03 Aug Planning for Business Continuity – Part One: Business Continuity Plans
Modern workplaces are unpredictable. In the age of technology and online presence, cyber criminality has become more prevalent. Unfortunately, too many of us behave the way we want when navigating our online spaces (like websites and emails), which is what gives criminals access to those spaces.
Therefore, a business continuity plan (BCP) is essential, along with the obvious risks of a real-world disaster like a flood or fire. Regardless of the circumstances, you must be prepared, you must know what procedures to follow in the event of an attack – ask yourself, “What is my job if a disaster does strike?”.
Occasionally, we get a small warning of an impending disaster, but most of the time we don’t know when it will happen. There are many types of disasters, and each has its own set of ramifications.
It is only through a carefully crafted plan for your team to follow that your business can stand the best chance. There could be severe consequences if you do not have one.
Exactly what is business continuity?
Business continuity refers to the ability to quickly resume business operations after a disruption. Floods, fires, and cybercrime are all examples of disruptions.
In the event of such a disaster, your Business Continuity Plan will outline the exact procedures and instructions you need to follow. In order for it to be effective, it must cover all aspects of your business; therefore, everyone must understand the procedures for their own department and their role within it.
The Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) and the Business Continuity Plan (BCP) are often confused, but they differ in a few ways. In a DRP, infrastructure restoration is considered. While both are intended to keep things running in extreme circumstances, a Business Continuity Plan considers the continuity of the entire organisation rather than just its infrastructure.
The first thing you should ask yourself is if you are capable of getting the ‘key’ parts of your business running right away (manufacturing, sales, and support) in order to continue with the business. Consider the following scenario: your customer service team is experiencing serious technical issues due to a leaking pipe in the office wall. In what location will they work? How will customer calls be handled? Is it possible to do this from home? Is it possible for them to work from home and still provide the same level of customer service? It is essential that your Business Continuity Plan provides precise answers to these questions.
BIA is often overlooked as part of a BCP. The BIA section outlines exactly how large – or small – the impact will be on your entire business should your functions be suddenly lost. It’s through your BIA section that you start prioritising certain parts of your business over others, allowing you to understand how your business works.
Business Continuity Planning: Why It Matters
Business is brutal, and customers are fickle. You have to hold on to your customers and grow them wherever you can. Despite all the talk about the quality of your business – as we all do – there is no better way to demonstrate it than in a disaster recovery situation. No matter what the circumstances are, you can assure your client base – and those who watch from afar – that your service will be delivered on time and accordingly.
Anatomy of a Business Continuity Plan
There is no need to worry if you are starting from scratch, since doing so ensures that everything is covered along the way. First, you must assess your business processes and determine which aspects are vulnerable; after that, you need to estimate what potential losses would result if those processes were to go down for a number of hours.
Next, we need to develop a plan. There are five general steps involved in this process:
As a first step, identify the scope of the plan. You can be as detailed or as lazy as you like. It goes without saying that your BCP should be as comprehensive as possible, since there is no point in focusing on one area of the business when another affects that plan and forces you to rework it.
Choose the key areas of your business – Look for ‘cross over points’, which are the intersections between two departments (Sales and Manufacturing, for example).
Determine which functions are critical. Analyse your business from the ground up to find out which processes are imperative to its operation. In reality, some departments are more important than others, and if you didn’t regard them as essential then you wouldn’t have them. Knowing which is important.
There is rarely a way to avoid downtime completely – instead, work out an acceptable level of downtime for every part of the business. Having said that, some will be practically zero since no downtime is acceptable, while others will be easily skipped.
Establish a plan for maintaining operations. It can be difficult, when business owners are looking for more, more, more, and want bigger, better, and stronger tools in the organisation. This is completely understandable, but the purpose of a BCP is to keep the wheels turning. In order to stay in business, what procedures do you need in place?
You need a checklist which needs to contain:
- The plan’s location.
- Who is going to hold onto it.
- Data backup location – on-premises or in the cloud.
- The contact information for emergency responders and key personnel.
Your BCP should include a Disaster Recovery Plan. It is probably already in place, but it is time to review it, as you need to ensure that restoration times can be guaranteed, and that the process is aligned with the business.
The project isn’t being undertaken alone. Make use of your skilled workers, talk to them, find out about them, find out what their specific needs, cares, and attentions are. Some will guide you through the history of their experiences, the times they went wrong, and the times they fixed them – this insight could be very valuable over time.
Testing is an important part of a BCP. To be sure that you’re ready, you should run a few test runs first, because the survival of your business could be at stake.
In controlled circumstances, a test provides an opportunity to learn more about the plan’s effectiveness. In this way, you will be able to identify gaps and problems immediately and rectify them.
As absurd as it may sound, it is advised to try and break your plan. As far as possible, make the scenario extreme; this is advised since what is the point of making your plan ‘just okay?’. Depending on the severity of the disaster, this plan may be your only chance to survive, so you must have confidence in its capability.
A majority of organisations conduct tests three times a year, but the frequency can vary depending on what’s going on at the time. The different types of tests include structured walk-throughs of scenarios and tabletop exercises (where your team breaks down the plan to ensure that their department is represented adequately).
While it may not be part of your plan, conducting an evacuation drill is highly recommended to prepare for disasters. It is important to know – for safety and legal reasons – if someone requires special arrangements in order to reach safety.
While it may seem tedious and embarrassing, it is recommended that you role play the disaster. Make an artificial disaster simulation environment, include all equipment and personnel that would normally be there, and evaluate whether you and your team can continue operations in the event of a disaster. This is not a test for your team, to try and catch them out, but to point out mistakes and make them work together more effectively.
Review and Improve Your Business Continuity Plan
In order to get this far, you must have devoted a lot of time and effort to creating and testing your Business Continuity Plan. Rather than spending extra time on more critical tasks, don’t make one of the most common mistakes business owners make; let the plan sit there waiting for a disaster. Though it makes sense, it isn’t the best way to do things – your plans will become ‘out-of-date’ along with changes in your business and useless when you need them.
A Continuity Plan must change along with the world’s evolving technology landscape – and in turn, your business. Build a BCP for your team that defines their roles in the event of a disaster by bringing together the right team members.
You need to update your Business Continuity Plan on a regular basis as technology changes and your team grows. You need to introduce new key employees to your BCP in order to replace those who are no longer relevant, and remind everyone of its importance on a regular basis. Make sure there is a system in place that ensures no one is left behind, and bring the key members of your team together. If you need any help making a Business Continuity Plan that works for you, please don’t hesitate to contact our expert team and let us help you.
At Netcom we are well-versed in helping companies in various sectors to navigate the often mystifying, jargon-filled world of IT. With over 15 years’ experience covering virtually all aspects of business IT, we can help guide your business to a prosperous future with the right IT at your side every step of the way. We can help you deploy cutting edge solutions that will not only help you weather the storm that is modern IT but also keep your business at the top of its game post pandemic and beyond. Why not book a free, no obligation discovery call today by ringing 0114 361 0062.