It’s often said that we’re not measured by how often we fall down, but rather how quickly we get back up.
Planning for the worst is an integral component of business operations. By looking towards and past natural disasters and cyberattacks, businesses are taking proactive steps in resuming business operations as quickly as possible.
Business continuity is often confused with the process of disaster recovery. While a a disaster recovery plan focuses on restoring a IT infrastructure and operations after a disaster, it’s only a part of the larger business continuity which takes a look at the continuity of the entire organization.
Below we take a look at the foundation of a successful business continuity plan and the steps that you need to take to ensure that your organization is prepared for the worst.
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Why business continuity matters
It’s always about the customer. If an adverse event hits, this could be the perfect opportunity to see how well you can retain your customers. By handling the event thoughtfully and effectively, you can build customer confidence which in turn improves your market value and reputation. In the age of Spectre, Meltdown, and WannaCry, good security is an expectation. Businesses need to look at regulations within their industry and shape their recovery process around allowable downtimes. Doing so builds customer confidence in your organization, while failing to do so can sink your market value.
The structure of a business continuity plan
If you’re looking to develop a business continuity plan and don’t already have one in place, the best place to start is to begin taking note of which parts of your organization are the most vulnerable and identify any significant losses if your organization were to go down for a given period of time.
The typical continuity plan is comprised of identifying the scope of the plan, the key business areas, critical functions, and dependencies between any given business areas of functions. The next steps should involve determining the longest possible downtime for a critical function (RTO) and creating a plan to maintain business operations.
As you create your business plan, make sure that you have checked all business requirements, including developing a disaster recovery plan, locating data backup sites, and contact information for emergency responders, To help shape your continuity plan, you should consult IT staff in organizations who have already successfully recovered from a disaster.
Test, Test, Test!
The only way that you’ll know if your business continuity plan will actually work is pretty simple; test it. By using a controlled test, you’ll be able to identify any weaknesses in your strategy and improve upon it. Most businesses test their plan between two and four times a year and usually depends on the amount of turnover of key IT staff.
It’s important that you don’t take the easy way out when it comes to designing your test. Most continuity tests include simulations, walk-throughs, and table-top exercises. If you opt for a simple test and don’t actually put credible and challenging pressure on your plan, you won’t be able to have confidence in the plan when real disaster hits.
Table top exercises are usually pretty low-key and are usually a board room meeting where participants tirelessly look for gaps in the plans. Walk throughs are a bit more intensive and involve a full front to back exploration of the plan where all possible weaknesses are then reported to the relevant staff. Simulation testing is the most demanding of these possible tests and are typically performed annually. This test is an actually simulation of a possible disaster that could happen.
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