Although some IT experts emphasize the differences between business continuity and disaster recovery planning, the distinction is becoming less relevant as everyday business practices rely more on technology.
Business continuity (BC) planning is about preventing significant loss of resources your company depends on for survival. A worthwhile BC plan should be able to answer questions like: If my sales team disappeared tomorrow, how would my organization adjust in the short and long term?
As a subset of BC planning, disaster recovery planning is solely concerned about how to recover IT resources. But with businesses of all sizes relying on technology like VoIP and the cloud to get work done, IT outages are the biggest threat to business continuity.
Here are some things you must do in the earliest stages of BC planning to succeed.
Put someone in charge
Because your plan will deal with everything from a downed server to HR issues, you need someone to sit above it all and look at the bigger picture. For example, our technicians can install the best virtualization and backup solutions on the market, but they will be even more successful if you make one person on your team responsible for coordinating with the finance team, outsourced IT provider, sales team, etc.
Make sure the expectations and requirements of this person are clearly spelled out. If you work out a verbal agreement, essential items like quarterly plan audits and updates will fall through the cracks.
Conduct a risk assessment
The first objective of your BC manager should be to determine the scope of the plan. This means meeting with every department and auditing its resource requirements and objectives. For example, your sales department may need three employees, three computers, email software, and sales management software to generate at least 30 new clients each month.
With this information, you can create a business impact assessment that calculates disasters in dollar values. If one of your salespeople quits unexpectedly, that’s a 33% reduction in new business until he or she is replaced. If your sales management software stops working, that could put your entire sales team — and customer acquisition — out of commission until the problem is fixed.
Some of these risks may seem too obvious to put down on paper, but the strength of a risk assessment lies in measuring the cost of one disaster across several departments. Your risk assessment or business impact analysis should explain how much something like an office-wide malware infection would cost you.
With each risk represented by an exact dollar value, it will be much easier to budget for your business continuity plan.
Educate your entire office
Training your entire team how to react to disasters is integral to your company’s survival. But you can’t wait until after your business continuity plan is finished to bring employees up to speed. During the risk assessment process, your BC manager should explain to each staff member what is expected of him or her during the planning phase and going forward.
Employees might have insight that your BC manager didn’t think of, or learn of something that changed after the risk assessment moved on to another department. The earlier you include the entire team, the more valuable and effective your disaster recovery plan will be.
Get started planning
Now you have a business continuity project with leadership who is supported by the entire office and well informed about the company’s risk posture. The next step is to start putting plans and procedures on paper. Unless your BC manager has a host of technical certifications and years of experience, this step will require the help of an IT consultant.
Spectrumwise has helped dozens of Charlotte-area businesses draft, test, and update their business continuity plans. If you want to read more about what our process involves, check out these informative articles:
- Common Business Continuity Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
- How to Determine the RTOs and RPOs of Your Disaster Recovery Plan
- Virtualization and disaster recovery plans
Or, if you want to speak to one of our down-to-earth technicians about how to incorporate business continuity planning into your managed IT services subscription, give us a call at 704-527-8324.