some organizations for several reasons. These reasons can include:

  • Lack of budgets and necessary resources. Digital resilience involves investing in innovative technologies and robust cyber security strategies, which can be costly for some organizations. 
  • Siloed, uncollaborative business units. Cross-functional crisis management is vital for achieving digital resilience. The lack of cooperation between cross-functional departments hinders the establishment of effective digital resilience.
  • Complex digital environments. The digital environments of organizations become more complex as they invest in more technologies and sophisticated IT infrastructure. 
  • Lack of required skills. A shortage of skills like cybersecurity skills makes it difficult to implement and maintain digital resilience. 

Staying resilient

Digital resilience is a broader term than cyber resilience. It helps businesses survive a wide range of disruptions, including cyber-attacks, natural disasters, and hardware failures. Key digital resilience elements include a strong cyber security strategy, fast incident response, and BCP.

As discussed in this article, there are several ways to improve digital resilience. It offers businesses many benefits, such as reduced downtime, a competitive advantage, and an improved customer experience. However, there are also some challenges in achieving digital resilience that should be addressed carefully.

Overall, digital resilience is a must-have characteristic for any business that wants to survive in the current evolving environment, providing uninterrupted service.

What is Splunk?

This posting does not necessarily represent Splunk's position, strategies or opinion.

Shanika Wickramasinghe is a software engineer by profession and a graduate in Information Technology. Her specialties are Web and Mobile Development. Shanika considers writing the best medium to learn and share her knowledge. She is passionate about everything she does, loves to travel and enjoys nature whenever she takes a break from her busy work schedule. She also writes for her Medium blog sometimes. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.