Keeping the Lights on - The Importance of Business Continuity

Apr 24, 2014
Richard Foster talks about the importance of Business Continuity

When speaking to some IT professionals, the sheer mention of business continuity (BC) can cause them to glaze over. For the more risk averse it can spark panic - like remembering you left the oven on when you’re half way to the office. Whatever camp you fall into, there’s no getting away from the fact that BC is an integral part of any successful organisation.

What is BC?

For those new to the term, BC is a set of processes and procedures that ensure an organisation’s critical business functions continue to operate in the event of disaster or serious incident. Examples could be anything from a hurricane, national power cuts or even a fire in the office comms room. BC is commonly confused with Disaster Recovery (DR), but they are different – DR is focussed on the continued running of IT and technology (including data and applications) during a disaster – BC’s remit spans the entire business and functions.

For the sceptics out there, a common response when discussing BC is “what are the chances of that happening?! I have dual network feeds, redundant power and hardware so why should I worry about business continuity?” Having worked in IT for a number of years, what I have learnt is if there is even a small chance of something going wrong, it inevitably will!

Creating a valuable Business Continuity Plan (BCP)

Depending on the size of your organisation, your BCP can be anything from a one pager through to a library of processes and procedures. The key to a good plan is for it be concise and clear. When there is a major issue, the reader of the plan will not be in a position to scroll through reams of text, so it’s good to keep that in mind when writing the document.

Here are some useful tips to consider when thinking about business continuity:

Ensure easy access to the plan

It’s surprising how many companies store their BCP on their Intranet or locked in a filing cabinet in an office. What if you can’t get to the office and have lost connectivity to your Intranet? Key stakeholders and staff should all have a hard copy of the plan in case of an emergency.

Regularly test the plan

It’s all well and good having something written down but if you haven’t tested the process or actually carried out some of the actions, how do you know if it will work in an emergency? Sometimes running a real life test can spark new ideas, so even if the test was a success, always look for better, more efficient ways to achieve the same goal.

Treat the plan like a living document

Companies, people and processes change all the time so it’s important to keep the document updated. Revisit the BCP regularly to make sure the information is current.

Be realistic

Unless you have a bottomless budget, you’re not going to be able to cater for every eventuality. It’s therefore important to identify the key services and functions that need to be available and agree areas that are less essential. For the areas that are deemed non-essential, how long can you do without these as a business? This evaluation will allow you to focus efforts and budget in the right areas.

Think longer term

What happens if the incident disrupts service for longer than a day, a week or even a month? However unlikely it seems, it’s good to have thought about the ‘what if’ scenarios over an extended period and plan for the longer term.

Summary

Having a strong BCP in place is a lot like paying to insure your car. Although you begrudge doing it each year, you appreciate it when something goes wrong. Also, for some organisations it has now become a legal requirement e.g. the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) standards for Financial Services.

If you would like to discuss how Adapt can help with your BC planning, tweet me or comment below.

Insights Team
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