If a fire or a data breach struck your small business tomorrow, would you know what to do? If your place of business was leveled by a tornado, how would your sales reps handle calls from customers? Hurricanes, snowstorms, and floods are regular occurrences and cyberattacks are more frequent now than ever. They don’t only disrupt daily operations, but they can also lead to the shutdown of an entire enterprise.
A business continuity plan (BCP) is the strategy for protecting assets in the event of these disasters. How does an organization go about successfully creating one?
What is a business continuity plan, and why is it important?
People often confuse a BCP with a disaster recovery plan (DRP). A BCP focuses on mitigating disruptive incidents and quickly getting the business up and running following a disaster. It lists all the tasks and processes needed to do so. A DRP is merely one of its components and focuses on restoring IT assets such as servers and data.
Making sure that your business’ IT capabilities are restored is critical. Still, the future of your company depends on restoring other functions quickly — business units such as sales, human resources, manufacturing, and other operations. If not, your brand value may plummet, and customer confidence may tumble. It will experience financial losses, as you deal with disrupted operations and damage to property and other assets.
What are the essential parts of a BCP?
A BCP starts with a business impact analysis or an assessment of all of your business processes. Find out which are critical and what are their vulnerable areas. This process includes determining your business’ most significant risk areas. It may be from a loss of heat, as frozen pipes can then burst, causing water damage. It could be loss of access to offices and other areas of operations caused by flooding. It could be a greater risk of data breaches due to a lack of employee training. It is important to look at the building where you do business and assess the property damage risks.
Then ask yourself, “What would happen if my business had to shut down for several days?” According to CloudRadar, it will cost a business $10,000 for every hour IT systems are down. That’s just IT. What about damage to other areas of the company? How much will it cost your business if your entire factory floor doesn’t have power?
Identifying critical assets and vulnerabilities and assessing risks and potential damage is part of developing a course of action. This is how it looks like as an outline:
- Step 1: Choose critical areas of the business to focus on when it comes to continuity or pick which functions are essential to keep business going.
- Step 2: Look for dependencies between different areas and functions of your business. If one goes down, how will it affect the others?
- Step 3: Calculate how much downtime is acceptable for all critical functions.
- Step 4: Finally, make a plan to keep your company going in the event of a disaster. This plan will include all contingency measures, such as backup office locations, data backup, cloud-based disaster recovery, remote working capabilities, and any other measures that will sustain operations.
Establish a checklist of all these critical contingency measures, to include all equipment and supplies, the locations of all backups, and key personnel in charge of the BCP.
When disaster strikes, communication is critical. In the checklist, provide a directory of contact information for emergency contacts, all relevant and essential personnel, and backup providers.
You should also establish an email alert system that keeps employees and key stakeholders in the loop. Create a system for phones, texting, and social media to provide updates on the disaster recovery process. Ensure you can access your business website and social media accounts remotely or by a mobile device to post your operating status during a disaster and its aftermath.
How to build a disaster recovery plan for your business continuity plan?Create an effective business continuity plan
A recent Touche Ross study estimated the survival rate for companies without a DRP is less than 10%. Make sure your business has one, and it aligns with your BCP. Here are some steps to establish a DRP:
- Step 1: Identify mission-critical software for production, sales, marketing, and other lines of business. These must be continually operational to support the needs of your organization.
- Step 2: Define your business’ recovery point objectives (RPO) and recovery time objectives (RTO). They will give you a clearer idea of what IT downtime is going to cost you and how much time you need to recover to keep losses to a minimum.
- Step 3: Follow some essential DRP best practices.
How can you ensure that your BCP’s success?
Testing a few times a year verifies the effectiveness of your BCP. This process is performed using a simulation of a possible disaster scenario. This allows you to establish a realistic response plan and train leaders and members of your organization to execute the plan competently. This also enables you to examine the effectiveness of data recovery, replication, asset management, and relocation protocols to establish. Lastly, tests highlight areas where the plan can be optimized and strengthened.
Growth and changes are part of a company’s lifecycle. So in tandem with testing, it will be necessary to review the plan annually. Have your key personnel take a look at the BCP and point out needed modifications as a result of changes in the company.
Partner with a BCP expert
Your organization can benefit from partnering with an outside partner who will walk you through every step of the BCP creation process. At SpectrumWise, we’ll conduct in-depth assessments of your processes and craft a step-by-step recovery guide to minimize losses from downtime. Don’t let disasters ruin your business. Get started on your BCP today.