If you don’t have a Business Continuity Plan in place, then your business and data is already in danger. Believing a business will continue to generate profit in the future without putting safeguards in place is a very risky practice. Ignoring the pitfalls can be catastrophic.
Business continuity as a concept is self-explanatory. Yet, it encompasses much more than an organization’s future profitability. It covers all aspects of a business’s longevity, prosperity and success.
In this article, you will learn how to create an effective business continuity plan to protect yo10 Step Business Continuity Planning Checklist with Sample Templateur assets.
What is a Business Continuity Plan?
The definition of business continuity planning refers to the process involved in the creation of a system that prevents penitential threats to a company, also aiding in its recovery.
This plan outlines how assets and personnel will be protected during the event of a disaster, and how to function normally through an event. A BCP should include contingencies for human resources, assets and business processes, and any other aspects that could be affected by downtime or failure. The plan consists of input from all key stakeholders and must be finalized in advance.
A BCP is an essential part of a company’s risk management strategy. It should be updated as technology and hardware/software get updated. These risks usually include natural disasters—weather-related events, flood, fire, or cyber and virtual attacks. Any and every risk that can affect a company’s operations is defined beforehand by the BCP. A typical plan includes:
- Identifying all potential risks
- Determining the effect of the risk on the company’s normal operations
- Implementing procedures and safeguards for risk mitigation
- Testing the procedures to ensure their success
- Constantly reviewing the processes to make sure it’s updated
After an organization assess its risks and identifies them, it needs to follow these steps:
- Understanding how these risks will interfere or affect operations
- Setting up procedures and safeguards that mitigate risks and offer rapid solutions
- Systems on how to test solutions to ensure they work, and scheduling them regularly
- Ensuring that processes are systematically reviewed to make sure they’re up to date
Business Continuity Checklist
A successful business continuity plan is prepared based on the understanding of the impact of a disaster situation on a business. A business continuity checklist includes certain steps, which we have summarized for you below in point form.
Use this step by step guide for preparing your comprehensive preparedness plan. When it comes to disaster recovery strategies, each company will have varying strategies based on geographical locations, the organization’s structure, system, environments, and the severity of the disaster in question.
1. Assemble the Planning Team:
Implementing a BCP plan certainly requires a dedicated team. Teams should be built with hierarchy in mind, with specific roles and recovery tasks assigned to staff members who are accountable for each.
2. Drawing Up the BCP Plan:
Mapping out a strategy is one of the most important components of a business continuity plan. The objectives of the plan should be clearly understood with goals set accordingly. A company should use this opportunity to identify the key processes and the people who will keep it running.
To draw up the plan, companies need to make a list of all the disruptions that could affect a company’s operations. Pinpoint critical functions in everyday business processes and formulate practical recovery strategies for each possible disaster scenario.
3. Conduct Business Impact Analysis:
After identifying all the potential threats, they should be thoroughly analyzed. A proper business impact analysis or BIA should be in place. Extensive lists may need to be prepared, depending on the company’s set up and geographical location.
The list can include floods, hurricanes, fires, volcanoes, and even Tsunamis. Apart from the above natural disasters, others have a much higher probability of occurring. These can include cyberattacks, downtime due to power outages, data corruption, system failures, hardware faults, and other malicious threats to data security.
4. Educate and Train:
Handling business continuity requires knowledge beyond that of IT professionals and those with cybersecurity proficiency. Companies at the upper management level need to layout the objectives, requirements, and key components of the plan before the whole team. Develop a comprehensive training program to help the team develop the required skills.
5. Isolate Sensitive Info:
Every business works with critical data allocated with the topmost security priority. Such data, when compromised or leaked, can spell the end for a company or organization. Data, such as financial records and other mission-critical information such as user login credentials, require storage where recovery is convenient and easy. Store data according to priority based on the importance of the data to the business.
6. Backup Important Data:
Every company has some critical data, which is irreplaceable. Hence, every recovery or backup plan should include creating copies of anything which is not replaceable. In a Managed Service Provider’s (MSP) case, it includes files, data on customer and employee records, business emails, etc. The plan in place should facilitate quick recovery so that businesses can recover tomorrow from any disaster that occurs today.
7. Protect Hard Copy Data:
Electronic or digital data is the main focus of modern IT security strategies. There is still an enormous volume of physical documents that businesses need to maintain daily.
For example, a typical MSP involves working with an assortment of tax documents, contracts, and employee files, which are as important as the data saved on the hard drives. Convert documents that can be digitized to minimize the loss of physical documents.
8. Designate a Recovery Site:
Disasters have the potential to wipe out a company’s data center completely.
Companies should prepare for the worst, by designating a secondary site which would act as a back-up for the primary site. The second site should be equipped with the required tools and systems to recover affected systems to ensure that the business processes continue.
9. Set up a Communications Program:
Communication within the company is vital in times of crisis. Companies should consider drafting sample messages in advance to expedite communications to suppliers and partners in times of crisis.
Business Continuity teams can use a detailed communication plan to coordinate their efforts efficiently.
10. Test, Measure, and Update:
Every important business program should be tested and measured for its effectiveness, and business continuity plans are no exceptions. Testing should include running simulations to test the team’s level of preparedness during a crisis. Based on the results, additional modifications and tweaks can be made.
Download Our Sample Business Continuity Plan Template
Benefits of a Business Continuity Plan
A business continuity plan involves identifying and listing out all potential risks and threats a company may face and laying out appropriate policies to mitigate those risks in case of any disaster or crisis. A properly implemented business continuity plan would help any company to remain operational even in the wake of a disaster. Outlined below are some of the greatest advantages of having a business continuity plan in place:
Business Remains Operational During Disaster
Disasters can happen at any time, unannounced. Businesses need to recover from such incidents as quickly as possible to ensure there are no major disruptions in business processes. Business Continuity Plans can help companies remain operational throughout the disaster or the business recovery phase.
Avoid Expensive Downtime:
An Aberdeen Group report indicated that downtime could cost up to $8600 per hour to small scale organizations. If the system is down, businesses lose money, customers, or even their reputation is in danger in certain cases. A proper BCP in place can prevent losing any opportunities during an outage.
Protect Against Different Disasters
Disasters and crises do not always include disasters such as fire, tornadoes, or pandemics, etc. A crisis can also occur from hardware failures, power outages, cybercrimes, and other forms of human error. Thus, companies need to protect themselves not only from natural disasters but from all other forms of outages and downtime. A BCP mitigates these risks.
Gain a Competitive Advantage
In the event of a national or global crisis, a business’s reputation can be bolstered, if it remains up and running while its competitors are down. Clients can look more favorably towards the company as they associate a certain level of reliability with them. Putting a BCP plan in place can help companies stay operational during such times, giving them a clear competitive edge over their competitors.
Giving Assurance to Employees
It is natural for employees to worry if systems are compromised due to a crisis. This situation makes them worry about how and when to proceed with their delegated tasks, negatively affecting the workflow. This scenario is especially true for customer-centric organizations. Having a BCP plan in place for such situations can help prepare a company’s staff on what to do in such situations, and help keep business processes running smoothly. Having a clear action plan can do wonders for employees as it increases the company’s morale and job satisfaction.
Gain Peace of Mind
Having a detailed, tried, and tested BCP in place can alleviate much of management’s worries and stress, helping them to work on other core competencies. Companies can carry on confidently with their operations, knowing that there are measures in place to counter any system outage or downtime. BCP plans are thus critical to a company’s longevity, helping them defend against potential risks while enhancing a company’s reputation.
Stages of Developing a Strong BCP
Business Impact Analysis: You will identify resources and functions that are time-sensitive and need an immediate reaction.
GAP analysis: You need to analyze aspects of your business continuity management system that you currently have and evaluate your IT emergency management system and see how ready and mature it is to face evolving threats.
Improvement planning: This analysis will tell you what you need to work on to help improve the maturity of your Business Continuity Management (BCM) and what will help it improve over time.
Recovery: A clear plan needs to be outlined on which steps to take to fully recover critical business functions and get all applications back online smoothly.
Organization: A continuity team should be put in place who will come up with this plan and be responsible for managing all types of disruptions.
Training: The continuity team needs to get regular training and undergo testing, who complete scenarios and exercises that deal with the multitude of threats and disasters your company can face. They should also update and regularly go over the plan and strategies.
Learn more about the differences between Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery.
What Does a Business Continuity Plan Typically Include?
It’s critical to have a detailed plan for how to run business operations and maintain them for both the interim and possible longer-term disruptions and outages.
A BCP plan should outline what to do with data backups, equipment and supplies, and backup site locations, and how to reestablish technical productivity and software integrity so that vital business functions can continue. It should give step by step instructions to administrators, which includes all necessary information for backup site providers, key personnel, and emergency responders.
Remember these three keys to creating a successful business continuity plan:
- Disaster recovery: Consolidate a method to recover a data center, possibly at an external site. If the primary site is compromised, it becomes obsolete and inoperable.
- High availability: Ensure the capability of processes are highly available. In case of a local failure, the business can still function with limited access to applications despite the crisis in hardware/software, business processes, or the shutdown of physical facilities.
- Continuity of operations: The main goal is to keep processes and applications running during an outage, and to test them during planned outages. Scheduling backups and planning for maintenance is key to staying active.
Keep up with your competitors! As the Covid-19 crisis has shown, it’s essential to put a Business Continuity Plan in place to defend against every type of disaster using our best practices. Failure to do so can mean financial loss or damage to your company’s reputation. Start preparing, contact us or use our free BCP template to get started today.