Without a proper business continuity plan in place, business productivity can plummet, and operations can suffer serious downtime in the event of a disaster. Each incident can elicit different consequences, so being prepared for anything gives companies the best shot at survival.
Getting a current and well-tested plan in the hands of a trusted team member that is responsible for executing on any part of the plan is essential. No matter the industry or size of a business, lacking a proven business continuity plan could put you out of business for good.
What is Business a Continuity Plan?
Business continuity planning is the process of creating prevention and recovery tactics to deal with disasters or emergencies. An effective business continuity plan:
- Defines potentials risks
- Determines how those risks will affect a company’s daily operations
- Implements safeguards and policies to mitigate the defined risks
- Requires periodic review of the entire plan for necessary updates
Business continuity is about having a realistic plan to deal with difficult situations, so a company can function with as little disruption as possible. The Business Continuity Institute (BCI) defines the lifecycle in the following way: analysis, design, implementation, validation, and finally, embedding.
The analysis phase of business continuity planning consists of business impact analysis and threat and risk analysis.
It is important to remember that a company should plan for not only incidents that stop or slow daily functions. It should also prepare for those that could have adverse impacts on the product or service provided by your company.
Business Impact Analysis
The Business Impact Analysis (BIA) phase is where companies evaluate the potential effects that critical and non-critical activities may have. This business impact analysis is an essential component that helps bring to light any vulnerabilities. From there, comes the planning component.
The planning portion of a business impact analysis is where businesses develop strategies for minimizing risks of potential disasters. Perceptions of acceptability are affected by the cost or recovery solutions. For each critical function, two values are typically assigned:
- Recovery Point Objective (RPO): the acceptable latency of data that will not be recovered.
- Recovery Time Objective (RTO): The acceptable amount of time it takes to restore the function.
The recovery object must ensure that the maximum tolerable data loss for each activity is not exceeded.
There are no standard guidelines that a business impact analysis must follow, yet there are best practices that many organizations use. The general multi-phase process includes the following steps:
- Gather all relevant information
- Evaluate the collected information
- Prepare a report on its findings
- Present the results to all trusted employees that handle any aspect of your business continuity plan
LightEdge is committed to keeping customers’ IT operations, critical applications and data protected. We provide the technology and resources our customers require to get back to a production state that meets their RPO and PTO requirements.
The goal of a business impact analysis is to determine the most critical business operations that employees need to function properly. It is also to understand the time frame within which these items need to be recovered for the organization to get back to normal working conditions.
Business impact analysis and threat and risk analysis are two important phases during business continuity planning. The business impact analysis typically takes place prior to the threat and risk analysis because it can serve as a starting point for a disaster recovery strategy. It can also provide a base for examining RPOs and RTOs and other resources that are needed for business continuance.
Threat and Risk analysis
The threat and risk analysis is the process of defining recovery requirements that each potential threat may require. Common threats to prepare for include:
- Cyber attacks
- Internal or External Sabotage
- Power outage
- Telecom outage
- IT outage
- Random failure of mission-critical infrastructure
Assessing the threats and risks and finding solutions that prevent or address them with minimal downtime to business is imperative. LightEdge offers a comprehensive set of recovery solutions to ensure uninterrupted performance of IT operations and mission-critical systems in the event of an emergency.
Business Continuity Planning
The structure of an organization’s business continuity plan may differ depending on a company’s location, industry, and size. While no two plans may be exactly alike, there are some key issues that each should address and actions that should be performed. LightEdge has provided a business continuity sample to get businesses started.
How to Organize a Business Continuity Plan Template
Here is a general example of a business continuity template that a company could use when crafting their own plan.
- Emergency Personnel: Once you have segmented out the various threats, identify the essential people to contact in a specific incident. Gather their contact information, including an email and phone number. Place this information towards the top of the business continuity plan, so you can get in touch with them in a moment’s notice. Do not waste valuable time searching through a lengthy document.
- Communication Pattern: Once all emergency personnel are identified, decide how the flow of communication will occur. Does information need to be gathered before a notification is posted? Does a meeting need to take place immediately to evaluate the facts? Whatever the situation might be, outline a communication pattern, so the right people are notified in time. Leaving employees and customers in the dark for too long can have lasting negative effects.
- Recovery Strategies: Once you have identified the varying business impacts that a disaster could have, document recovery strategies to help curb those consequences. Explore different recovery strategies and brainstorm with management on all possibilities. Once recovery strategies have been identified, document, and implement them.
- Recovery Strategies for IT: Important components like the network, servers, desktops, laptops and other wireless devices should have separate recovery strategies. The ability to return both the office productivity and enterprise software is critical. You cannot have one without the other. Recovery strategies for IT should be developed so technology can be restored with little to no downtime.Partnering with a business continuity and disaster recovery specialist is essential. Colocation providers can help your business maintain continuous operations with disaster recovery solutions deployed in their world-class, redundant data centers.
- Testing and Simulations: Companies can conduct training for the business continuity team and provide them with testing and different exercises to evaluate each business impact and its corresponding recovery strategy. Be sure to document the results. Performing multiple tests to see how policies hold up and compare is recommended.
- Schedule Reviews and Maintenance: Whether it is quarterly or annually, schedule times to review and update your business continuity plan. Describe specifically how often the plan should be reviewed and by whom. If it is not current, it will not help in the event of an emergency.
Implementation and Testing
The implementation phase of business continuity planning requires policy changes, staff training and testing.
To effectively implement a business continuity plan, organizations must brief all employees on its contents. An organization must figure out which employees have direct responsibilities with the plan and provide them with training sessions and tasks to get them prepared. These exercises will ensure a smooth execution if an unforeseen event was to occur.
What your company needs for a successful business continuity plan is good communication. The plan must be over communicated to everyone involved. Employees may not have time to look up policies and produces in a true crisis. That is why it is best if the business continuity plan is common knowledge among staff.
Complete exercises with employees or involved parties to make sure that the policies and procedures are effective. These simulations also help to prepare your staff in the event of a real disaster. Even if the business continuity plan is documented, it may not play out as described in the event of an emergency. Practice makes perfect.
Testing your business continuity plan is the only way to know it is effective. A controlled environment provides opportunity to identify gaps and ways to improve processes.
A company must continually test a plan to know if it is complete and will fulfill its intended purpose. During the testing and simulation phase, make objectives measurable. Prepared businesses will test a business continuity strategy two to four times per year. By frequently testing objectives, companies can see if their plan is working or if they need to make improvements.
During each phase of business continuity plan testing, it is always best to include new employees on the team. This allows the plan to receive a fresh perspective that might detect gaps of information that an experienced employee could have overlooked.
An organization should be reviewing and updating the business continuity plan regularly. Biannual or annual maintenance are adequate review cycles. It is best practice that if any issues or potentially outdated information are found in the business continuity plan, they are reintroduced in the analysis phase.
To get the most out of a business continuity plan, integrate it into daily work life. Think of it as a living document that should be continuously reviewed, practiced and discussed. Creating a schedule with regular simulations or discussions is a good way to maintain a business continuity plan. During these exercises and review, focus on the information that is likely to change, such as:
- Employee information (contact information and job titles)
- List of mission-critical infrastructure
- Vendor and partner contact information
- Organization charts
- Emergency supplies
- Manufacturing components
Schedule Regular Reviews
A significant amount of effort goes into the initial creation of a business continuity plan. Once created, it is important for businesses to not abandon it when other, more critical action items also need attention. Technology is continually evolving, businesses can experience employee turnover, so when this happens recovery plans need to be updated and tested.
As time goes on and business processes change, previous business continuity strategies may no longer be a viable option. Here are sample questions that can be asked during the maintenance and review phase:
- Have any critical systems changed?
- Are all documented business continuity checklists meaningful and accurate?
- Do recovery tasks and disaster recovery strategies allow the business to recover within the predetermined recovery time objective?
During the maintenance and review phase, allow employees to provide feedback. Ask different departments to review the plan and include updates they deem necessary. If a disaster does occur, be sure to incorporate lessons that were learned into the updated business continuity plan.
Preparation and Prevention
Certain disasters can be prevented, while others rarely give warning and come regardless of how organized a business might be. All organizations are at risk of facing potential incidents if unprepared. A business continuity plan is a tool that allows organizations to not only mitigate risk, but also continuously deliver products and services despite disruption.
LightEdge provides a broad spectrum of backup, replication, and disaster recovery solutions to meet everyone operational, financial and compliance requirement to ensure uninterrupted availability of customer’s IT.
The reliable availability of business IT is essential to the management and livelihood of every company, large or small. All elements hinge on the dependability of your technology to deliver vital information right when you need it.
Now that modern IT practices have started to blend physical with virtual, and cloud with on-premises, safeguarding your applications and data requires several tools and methods.
What would happen to your mission critical infrastructure and data if a disaster were to hit this very second? Are you prepared? If not, or if you’re in need of a stronger business continuity solution, LightEdge can help.
The various business continuity services that LightEdge offers includes:
- Disaster Recovery: Our team of business continuity experts can tailor a suite of services to meet your specific requirements, creating customizable RTOs and RPOs depending on your disaster recovery plan.
- Data Protection: Data Protection solves the challenges associated with traditional data backup. Our solutions enable fast, reliable data backup and recovery for remote offices, data center LANs and VMware® environments.
- Workplace Recovery: Our work sites, located in Des Moines and Kansas City, are equipped with desks, power, phones, computers and connectivity. We can house your critical staff in the event your primary business location becomes unavailable.
Want to learn more about LightEdge’s business continuity services? Contact one of our business continuity experts to get started or to schedule your private tour of any of our data center facilities. We have disaster recovery, colocation and business continuity experts standing by to answer any of your questions.