Business continuity planning is a key topic that all businesses, from small to large, need to embrace and strategize. Simply stated, business continuity is the ability for a business to continue operating in the event of a disruption. What is a disruption? It could be anything ranging from a power outage or loss of internet connectivity, to an employee spilling a cup of coffee on a server with all the company data! It could also be a major event like hurricane Katrina, a blizzard, or another act of God. According to the SBA, 25% of businesses do not open after a major disaster. It is imperative that your business has a plan in place in the event anything does ever happen.
When developing your business continuity plan, the best place to start is with a risk assessment of your data, personnel, and business processes. A risk assessment can help you understand all areas of the business and potential weaknesses and then prioritize critical and non-critical areas of focus for the strategy. From the list of priorities, you will know where to start in the event of a disruption and plan accordingly for a post-event go forward strategy.
It is always important to include your most important asset, your people, into your plan. First priority is safety for all employees no matter what situation occurs. After your employees are okay, other data and business processes will fall into place. Regarding personnel, it is good to have your “A-Team” in place. This team will go into action in the event of a disruption by leading efforts to first ensure employee safety and second to bring systems and processes back online as quickly as possible. This team should be part of the risk assessment process and participate in ongoing business continuity planning and preparedness.
Getting data and applications back online is key to reestablishing business as usual status. As part of the overall strategy, it is key to understand where data is stored (locally or in the cloud), backup and recovery status, and the priorities for bringing them back online.
Closely following personnel and data, it is important to have a clear communications plan in place. A communications plan has both internal and external components. Internal would be focused on employees, both local and remote, as well as family members of employees if the situation requires. These communications would be to keep all internal parties up to date on the situation and the status. External parties would include customers, partners, and vendors. You always want to keep all of these stakeholders aware of any disruption of services and the next steps as you work through the issues.
After the plan is developed, it is a good strategy to test and refine over time as you add new systems and personnel to the company. Role playing through scenarios helps identify potential weakness and assess the responsiveness of the team.
There is no cookie-cutter recipe for a surefire business continuity plan as every company has unique operations and requirements. Pulling together the right A-Team and identifying specific needs, developing a plan, and then testing and refining is the best course of action for a business. Of course, your Managed Service Provider (MSP) is there to help with systems, applications, and backups. There are also many resources on business continuity if you run a Google search. Beyond that, there are outside consultants that can work with you to develop a plan. The key is to start developing a plan and be prepared.