The business world has drastically changed over the past two decades. Technology has become more advanced, while at the same time becoming more accessible. The rise of cloud solutions has seen more and more businesses moving their storage and their systems online.
And it’s not just the way that businesses are run that has changed. Client expectations have increased as well! Customers expect exceptional service at every turn, and want businesses to be available to meet their needs 24/7, 365 days of the year.
Keeping your business operating, your data accessible, and your systems up and running at all times has never been more important. And when disaster strikes – whether it’s in the form of a fire, a power outage, or a cyber attack – you need to be prepared. You need to have a Business Continuity Plan in place to ensure that your operations can continue without a hitch.
What is a Business Continuity Plan?
A Business Continuity, or BC, Plan is a well-documented strategy for handling any disaster that may come your way. It details:
- Systems and solutions that are essential to your operation,
- Where and how your data is stored in case of emergency,
- Steps that need to be taken if something goes wrong.
And if this all sounds familiar, it may be because you already have a Disaster Recovery, or DR, Plan in place. Which is a great step in the right direction!
But a Disaster Recovery plan is only part of ensuring your business’ continuity. DR ensures that your technology is brought back online. A Business Continuity Plan focusses on your company’s operations as a whole, beyond just the technology that you use. It incorporates how your teams need to react, who should be contacted, when and how your clients should be informed and reassured, and steps that can be taken to limit the impact that a disaster can have.
What Steps Should You Take in Creating Your Business Continuity Plan?
As you can imagine, putting together a holistic and all-encompassing Business Continuity Plan is no easy feat. You need to have a thorough understanding of how your business works and which technologies and teams are essential to your operations. It can feel like an overwhelming task, but it’s one that any business needs to undertake.
So how does a person even begin to contemplate their Business Continuity Plan? The same way, as the joke goes, that one would eat an elephant: one bite (or step) at a time. Here are 4 steps to beginning your business recovery planning journey:
1. Identify the scope of your plan
The first step to business continuity management is understanding your goals and objectives.
- Are you trying to ensure that every single operation within your company continues uninterrupted during a disaster?
- Are you wanting to mitigate the impact that a disaster could have?
- What kind of budget are you able to assign to your business continuity strategy?
The answers to each of these questions will guide your Business Continuity Plan. There are solutions for any inevitability, after all. There are ways to ensure that your entire business stays online and operational without a moment’s hesitation when disaster strikes! But these solutions often come at a premium that many businesses simply cannot afford. In which case, juggling your budget with your essential operations becomes the most important task ahead.
2. Highlight key business areas that are essential to your operations
When disaster strikes (and, since we’re talking about business continuity and disaster recovery, let’s assume that it will), which of your teams and which areas of your business to stay online at all times?
Your marketing resources, for example, may not be as integral as your client database.
Sales may take a backseat to Support.
Understand the areas, teams, and staff members who are essential to keeping your business running when the worst happens. This will make it significantly easier to ensure that these areas, teams and employees have the resources that they need. It will also help you to assign tasks and responsibilities that will ensure the success of your Business Continuity Plan.
3. Highlight key services and technologies for continuity
Once you know which teams and areas are essential to operations, it’s time to look to your critical technologies.
Any business will have tens, if not hundreds, of services and solutions that keep their business operating. But which of these technologies could you truly not survive without?
- Your mail client?
- What about your phone system?
- Your business intelligence app?
- Or invoicing platform?
You know which departments need to stay operational at all times. But which are the technologies that keep them operational? Speak to your heads of departments and find out which services they couldn’t live without if disaster were to strike, and make sure that they’re covered in your BCP plan.
4. Determine areas and services where uptime is critical
Not every department, and not every technology, needs to be available 24/7. This is why it’s so important to be highlighting those key business areas and key services that we spoke about above. But even those critical teams and solutions can often handle a bit of downtime.
Knowing which aspects of your business need 100% uptime is the next step of putting together your Business Continuity Plan. Some of the common essentials that require 100% uptime include:
- Customer databases
- Mail servers
- PBX systems
If you offer a service to your clients (as opposed to a product), anything that impacts that service will also need as much uptime as you can afford in order to maintain your reputation.
And Then Comes The Final Step…
You’ve spent time asking all the right questions, and taking your planning one step at a time. Now it’s time to put together the Business Continuity Plan itself.
This is not a step that you should take on your own.
Talk to the key stakeholders – your team leaders, your employees, your investors. But also talk to an IT support company who have been through this process hundreds of times and know the process inside and out.
Solid Systems have been helping businesses create Business Continuity Plans and Disaster Recovery Plans that meet all of their needs and see their operations continuing uninterrupted, even when the worst case scenario comes true. Whether you just want IT consulting and guidance in creating your own plan, or are looking for IT pros to support you every step of the way, Solid Systems is the best IT company in Cape Town, Johannesburg or London to see you stepping confidently into the future. Get in touch with us today.