Best Practices for Creating an Effective Business Continuity Plan
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” – Benjamin Franklin
Predicting the future is impossible but making sure a business can deliver during challenging times is not. According to recent statistics, cyberattacks have gone up by over 400% since the COVID-19 pandemic began. At the other end of the spectrum are natural calamities and disasters that can cause unexpected outages to happen anywhere, anytime. Therefore, it is paramount that business organizations put measures in place to ensure seamless and reliable business continuity in the event of an unplanned outage or security incident. This can be done by carving out a robust business continuity plan (BCP), and should be at the top of every organization’s list of strategic initiatives, especially considering the dramatic costs and implications of downtime.
According to Investopedia, a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is “the process involved in creating a system of prevention and recovery from potential threats to a company.” The main goal is to avoid disruptions in daily operations. A strong and reliable plan mitigates risks before they arrive and considers all aspects that could affect an organization’s operations, such as assets, technology, and personnel.
A real-life example of a robust business continuity plan is one mentioned in this article, which allowed a German telecom company to quickly recover after a fire knocked out an entire switching center. The company’s incident management system immediately notified and mobilized staff and emergency responders. With a fast reaction time, trained employees, and a redundant network design, service was restored in just 6 hours.
In comparison, a ransomware attack in 2018, left the city of Atlanta in the trenches. The attack obliterated computer systems and resources, impacting city services including police stations, court records, parking, and utilities. Workers had to complete paperwork by hand and the entire incident costed the city of Atlanta $17 million, out of which only $52,000 was for the ransom. Obsolete software and other IT vulnerabilities exposed their system to the hackers and turned this attack into a prime example of an inadequate business continuity plan.
To protect a business efficiently and provide the capability to recover quickly from unexpected disasters, a properly constructed BCP is a necessity. The following best practices should be kept in mind when designing and implementing an effective business continuity plan:
1. Identify the scope and objectives of the plan
Defining the scope and purpose of a business continuity plan is the first and foremost step. This holds greater importance for offices with geographically dispersed locations. Whether the business continuity plan will cover all or certain locations should be confirmed before designing the plan. Also, the plan objectives should be crystal clear, and the following questions should be addressed beforehand:
- How detailed oriented should the plan be?
- Will it cover all departments of the organization?
- What will be the outcomes of a successful plan?
- Which milestones should be tracked?
2. Identify key business areas
A business continuity plan should be crafted while keeping the relevant industry in mind. For example, a retail company may need to include their physical store locations in the plan, while a software company will need to emphasize more on their technology infrastructure.
3. Distribute responsibilities
An incident response team is an extremely important component of a disaster recovery plan, and as such, careful consideration should be given when identifying its team members. If possible, there should be one project leader overlooking the entire plan, as well as an identified stakeholder for the core departments. Along with identifying the first responders, their contact information, titles, and backup contacts should also be included in the plan.
4. Define Operational strategy and Critical Functions
A working strategy for all departments should be laid out in your plan. Talking to stakeholders and then assigning individual plans for all teams, software, and digital assets should be carried out. These distinct plans will all converge together and form the overall business continuity plan for the organization. The plan should also include SMS or phone calls as the automated modes of communication during a crisis.
Communication is the key to a successful business continuity plan. The plan should not only be communicated to all departments, but it should be well documented and saved in an easily accessible location. A readily available plan will ensure a faster recovery and response time. In certain conditions, a version of the business continuity plan should also be conveyed over to customers and suppliers to cover all bases.
Testing is crucial for creating an effective plan. Without testing, all the planning and hard work in creating the plan might go down the drain. The testing phase provides important insights into where the plan stands, areas of improvement, and whether it will work efficiently or not. Testing and updating the plan regularly ensures that a plan is always relevant to the business’ operational needs.
When You Least Expect It
Disasters can strike like lightning – rarely providing advance notice. Without a solid plan of action to guard against and recover from unanticipated crises, a business can easily go downhill. Therefore, business continuity planning should be of utmost importance for every business.
For companies seeking help with business continuity planning, look no further than Outsource IT. Whether it is a natural disaster, a security incident, or an on-premises accident, we can help your organization create or update its business continuity plan to keep the business IT assets afloat safely and seamlessly in times of emergency. Contact an Outsource IT account manager to learn more.