Do you have a plan if the worst happens to your business?

What is the purpose of a business continuity plan?

Massive rains flood the region – and your facility. Your equipment is down for a few days, and so are you. Wild winds knocked power out, and you are left in the dark. From tornadoes to computer viruses, natural and man made disasters can wreak havoc on your business if you are not prepared.

It is wrong – not to mention risky – to believe that emergencies will not strike you or that your staff will be ready to handle them if they do. Instead of denying, believing or hoping, plan.

Business continuity plans help you do just that…continue on in the face of an urgent situation.

Do You Have a Business Continuity Plan?

If you are like the majority of small businesses in the UK, the answer is ‘no.’ According to Databarrack’s recent Data Health Check report, just 27 per cent of small businesses have a business continuity plan (BCP). By contrast, the majority (75 per cent) of large companies have such a plan in place.

The study also found that of the SMEs that do have a BCP, 73 per cent have not tested it within the last year, and half are not planning on testing it in the coming year. This puts them at significant risk; a comprehensive BCP includes cover against natural disasters, power outages, IT crashes, broken pipes, supply chain problems and more.

According to the Insurance Institute of Business & Home Safety, a quarter of businesses do not re-open after a major event. Databarracks’ technical operations manager Oscar Arean says, ‘Disaster recovery isn’t a luxury insurance policy anymore, it’s absolutely essential for businesses no matter what size.’

Arean adds, ‘Disaster recovery used to be prohibitively expensive for smaller businesses but that’s not the case anymore.’ With cloud computing solutions, IT recovery, at least, is much more widely available and affordable for SMEs.

How do you write a business continuity plan?

To protect your business, employees, customers and your own livelihood, it is critical that you implement a BCP. Start by asking yourself (and key people in your orgranisation) these questions:

  • What parts of your organisation can you not afford to lose (e.g. information, facilities, staff)?
  • What are your most important products/services?
  • What resources or activities are required to enable you to deliver key products/services?
  • What are the potential risks to these critical activities?
  • In an emergency, what amount of ‘downtime’ is acceptable for each critical function? (That is, how long can you go without, for example, customer call centres? HR?)

Include Disaster Recovery

Create a plan maintain operations and as close to ‘business as usual’ as possible given the circumstances. For example, you can prepare for disaster by choosing cloud servers or backup protection with a feature called ‘DRaaS’ – or Data Recovery as a Service. In the event of a nasty virus, power outage, IT crash or human error, you can access your data safely, securely, and, if necessary, remotely.

Another example: say severe weather has knocked out your telecommunications and rendered your physical office unusable. You can’t receive important customer calls or process orders/invoices. One contingency plan may be to check into renting desk space. Several schemes throughout the UK offer fully-serviced space that you can rent or lease until you’re back on your feet. Address each high-potential risk and plan for it. This will save you from scrambling and panicking if it comes to pass.

When should business continuity plan be reviewed?

Even when companies do have a BCP, many fail to test it. This is critical to ensure that it works. Plan on some form of testing at least twice per year. One way that you can do this is by doing a walk-through of the BCP. Chances are you don’t have a disaster recovery team, but ask key managers or staff to meet and go over the plan. Look for gaps; is there anything you missed?

Risks you failed to anticipate or account for? Make sure everyone understands his or her role and examines the plan in detail. Some businesses take testing further by doing simulations. They set up an environment that mimics a high-risk situation (e.g. data breach or severe storm) and go through the steps of the BCP just as they would in ‘real life.’ Emergencies occur all the time, in some form or another. No one, and no business, is immune – but you can be prepared. Start your BCP today.

Note: For additional help, you can find a Business Continuity Programme Management toolkit at Gov.UK to help you through the process step-by-step.