Business Continuity Planning
In this day and age, new threats and potential disaster scenarios loom on the horizon every day. Being caught unawares can be catastrophic for your business functionality and longevity.
According to DataCore, 54% of companies experienced a lengthy downtime event in the last five years. Only 2% of organizations recovered from their latest incident in under an hour and outages cost upward of $20k for every 8 hours of downtime.
Plus, according to AccessCorp, nearly 40% of businesses never recover from an incident.
That’s why Business Continuity Planning is a critical part of essential business operations.
Business Continuity Planning, or BCP, allows you to anticipate and plan for specific scenarios that could cripple your business. With these plans in place, you’re better positioned to bounce back from something like a fire or data theft.
Learn the Basics of Understanding and Developing Business Continuity Planning for Your Business
While it’s not a complicated subject, business continuity often gets overlooked by businesses, especially smaller businesses, because they don’t think it could ever happen to them.
The fact is that no business is immune to potential threats, no matter how big or small the organization is. In fact, some companies may be more at risk than others based on their size, location, and industry.
Understanding what Business Continuity Planning is and how to put a plan in place is a smart first step to preparing for the unexpected.
In this article, we’re going to outline the basics of BCP and how you can leverage it to your benefit:
- What is business continuity planning?
- What is business continuity management?
- How does it differ from risk management?
- Why is it important to business?
- How to create a business continuity plan.
- How to test or audit a business continuity plan.
So, whether you’re just getting started with business continuity or you need a little refresher on the finer points of preparing for the unexpected, we’ll be covering everything.
What is Business Continuity Planning?
Business Continuity Planning (BCP) is the process of developing a strategic plan to assess and prevent potential threats to a company, both physical and virtual.
Essentially, BCP helps prevent business interruptions in the face of natural and human-made disasters like:
- Data Leakage
- Criminal Activity
- Equipment Failure
- Computer Error
- Employee Error
Here’s a scenario: Imagine if there was an unexpected fire in your server room and terabytes of important customer data were lost. How would your business recover? Would your business recover?
Another prime example is the recent 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Many businesses were forced to shut their doors and cease production because they did not have plans in place to operate remotely or with a skeleton crew.
In fact, most businesses scrambled to cobble together last-minute procedures and resources to allow their team to work remotely.
BCP ensures that your business has processes and safeguards in place to maintain normal business operations in scenarios such as these. This could be through a variety of methods, like leveraging regular backups and multi-cloud data housing or by simply having a plan in place to communicate the loss accurately to your customers and stakeholders without causing a panic.
The resulting plan is a clear roadmap to how the business will protect against, deal with, and recover from specific threats, effectively ensuring that employees and business assets are protected and able to return to normal quickly in the event of a disaster scenario.
On the other hand, what is business continuity management?
Along the same lines as BCP, business continuity management is the ongoing management and maintenance of the plan.
While the IT department often handles the bulk of the BCP and disaster recovery tasks, it makes sense to have a business continuity manager on hand to streamline the entire process and support IT:
- Implementation of the initial plan.
- Monitor and audit the plan regularly.
- Report on changes to the risk climate.
- Suggest new amendments or adjustments to the plan.
A business continuity manager plays a pivotal role in the longevity and success of a company.
How does business continuity planning compare to disaster recovery?
When you think about business continuity, one of the first things to come to mind is likely disaster recovery.
This mindset is likely because you rarely hear about a business planning for a disaster. Instead, all of the press is about whether or not the business recovered from an incident.
While BCP and disaster recovery do tend to go hand in hand, they are not necessarily the same thing:
Business Continuity Planning involves the preparation of a business for the event of a disaster. It’s a proactive approach.
Disaster Recovery is the process of restoring critical and day-to-day business operations after the incident has occurred. It’s a reactive approach.
Why is Business Continuity Planning important to business?
Saying BCP is ‘important’ doesn’t quite do it justice.
The fact is that Business Continuity Planning is critical to businesses of every size, in every industry. Some more than others.
First, let’s see how an incident can affect a business financially. According to StorageCraft, downtime can affect many different areas of business and cost a significant amount of lost profits and increased expenditures:
- Equipment – $8,865
- Recovery – $17,570
- IT Productivity – $56,789
- Lost Revenue – $197,500
- Business Disruption – $201,550
On top of the apparent monetary effects, you run the risk of damaging your business’s reputation and standing with your customers irreparably in the event of a disaster without a plan in place. So, it’s safe to say that neglecting your business continuity can cost you, financially, ethically, and culturally.
What are the tangible benefits of BCP for enterprises and small businesses?
Aside from the obvious financial gains of an integrated Business Continuity plan, there are some tangible yet often overlooked benefits that you should be aware of:
- Preserves Business Operations
- Preserves Business Integrity and Reputation
- Saves Money
- Reduces and Mitigates Risk
- Ensures Compliance
- Provides Valuable Analytics Data
- Enables Data-Driven Decision-Making
- Reduces or Eliminates Downtime and Work Stoppage
- Uncovers Potential Weaknesses
- Provides a Competitive Advantage
What constitutes ‘bad business continuity’?
While having no plan at all is a glaring example of having bad business continuity practices, but here are a few more examples:
- Having a plan with only 1-2 possible threat scenarios.
- Having a plan with only 1 solution to those threat scenarios.
- Having a plan with no follow-up strategy.
- Having a plan without regular audits and amendments.
What is the best way to go about creating a business continuity plan?
A comprehensive Business Continuity Plan focuses first on emerging issues and potential weaknesses and then looks at disaster recovery processes. The most effective plan will look at all possible breaches, no matter how small the risk.
To get the most comprehensive look at potential chinks in your business’s armor, start by assessing your leadership, employees, resources, equipment, and processes.
Begin by breaking the BCP process into three distinct phases (Resolve, Respond, Rebuild) and assess your assets at each stage:
Resolve Phase – This phase involves the development of a strategic plan and implementation of preventative measures in anticipation of a disaster event, which is Business Continuity Planning at its core.
- What sort of events could cause outages for your company?
- What will be affected by these events?
- What will your company do to prevent disasters?
Respond Phase – This phase involves the actual disaster response measures that outline exactly what your company will do (or not do) in the event of a disaster.
- Are there new procedures that you will enact?
- Do you have a specific team to handle the response?
- Do your employees have an action plan?
- Do you have backup equipment ready?
Rebuild Phase – This phase involves the measures that you will take to return to normal business operations after an incident.
- How will the event affect day-to-day business operations after the fact?
- What new processes will go into effect after the event?
- Will you need to hire new employees?
- Will you need to purchase new equipment?
Alternatively, you can opt to work with a third-party BCP professional to develop a tailored strategy for your business. Relying on outside resources is a smart way to diversify your plan without sacrificing functionality or efficacy.
How can you accurately test or audit a business continuity plan?
Whether you’ve got an existing plan or a brand new one, it’s smart to run it through its paces now and then to ensure that it fits with any changes in the business, market, or economic climate.
Aside from putting on mock disaster scenarios, the best way to test your continuity plan is to perform both a gap analysis and a SWOT analysis.
Protect Your Business and Your Reputation in One Simple Move
The benefits of Business Continuity Planning are undeniable, and the pitfalls of ignoring it can be devastating. But, developing a smart business continuity plan doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking or a major pain.
Follow the simple guidelines outlined in this article and reach out to a BC professional for advice when you get stuck.
If you’re interested in exploring BCP further, but may not have the infrastructure or employees in place to handle it yet, get in touch with us for a free consultation.