Disruptions to business continuity are an everyday possibility in the professional world. Aspects of business are so interconnected—from transportation to email to facilities management to data storage—that compromise or disruption of simply one aspect can affect the entire business. And such disruptions aren’t limited to a single industry—from power companies dealing with an unexpected power outage to an IT department responding to a ransomware attack to an enterprise having to handle a major blizzard that strands employees at home or a city under attack such as the recent attack on Atlanta—every business needs to have a business continuity plan. Below, five tips every business should know when it comes to staying operational during a crisis of any type.
1. Know the difference between disaster recovery and business continuity.
A business continuity plan is NOT the same as a disaster recovery plan. For an enterprise, disaster recovery focuses primarily on restoration of IT infrastructure and operations after a crisis – while business continuity focuses on the continuation of operations of the entire business during and after a crisis – if possible. This means making sure that day-to-day operations—from HR to manufacturing to sales are up and running so that a company can continue to make money. Make no mistake – disaster recovery is a key component of business continuity, but it is only part of the whole process.
2. Have an effective business continuity plan in place.
What constitutes an effective business continuity plan? Well – it encompasses a clear strategy in case of disaster of any scope – man-made or nature-made. Its primary purpose is to ensure that the organization:
- minimizes disruption to its operations and its customers
- that it protects the corporate reputation
- that it reduces revenue loss.
Key to the business continuity plan is a business impact analysis—which identifies the impact of a sudden loss in business functions, typically in terms of cost. This allows the organization to identify which systems and processes need to be prioritized in the event of an emergency.
CIO.com recommends six general steps for developing an effective business continuity plan after conducting a business impact analysis. These include:
- Identifying the plan’s scope
- Identifying the key business areas
- Identifying critical functions
- Identifying dependencies between different business areas and functions
- Determining the acceptable amount of downtime for critical functions
- Developing a plan to maintain those critical functions
It is helpful to create a checklist that encompasses supplies and equipment, the location of data backups, a list of to whom and where the plan is available and the contact information for key participants in the plan (emergency responders, key personnel etc.).
3. Don’t only prepare for the worst.
When we think about business continuity the tendency is to focus on extreme events—hurricanes, floods, terrorist or cyber-attacks –but the reality is that more mundane disruptions can cause the launch of your business continuity plan. Be prepared for situations like a software upgrade gone wrong, a sudden power outage or hardware malfunction. Don’t only plan for crises, plan for those day-to-day errors that could also have a significant impact.
4. Test your plan.
It’s not enough to simply create a plan and let it sit; it’s important to test the plan several times a year. There are several ways you can do this including table top exercises where the team reviews the plan and checks for gaps, structured walk-throughs in which each team member walks through the components of the plan in detail to check for weaknesses and simulation testing which simulates an actual disaster or scenario. It may be helpful to include different employees during testing each time to get different perspectives on the plan and check the plan’s resilience.
Without effective communication a well thought out plan can disintegrate in a moment. In fact, the number one failure after most crises is communication. Make sure that you have an effective communication plan in place during a crisis or disruption—including draft emergency messages that can be updated quickly. Ensure a reliable, consistent way to communicate with employees and a thought-out plan to communicate to the public via press releases, social media updates, and interviews. During a crisis, standard modes of communication—email, phone call–may not be sufficient or even available. A secure alternative medium—such as secure messaging platform such as Vaporstream—is critical as a way to share sensitive information without having to worry about it being inadvertently compromised or the medium becoming unavailable as a result of crisis or disruption.
It can be intimidating to think about how crises or day-to-day disruptions can seriously impact a business—and that’s why business continuity plans are so important. To learn more about how Vaporstream can help with communication needs when it comes to business continuity visit us at vaporstream.com or ask to see vaporstream in action today.
Contributor: Kristi Perdue Hinkle