Too many organizations question the value of a business continuity plan, viewing it as costly and difficult to implement. Don’t be fooled: you need to understand how an unexpected disaster can harm your business and the steps you can take to function in almost any crisis.
Don’t have the time, resources or budget to plan for a disaster that many never happen? Better think again. If your company doesn’t have a business continuity plan in place when a disaster strikes, your entire organization – from your help desk to your customer service – will be negatively impacted. That means lost revenues, both current and future, and the inability to deliver your product or services to your customers. Many studies show that organizations impacted by a disaster were put out of business by a major loss of computer records and permanently closed their doors within a few years.
Business continuity planning promotes the safeguarding of organizational business interests through a process that identifies potential risks and their impacts, and the implementation of appropriate responses to mitigate those risks and impacts. Proactive pre-planning reduces the total impact of a disaster and speeds up recovery.
Here are some key business continuity concepts and planning steps to help your organization plan for a disaster.
Preparing for disaster
A disaster is a sudden, unplanned event that causes damage or loss. Examples of disasters are IT business system failures, loss of company data, power outages, staff shortages and bad weather. From a business perspective, this translates to:
- Any event that creates an inability for you to provide critical business functions for some period of time, thus impacting your customers.
- The period when management decides to divert from normal business practices to recover from the disaster.
A basic business continuity plan
Every IT business continuity strategy must be managed by qualified staff, properly funded, and structured around a suitable industry framework (such as COBIT and ITIL). Factors to consider include:
- Regular risk assessment(s) of IT infrastructure
- Understanding which applications are business critical
- Ensuring robust data replication practices
- Availability of source code and passwords
- Proven systems response and recovery plans
- Adherence to change control measures for production environments.
You will need to determine what applications are vital to your business immediately, and start there. For many companies, this may be e-mail; for others, it may be the customer service or sales applications
Why business continuity?
Business continuity is the activity performed by an organization to ensure that critical business functions are preserved when an emergency, outage or disaster occurs. This planning and implementation allows staff to continue delivering products and services while maintaining a high level of customer service.
There are many good reasons to include business continuity as part of your operational model:
- Due diligence – It makes good business sense to prepare for disaster. By defining the essential aspects of your business and implementing a business continuity plan to preserve them, your business will dramatically increase its recovery capabilities. That means you can implement the right recovery and protection protocols when a disaster strikes and minimize financial losses.
- Customer service – A business continuity plan allows you to manage customer expectations and provide your products and services at all times. Proactive communications with customers on your organization’s emergency preparedness capabilities and service levels during disasters will help establish reasonable customer expectations.
- E-business and globalization – With the power of the Internet, business hours are now 24/7. A business continuity plan ensures that you are up and running when your customers need you.
The number-one rule of business continuity is: be prepared. That preparation starts with building a plan that suits the unique needs of your organization.
Take the next step in your planning by trying our free business continuity assessment tool.
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