Business continuity planning is the first line of defence when it comes to protecting your business against the unexpected. It’s also 100% common sense.
The more your business relies on its IT systems, the more you need to consider how unforeseen disruptions like fire, flood, theft or malicious attacks on your systems could damage your ability to function, or even survive.
A good business continuity plan will allow you to take precautions so any disruption can be managed with minimal impact on your day-to-day operation. The plan will touch on every area of the business, so it’s important to recognise that it’s a management issue and not just a tick box for the IT team.
A business continuity plan for IT systems should include arrangements that provide:
- Office space (if required), facilities and services that allow the business to continue to function and
- Critical IT applications and infrastructure necessary to recover business processes
Plans should be:
- Clear and concise
- Short and readable
- Have roles and responsibilities clearly defined
- Be 100% complete, with no need to refer to any other document or manual
It should be agreed with the people responsible for any part of it and shared with the wider team, so they know what to expect, should the worst happen.
It’s good practice to revisit the plan periodically to ensure all business-critical IT infrastructure has been considered, remind staff of the plan on a semi-regular basis and share it with new employees when they join.
Tips for your IT business continuity plan
It’s worth thinking about how you can break your plan into manageable chunks to give it some structure and make it easier to update specific parts down the line, if you need to.
For example, you could split it into three sections:
- Measures to reduce risk
- Action required in the event of disruption
- Contingency back-up plans
Measures to reduce risk might include:
- A back-up and data recovery strategy that includes off-site storage if you think you’ll need it
- Creating a mirrored central server that’s situated in a different location, allowing the business to pick up where it left off, should the main server suffer an attack or damage, or better yet, cloud computing
- Elimination of any ‘single points of failure’ where no failsafe or contingency exists
- Introduction of an uninterruptable power supply for IT systems or a short-term failsafe that would allow your system to keep running, giving you time to save and relocate data
Even if every measure is taken, an unexpected event will raise questions on every element of your business, so it’s worth giving some thought to:
- People and where they’ll be located if your regular office space is uninhabitable or simply not doing the business
- IT systems and networks and how business functions should be prioritised
- Services like power, broadband and telecoms that will help you stay in contact with other parts of your company or customers
- Critical business processes that mean the business can continue to serve customers, even if it’s at the most basic level
- Your communication plan, outlining how and where you would address the market and your customer base. Instilling confidence in the face of business disruption is critical to riding out issues and coming out on top
And, just in case the scale of disruption impacts more than just your business, it’s worth having some contingency ideas up your sleeve that offer short-term solutions, to help get you back on track.
Back-ups might include:
- Provision and agreed processes for manual workarounds until IT services are resumed
- Costing temporary space at another location, if your office and contingency both experience outage
- Talking to a sister company or related business and agreeing to let each other use their space in the event of a disaster
- Looking at everything from IT services to accommodation from a specialist third-party, taking the entire plan out of your hands and into those of an expert continuity service provider
Additional benefits to IT business continuity planning
It’s clear by now that the primary function of business continuity planning is to protect and aid recovery against the unplanned, but there are wider knock-on benefits for a business who takes it seriously.
In some industry sectors, there are legal requirements to have recovery plans in place. Financial organisations, for example, need robust plans to ensure customer data and funds will never be in danger because of disruption or attack.
Businesses that demonstrate effective business contingency planning have a competitive advantage. If you provide a product or service to customers that depends on your IT capability, evidence of sound planning that supports your quality assurance could help you acquire and retain customers.
That same evidence of forward-thinking and continuity planning could help reduce your insurance premiums too. The details of the plan will also help you decide what level of cover you need, as many of the services your insurer would provide may already be taken care of.
Ironically, there’s a lot to plan for the unplanned, but solid continuity planning says something about a business. It says they’re serious about what they do, they have something worth protecting, they value their customers and they never want to drop the ball on the service they provide.
If that’s not worth creating a strategy around, nothing is.
Learn how expert IT support can help your business or agency to grow in our eBook: