Three tips in developing an effective business continuity plan

Three tips in developing an effective business continuity plan

Nowadays, most businesses are dependent on Internet connections and network stability to function.  If you are an online business, it is vital to have 24/7/365 connectivity to your website for customers and for you to be able to manage and monitor your business.

That implies having a Disaster Recovery plan, and if you are a cloud-based business, one that includes a Cloud Backup plan.   It isn’t a nice-to-have option, a Disaster Recovery plan is a vital part of your business survival strategy.

Three points to consider when developing a plan:

  1. This is not a plan for your wish list.

    This is not a plan for your wish list

    Your plan must be effective.  Take it seriously. Developing a Disaster Recovery or a Cloud Backup plan is not a project to be picked up when you have nothing else to do.  If you have a major incident, perhaps loss of Internet or a major data breach and you don’t have a plan, at the very least career it will be career threatening and could even be business threatening.

    Brainstorm possible failure scenarios.   Backup power, UPS or generator for your data centre is a no brainer.  Put on a hacker’s hat and see how you could break into your systems, and plug the breaches.   Even so, the only secure business is one that hasn’t been breached yet.  Put how you would recover from a hack attack or data theft in your continuity plan.

    Think of everything from the biggest, head office burning down, to the smallest, a virus attack on a localised network subnet.

  2. Involve everyone.

    Involve everyone

    Your plan must be comprehensive.  IT systems are not the only things that need to be recovered as part of business continuity.  If you use a cloud base, particularly if it is outsourced, you need to know that you have a Cloud Backup plan that gives you full, up to date and usable backups of your systems and data. Preferably off-site.  Equally, departments that have a requirement for paper backup need also to have continuity plans in place.

    The best way is to set up a project team from all potentially affected departments.  Don’t forget Security.  You may need access to secure areas of the business.   One point – if you have secure access to the Data Centre, make sure that it is not locked up tight during a power failure, and that there is an alternative means of entry.

    You may also need to contact third parties.  If the issue is a loss of services from your outsourced cloud service provider, have you worked out a standby plan with them?  If you need temporary offices in the car park, some Municipalities need to grant planning permission.  You will definitely need to talk to your hardware supplier if the disaster is a catastrophic hardware failure.

    Don’t forget the Insurance company if you are able to claim back some of the recovery costs.

    Part of your planning must include upward and downwards communications in the business.  People will feel upset and worried if they don’t know what is going on. Perhaps you need two plans, one for executives showing the financial requirements of implementing the continuity plan, and one for staff to tell them what is happening and when normal service is likely to be resumed.   If you can, involve them in recovery activities.

    In some places, you may need permission from the Municipality to put up temporary offices in the car park for example.

    Keep an up to date list of contact details, office and mobile, for all affected parties, particularly keyholders.  Keep a copy of it off-site.  Have a copy of your software licence information available.  A copy of the configuration setup is also handy.

  3. Test the plan, frequently and often.

    Test the plan, frequently and often

    This is a short recommendation.  The business continuity plan is a living document.  It may look lovely on paper, but in practice it needs to be regularly tested and amended.   Businesses change, backups may be faulty, the outsourced cloud service provider hasn’t made them anyway, the schedule of key holding staff might be wrong.  Mr Murphy makes sure it never goes like clockwork.   Including regular small tests in your planning schedule, and once in a while, a “Head Office has Burned Down” test are vital.