• Business Continuity - Disaster Planning

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What is Business Continuity?

Business Continuity (BC) describes a company’s readiness to maintain mission-critical services both in the midst of a disaster and during the interim recovery period. A business continuity plan typically establishes a hierarchy of critical business operations and allocates failover resources as necessary. Continuity planning aims to minimise downtime, prevent significant financial loss, and safeguard reputations.

What is a business continuity plan and how is it used?

Business continuity management is designed to improve disaster recovery times following the sudden loss or unavailability of primary systems or staff. Lack of continuity in business means an unacceptable level of financial loss due to insufficient disaster planning - for example, server failure or loss of key employees could mean days of disruption to workflow and lost income.

What is in a business continuity plan?

The initial aim of business continuity planning is to determine the minimum level of business operations that must be maintained so as to avoid the impacts of downtime exceeding acceptable loss. Therefore, an individual crisis management and continuity plan should be based on an assessment of the outcomes of any disruption to critical business processes. 

 

How to project manage a business continuity plan:

 

1. Business Impact Analysis (BIA)

Any robust BC plan is built on a thorough risk assessment (known as BIA) of industry specific and geographic-location specific threats. Common themes include man-made disasters such as cyber-attacks, political uprisings, war, or embezzlement, and natural disasters such as earthquakes, adverse weather conditions, and pandemics.

 

2. Calculate the impact of downtime

Identify all resources that may be rendered unavailable as an outcome of the threats outlined in the BIA. Next, determine the total hourly and daily financial loss associated with this outage and agree a maximum acceptable level of loss with senior figures within the firm (e.g. key stakeholders, upper management, etc.).

 

3. Develop disaster recovery strategies

The cornerstone of business continuity planning is a well-documented disaster recovery plan, outlining the next steps and procedures to be undertaken by essential staff following a primary system outage. This could include initiating a data backup plan or managing key staff during failover to cloud computing, or activating relocation measures.

 

4. Testing - Revisions - Communicate

Regular testing and updating of business continuity parameters are essential in maintaining readiness for all outcomes. Where staff drills/exercises are not completed on time or to a satisfactory standard, revisions must be devised, agreed, and rolled out to staff in an easy to understand procedural format.   

 

Depending on staffing resources, a business continuity plan may benefit from the creation of task specific recovery teams. This could also include assigning responsibilities for evaluating adequate relocation sites and maintaining communications with office equipment suppliers (this will reduce decision making time during an emergency).  

 

What does lack of continuity mean in business?

 

Business continuity management is designed to improve disaster recovery times following the sudden loss or unavailability of primary systems or staff. Lack of continuity in business means an unacceptable level of financial loss due to insufficient disaster planning - for example, server failure or loss of key employees could mean days of disruption to workflow and lost income. 

 

Why is business continuity management important?

The ability to respond to adversity with an expedited business continuity plan that is tailored to adapt with accuracy and efficiency throughout developing situations brings many benefits.

  • Reduce the impact of financial loss

Start-ups and Small & Mid-size Enterprises (SMEs) are not likely to recover from the impact of a disaster that prevents primary staff/systems from completing a minimum level of output to maintain financial buoyancy. Even larger companies must act fast to reduce costs, protect reputations, and retain staff. 

 

  • Protect the future reputation of the company

Word of mouth and customer reviews can impact public opinion. Where a company fails to respond to a disaster in a customer-centric time frame that puts the needs of the service user first, perceptions of a poor service can lead to poor reviews. This in turn can damage the company’s future reputation and limit the appeal to prospective clients.

 

  • Prevent the loss of life or loss of business assets

Where a company is located in a wildfire ‘hotspot’, for example, or where a business address becomes geographically central to a political uprising, lack of continuity planning can lead to loss of life and the loss of business assets, each or both of which could lead to significant disruption and eventual financial insolvency. 

 

  • Maintain the ability to trade (to at least a base degree)

Business continuity planning does not provide a permanent solution to an unexpected - and most of the time unprecedented - disruption to workflow. BC planning enables core business functions to continue as soon as possible. This could mean key staff gain access to email and backup files within 24 hours, for example.

 

  • Retain key staff - develop confidence within the workforce

Where a company is able to roll out an effective business continuity plan, staff are reassured over the ability of the company to trade. This in turn not only instils a positive appreciation for a position of employment within an efficient team, but leads to feelings of job security and loyalty. A solid business continuity plan can help to retain key staff in a crisis.  

 

  • Recover operations in a time frame that does not impact client confidence

Current customers/clients will choose to cease any association with a company that experiences significant downtime. Failure to plan for a predictable disaster could mean that by the time fixes have been implemented, competitors will have already absorbed much of the clientele, damaging expected financial turnover in the short-term.

 

What are the natural and man-made disasters a BC plan should consider?

 

Business continuity plans and continuity management should consider the overall effects of certain commonplace and business-specific disasters. This information can be used to bolster the work of a business continuity planner when devising strategies for incident readiness that could involve off-site solutions (e.g. backup data stored within one mile of a primary server may not be sufficient BC planning in the event of a geographic incident that prevents areawide access).

 

Examples of natural disasters that could limit business performance include:

 

  • Flooding
  • Wildfires
  • Tornadoes
  • Hurricanes
  • Earthquakes
  • Volcanic eruptions
  • Epidemics or pandemics 

Examples of man-made disasters that could limit business performance include:  

  • Oil spills
  • Gas leaks
  • Strike action
  • Industrial fires 
  • Structural failure 
  • Nuclear disasters 
  • Crime / arson / war
  • Exposure to hazardous materials (e.g. chemical spills)

Depending on individual risk factors and depending on company size, an initial update to risk management policies and strategies to create a sturdy business continuity plan is generally expected to take anywhere from two weeks to two months. Yearly updates to business continuity management policies/strategies are not expected to require the same amount of time. 


For more information on how you can minimise business disruption after an unforeseen event check out Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)

 

 

 

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