Business Continuity Plans – What Are They and Why Have Them?

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The modern world of work is unpredictable. Our online presence is only growing and with it so is the risk of cyber attacks. Unfortunately, a lot of us think we know best when it comes to tech, but sometimes people don’t behave as they should when navigating websites, Emails, and other cyber landscapes, and this leaves them open to cyber criminality. This is one of the most important reasons for having a business continuity plan, along with the risk of disaster from a fire or flood. You must be prepared and know what procedures to follow in the eventuality of a cyber attack.

Disasters are named such because we don’t know when they are going to happen. Even on the odd occasion that you do have a small amount of warning, anything can go wrong and change, because every incident – although it may be similar to a previous one – is different and offers its own set of ramifications.

To give your organization a chance of surviving and thriving during a disaster, you need to construct, implement, and test a clearly laid out plan for all of your team to follow in their daily tasks. The consequences of not having one could mean not just business defining problems but the end of your organization all together.

What is business continuity?

Business continuity is the process of quickly resuming business functions in the eventuality of a serious disruption. It doesn’t matter what the disruption is; whether it is a flood, a fire, or because of cyber criminality.

A business continuity plan outlines the exact procedures and instructions an organization must follow in the eventuality of such a disaster. It covers all parts of your business; therefore, everyone must know the procedure for their own department and their role in the plan.

Many think that both a disaster recovery plan (DR) and a business continuity plan (BC) are the same thing, but a DR plan is constructed with the restoration of infrastructure in mind. If anything, your disaster recovery plan is a close addition to your business continuity plan, as a business continuity plan looks at the continuity of the entire organization and not just its infrastructure.

You need to ask yourself uncomfortable questions – can you get manufacturing, sales, and support up and running so the company can continue to operate post disaster? For example, your customer service section of the office roof leaks, everything is soaked and is no longer working, so where will they work? Will it be at home? Will they be able to handle customer calls in some capacity? Your business continuity plan clearly addresses these concerns.

An important – and often overlooked – part of your BC plan is the business impact analysis section (BIA). The BIA quantifies the impact of a sudden loss of business functions – such analysis will give you the insight to make some key decisions: many ask themselves questions such as whether they should outsource non-core activities in their BC plan? The BIA section inadvertently breaks your organization down into a value offering, allowing you to prioritize.

Why business continuity planning matters

Every industry is competitive these days. It is essential to hold on to as many customers as possible and – wherever possible – take on as many new ones as you can too. There is no better way to prove your worth than by handling unforeseen circumstances well, and hence prove to your client base – and anyone watching from the wings – that you can and will provide a top-quality service, no matter the circumstances.

Restoring IT is an integral task for most companies. This has brought about an influx of disaster recovery solutions – IT can implement those solutions but what about everything else?

It’s great that you have the latest and greatest IT, but your organization really depends on the people and processes. As we said above, handling incidents effectively can boost confidence in your company – prospective clients grow confident that you can do what is needed to offer a top quality and safe service.

Anatomy of a business continuity plan

If you are starting from scratch, begin by assessing your business processes and determine which areas of that process are vulnerable, then work out what your potential losses are if those processes go down for different time periods.

Next, develop a plan. This involves six general steps:

  • Identify the scope of the plan – How far are you going to go? It makes sense to be as comprehensive as possible, as there is no point in choosing an area of the business to concentrate on, then later down the line another part of your business effects that plan and you have to change it anyway.
  • Identify key business areas – The cross over points in particular; the points where Sales and Manufacturing overlap, for example.
  • Identify critical functions. Which processes are essential to the operation of your business?
  • Identify dependencies between various business areas and functions – If you know how large the reliance is then you also know how important it is to get back up and running.
  • Determine acceptable downtime for each part of the business – Some, of course, will be practically zero because no downtime is acceptable, but others can be lived without for days.
  • Create a plan to maintain operations. What procedures do you need in place in order to continue in business?

One business continuity planning tool that we would recommend is a checklist containing supplies and equipment, where the plan is and who is going to be holding onto it, the location – either on premise or in the Cloud – of data backups, and contact info for emergency responders and key personnel who are capable of helping.

As part of your business continuity plan, as we said earlier, you should also make a disaster recovery plan. You may already have one in place, but that doesn’t mean it is fully capable, because you need to guarantee restoration times and be sure that it aligns with business needs.

You don’t have to do this alone, use your skilled team, find out from them what the key elements of the business are and what needs special care and attention. Once you get them going, people love to talk about their experiences, the times they went wrong, and the times they fixed them – in time this insight could be invaluable.

IT Support the Right Way

By trusting us with your IT needs we can guarantee that your organization is ready to succeed in the modern digital workplace. Our experience in working with small businesses in Ontario and the Greater Toronto area allows us to ensure that you can increase revenue, secure your data, and always operate at peak performance in the most secure way possible. Contact us now to find out what else we can do to improve your IT landscape and bring you even more benefits from your IT going forward.