Why a business continuity plan makes sense
Many business owners would be much happier living in a world that had no threats that could disrupt or damage their business, but that's unfortunately not the case. We world we live in is full of risk, from power failures to natural disasters, from fire to cyber-attacks. Besides the financial risks that this can pose to your business, it can also effectively shut down an unprepared business and make them unable to react.
A business continuity plan is, effectively, a means to put the business back together, to contact and inform those that need to know about interruptions, and to recover from a disaster. Here, we're going to look at just why a business continuity plan is so essential, and how to start putting one together.
Why you need a business continuity plan
Some business owners may read the above and immediately see the benefits of a business continuity plan. However, you shouldn't believe that it's an optional investment, but rather an essential tool. For that reason, let's look deeper into why you truly need a plan.
Dealing with the costs of downtime
Losing access to tools and data that are critical to your business will have a severe impact on your business with major financial ramifications. Your team will be entirely unable to provide certain services and the applications that your customers use might disappear and be down for hours, if not day.
This downtime can cost you greatly, and a business continuity plan allows you to avoid some of it. You can run applications and access data from virtual servers and backups while you are working to restore your primary servers, for instance.
One source of backup is just too risky
Most business owners are aware of how important their data is and how much they can't afford to lose it. Having a backup server that's effectively separated from your primary server is a good practice, but it's not enough. Some natural disasters, such as power surges, could effectively wipe both out, especially if they're both locally stored.
Cloud continuity tools can help you make another backup of your data, besides the one you use most regularly. This can be kept off-site, far from any risk that might affect your own network and tools.
The virtual threat is too great
More business continuity plans are focusing less on natural disasters and more on threats like accidental IT downtime or malicious threats to your network that are much more common in the modern workplace environment.
You should always aim to prevent the human error that leads to these problems, whether it's deleting key data accidentally or leaving a backdoor to business tools open by logging into public Wi-Fi networks while using them. However, you should also have a business continuity plan to help you continue to work and provide services while your own tools and data are being restored and secured.
Your team and your customers need to know
Perhaps the worst aspect of a disaster or data breach isn't that your services, tools, and data are rendered inaccessible. Often, it's that you don't have the means to inform everyone who needs to know. A quick response is crucial, otherwise customer agitation can grow and your team can continuously try to access your primary resources, getting in the way of the efforts to restore them.
One of the first steps of any business continuity plan is to make a clear, informative statement to those who need to know the situation.
Creating a business continuity plan
The specifics of a business continuity plan will differ from organization to organization. However, the steps to address in it tend to remain the same. Here are the elements of a continuity plan that you need to consider.<
Identifying the aims of a plan
In the broadest sense, a business continuity plan is designed to help you respond actively to continuity threats and downtime. However, you need to detail what, exactly, that entails. This includes identifying the key resources and essential services that you need to get up and running as soon as possible.
This can include steps that are essential for re-establishing or ensuring uninterrupted regulatory compliance, as well as backups for essential resources such as your data, communication, and power utilities.
Create a business continuity team
To manage a quick and organized response, the responsibilities of the team as part of your continuity plan should be established in advance. Who is in charge of enacting a plan? Who will be helping them and what will their role be? Who has the authority to grant financial costs that go outside of the regular budget?
Sometimes, a single person can be in charge of overseeing a plan, but they should also identify who they can delegate specific tasks to.
Deciding when to enact the plan
You should have clear instructions on when a continuity plan is going to go into effect. Determining the risks that you can identify, and the circumstances that highlight when a risk has come into effect, you should be able to find the events that signify that it's time to start putting a plan into action.
Using business continuity resources
For this, you may need to look into business continuity providers and services. This can include remote backup data servers, Cloud software and virtual machines. This is essentially the step of identifying what tools are used to restore individual parts of the scope.
This can roughly be separated into different categories: steps to protect staff, customers and third parties, actions to contain the disruption and prevent it from spreading, record-keeping for the incident, and recovery objectives and actions taken to reach them.
Different groups need to be contacted during a significant business risk, internally and externally. This includes contacting employees if a natural disaster threatens their safety, their next of kin to inform them of their wellbeing, and stakeholders to keep them abreast of the situation.
It also includes external communication to the media. It's wise, at this stage, to release statements explaining the incident, its impact, and how to respond to it. It's important to decide who will represent the organization and any codes of conduct they should follow when talking to the media.
Start putting your continuity plan in place
Hopefully, the information above makes it clear just how crucial a business continuity plan is. This is only an introduction, however, so ensure you do your research to better help you learn how to identify risks, how you can protect against them, and the details of what your plan should entail.