There are many kinds of disasters that can have an impact upon the proper running of your business. These typically include weather events, user error, data breaches, hacking, power outages, and server failures. Companies tend to overlook the dangers of not safeguarding against these types of events. After all, it is on the rare side that a business would actually need a continuity plan. As the old saying goes though, it’s much better to be safe than sorry.
If you’re like more than three-quarters of current businesses, many of which are at least partially digital, you’re not alone. However, the smart move would be to take some time and gather a small portion of your company’s resources to get prepared, just in case.
It’s time to put together a business continuity plan, which is different than a disaster recovery plan, by the way. In fact, disaster recovery is an integral part of a great business continuity plan. Business continuity is the process of allowing for some kind of production during an adverse event, whereas disaster recovery is the (not so simple) task of recovering whatever it is that was lost during an event. If a company deploys a disaster recovery solution but has no continuity plan, there will be guaranteed chaos in the aftermath. The word continuity can literally be replaced with contingency in this setting.
The first step in creating a business continuity plan is to identify what could go wrong. Is your company located in a geographic area prone to a certain kind of hazard? Is your company in finance, thus more likely to suffer a hack or data breach? Do you build computer chips, making the risk of fire more prominent than it would be in another kind of shop? All of this should be taken into account in order to build a plan that is tailored to your company.
The next step is figuring out what steps need to be taken in order to safeguard against the risks you laid out in the identification phase. If you’re in finance, you probably want to invest in some type of backup solution so that your information can get encrypted in order to make it more difficult for those that would target you to get away with all of the important data you store. Likewise if you are in an area prone to tornados or hurricanes, you’ll want to make sure you have off-site backups should the unthinkable occur. You may even entertain some sort of alternate site to work should a storm make things difficult. Is the machinery you use to build computer chips prone to catching fire? Well, then you probably need some new equipment. You see where I’m going with this.
Once you have taken the proper safeguards against potential threats, you’ll want to ensure that you have practices in place so that if one of these events does occur, the business can still be productive in the interim while things are being worked out. This at least gives the business the chance to remain profitable while the recovery is underway, making the hit taken from the disaster a little lighter than it would have been if you had no plan in place.
It’s also important to know where you’ll be at if an event occurs. So crunch the numbers, figure out what kind of a financial hit you’ll take if event X happens. What if it’s not even X that hits, but it’s event Y? Cover all the bases. There’s no such thing as being too prepared. Take a look at what’s vital to your business. If program A absolutely cannot go down, then work to ensure that the proper systems are in place to keep that program running at all costs.
The next step to a successful continuity plan is ensuring that everyone, I mean everyone is not only aware of the program, but that they agree with it. If everyone is on board with it, that will go a long way in ensuring that the program will be successful in the event that it ever needs to be put to use.
Test the plan once, twice, three, ten times! Does the plan fulfill its purpose? Can vital business functions carry on during an adverse event? Are you sure? Don’t cheap out here, otherwise all of the steps you took previously will be for not. Continuity plans should be tested at least annually, but the more frequently, the better. Once you are sure that the plan will be successful, be sure to keep up on it. Just because you developed a plan in 2010 doesn’t mean it’s still going to work in 2015. Update it constantly, and be aware of new employees and advances in technology that can greatly impact how things will unfold.