A Guide to Business Continuity Planning

    March 21, 2017

    By Sungard AS

    "Expect the unexpected" is a phrase often uttered in business circles, but how does a company actually put this philosophy into practice? Many organizations are finding that business continuity planning is the answer.

    Business continuity enables organizations to plan for disruption, mitigate it as best they can and get back on track as quickly as possible. It encompasses a mixture of digital tools and human skills that will prove essential when, and not if, disaster strikes. Even the slightest disruption to your core processes could cause financial or reputational damage to your business, which is why so many companies are investing in business continuity management.

    What to include in your business continuity plan (BCP)

    Your business continuity plan cannot simply be an off-the-shelf option – it needs to be specific to your organization – but there are a number of key areas that should be included. To ensure that it covers all aspects of your company, it is worth carrying out a business impact analysis (BIA) as your first step. This will tell you the cost of disruption to each of your business processes and, therefore, how long you can afford to be without them.

    Once you've gained visibility over the impact of disruption, you can begin delegating business continuity roles to your staff members. For example, do you have a specialist IT employee that can preserve evidence in the event of a hack? Do your customer support staff know what to tell your customers when your sales channel goes down? Undergoing internal training sessions and creating a guide to follow could be one way of ensuring that everybody knows their precise role in the event of a disruption.

    When your business suffers disruption, whether it's due to a natural disaster or internet outage, time is of the essence. Have you identified which processes need to come back online first and do you have a timetable breaking down what actions you need to take and when?

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    Preparing for disaster

    An organization will only know how robust their BCP is once a disaster has struck, but there are ways of testing your proposals in advance. Rehearse a variety of "worst-case scenarios" with your staff and see how effectively they respond. Ask for feedback and make any necessary changes to address issues that arise. Regular updates, at least every twelve months and more frequently if possible, are crucial to ensure that your plans are up-to-date concerning any changes to your organization and the wider industry.

    Business continuity, however, also has a technical element. Business continuity software will contain a broad spectrum of features, including risk assessment and disaster recovery options and many businesses are now choosing to source these tools from a third-party cloud vendor. Managed service providers (MSPs) can deliver resources, both technical and human, to bolster your business continuity plans.

    The most important factor to take from any guide to business continuity planning is preparation. Selecting the right software, spending time on employee training and testing your plans is the best way for any business to prepare for the worst.

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