Business Continuity Plan: Can Your Company Survive a Disaster?

No business owner expects their company to face a debilitating crisis.  Most successful businesses are led by optimistic people who are confident in their ability to overcome problems.  But when disaster strikes, optimism just isn’t enough.  Trying to figure out a recovery plan after you’re already in crisis mode isn’t going to do the trick, either.  Enter disaster recovery and a business continuity plan.

What is a Business Continuity Plan and Why Do You Need One?

A business continuity plan is a detailed outline of the procedures a company needs to follow to get up and running after a disaster.  The event may be a fire in your facility, a natural disaster, or even a cyber security attack.  When you have a plan in place, the key players in your organization know what their role is in getting your company running again with minimal downtime.

Business continuity plans are elaborate and complex.  They include instructions on how to restart all aspects of your business after a disaster.  Plans provide points of reference and detailed contingencies for your business processes, human resources, physical assets, business partner relationships, and more.

A disaster recovery plan focuses on restoring the infrastructure and functionality of a company’s IT systems following a crisis.  It is one component of the broader business continuity plan, which looks at the continuity of the entire business.

The size or field of your business doesn’t matter – downtime is bad for any organization. The longer it goes on, the more difficult it will be to recover. Not having a plan to continue operations in the face of a disaster can be financially devastating, even resulting in the closure of your business.                                                                                                                                                                           

Two out of every five companies struck with a major disaster are unable to recover. Of the survivors, one third go out of business within the next two years.

– Gartner Study

4 Steps to Creating a Business Continuity Plan

  1. Business Impact Analysis — Consider the impacts of a disruption of business, regardless of the cause. Determine which business functions take priority and identify the resources needed to maintain or reestablish operations.
  2. Recovery — Develop recovery strategies that address alternate means to return operations to at least minimum levels. You may consider having staff work remotely, running the business from a second location, or contracting with outside resources.
  3. Development — Assemble a continuity team. This team will create the framework of the business continuity plan and implement it during a crisis.
  4. Testing — Don’t assume. If it isn’t tested, it doesn’t work.  In order to test the plan, the staff needs to be trained to fully understand their role during a crisis.
    • A table-top exercise involves the team combing through the plan, looking for gaps, and making sure all units of the business are represented.
    • A structured walk-through helps each team member walk through their components of the plan in detail and identify areas for improvement.
    • Disaster simulation testing is very involved. It should be a realistic simulation of an actual disaster that allows your team to work through it to determine the effectiveness of your plan.  The simulation should answer the question – will your plan allow you to carry out critical business functions in case of a crisis?
  5. Once a plan is created and initially tested, it is important to repeat testing as your personnel, systems, and environment change.  It’s always a good idea to rotate some of the non-critical players on the test team.  Their fresh perspective may uncover something more experienced team members took for granted or didn’t consider.

    Are You Ready to Create a Business Continuity Plan?

    The process of developing a complete Business Continuity Plan is complex and time-consuming.  A comprehensive plan can take upwards of 100 hours to complete.  Most small to mid-sized businesses don’t have the time, staffing, or experience to develop a business continuity plan.  Safety Net can help.  All Your Net managed service clients receive a Disaster Recovery Lite plan (DR Lite) as part of their service from Safety Net.  It is a basic starting point for the full disaster recovery plan businesses should have in place.  The information contained in your DR Lite offers a basic framework for how to manage your IT systems in case of a crisis.

    If you are ready to invest in a full business continuity plan, our Certified Business Continuity Professionals can help.  They will work with you and your staff to make this process painless and help your team understand their role in the event of a disaster.