A hurricane. Data hacks. Ransomware. A security breech. All very real and valid reasons to begin working on an effective and well-thought-out Business Continuity plan. A business continuity plan is a vital step in disaster planning for any company. We have no control over when a disaster will strike. What we DO have control over is being prepared and ensuring business continues to run as smooth as possible while recovering from a disaster.
A key factor in creating a successful business continuity plan includes ensuring downtime is kept as low as possible. Downtime, no matter what the cause, is becoming less acceptable. By identifying which applications or data in your environment cannot experience downtime, and then selecting a cost-effective solution that meets that goal, you will effectively be able to mitigate downtime.
A business continuity plan will lay out how to get all day-to-day business operations re-established as quickly and efficiently as possible ensures all necessary and vital business services continue during a disaster (of any kind). Developing a sound business continuity plan includes, but is not limited to, the following tasks:
- Organize & analyze business details - organize your plan according to the contact information of vital individuals, revision control, necessary background details and directions for putting the plan into action. Identify all business-critical functions, systems and tasks. Identify any points of failure. Make sure that all of your backup and recovery systems are accessible by your appointed staff, remotely if necessary (with proper security and login measures in effect).
- Emergency plan development tips - A little research on the FEMA site will give you great tips on how to prepare for natural disasters that are anticipated for your area. History and past experiences can offer some valuable education, and you can identify weaknesses in your business continuity plan by researching other company’s experiences in your area. What did they do right? What did they do wrong? What lessons are there for you and your business while evaluating their experience?
- Prepare your staff - The Business Continuity Process does not end with an implemented and documented Plan. The Plan must be kept current, tested regularly and communicated to all those affected. The communication of expectations, approved and documented in your Plan, should define the Roles and Responsibilities of all participants when the Plan is activated and de-activated. The time to prepare is before an interruption occurs. Keep staff well educated on the reasons this plan is needed and ensure that they have had accurate training to perform all tasks needed from them in an emergency.
- Practice and test your plan - Test and practice your continuity plan at least once a year to make sure it is well-developed and makes sense to all staff. Ensure that the current business processes, levels of risk tolerance, mitigation procedures, recovery processes, team member roles and responsibilities, notification lists and other critical components for a successful and cost-effective recovery and mitigation of disaster are all in place. Verify, by testing, that the steps documented in the Plan will work, as specified and expected and in the timeframe required. If significant changes occur in your business or a significant process, another Impact Analysis should be completed, and the required Plan changes implemented, documented and tested to insure they meet expectations. Testing should validate the recovery procedure and the minimum time to recover.