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At times, it’s not about if something bad could happen, but when—and this is applicable in all business sectors. You might not be able to predict all crises that can affect your operations, so having a safety net in place is essential for when an unexpected and detrimental event occurs.

IT disasters take many forms but have one thing in common:

they are harmful
To your business
To your production
To your customers

Implementing a business continuity plan will help your company proactively prevent and/or minimize the effects if a disaster should arise.

What is an IT Disaster?

When it comes to IT considerations, a disaster scenario in these applications refers to an unanticipated issue that slows, interrupts, or causes systems or networks to fail. This disaster can be precipitated by any number of events, including the following:

Regardless of the cause, the result is the same: these failures lead to customer service issues, increased expenses, lost revenue, lowered productivity, and more.

This is where disaster recovery in IT comes in. Because any type of disaster can severely impede the functioning of an entire business, having recovery planning strategies that can address various causes is essential.

To combat the effects of an unforeseen IT disaster, a business continuity plan is crucial to the continued success of your infrastructure, as it also provides steps to a disaster recovery plan.

What is Business Continuity?

Much in the same way that you can (and should) prepare for various events that could disrupt your personal life, business continuity involves creating a plan that will help you deal with unforeseen and problematic circumstances professionally.

In general, the end goal of business continuity is to mitigate the disruptions caused to business operations as much as possible. And the best way to accomplish this is through instituting a business continuity plan.

What is a Business Continuity Plan?

Simply put, a business continuity plan involves the creation of a system of prevention and recovery that will protect your company from a variety of threats.

Protect your company
from a variety of threats.

From systems going down because of a natural disaster to malware planted during a cyber attack, the best business continuity plans will protect and ensure that assets, persons, and production can recover from a crisis as quickly as possible, without losing important information.

Through creating a business continuity plan, you can provide peace of mind to your company that, even in the case of an unforeseen event or cataclysmic disaster, the personnel and assets involved in your operation will be safe and bounce back quickly.

The
Importance
Of A Business
Continuity Plan

A good business continuity plan is essentially a form of insurance for your company and its operations. Even if an IT disaster occurs, your organization will be able to mitigate the damage and not be completely overwhelmed.

Without a business continuity plan in place,

With a business continuity plan in place,

With a business continuity plan in place, you can avoid extra work and stress should an unavoidable circumstance arise that deters or entirely derails your operations. With dedicated, comprehensive approaches to achieve control and deploy effective procedures, your business’s needs and organizational capabilities will be secure.

And because business continuity and disaster recovery can be tailored to your own needs, your company can take steps to be prepared for and protected from a variety of IT crises that could occur.

From cyber-attack or digital sabotage to a man-made disruption or infrastructural damage, a comprehensive business continuity plan is important to regaining the upper hand in a crisis and bringing your company back online, even after a major disruption.

How Can Poor Data Backup Solutions
Ruin Your Business?

If you think of trapeze artists for a moment and then consider their gravity-defying acts taking place without the safety net below them, that is a fair indicator of running a business with poor data backup solutions.

Your operations can likely continue to function without issue for a good amount of time—until that first instance when an IT crisis does occur and the setbacks are monumentally more intimidating without a recovery solution in place.

Poor data backup methods are among the most easily disruptable aspects of a business, and any kind of crisis can affect your company’s data. This can lead to further issues, including:

However, a business continuity plan can and will prevent these issues from permanently damaging your company, should they arise due to a crisis or IT disaster.

  • Damage to company reputation
  • Loss of customer trust
  • Disruption of productivity
  • Permanent
    business losses
  • Exposure of
    confidential information

Top Threats To Your Business

As previously mentioned, your business could be confronted by a variety of threats that end in an IT disaster or security crisis. While there are many potential threats, the following are some of the most common that occur in companies of all kinds:

With a wide range of potential crises that can significantly affect your organization’s functions and production, putting a sufficient business contingency plan in place to deal with IT disaster recovery becomes even more essential.

How To Define Your Objective Of Business Continuity Plan

While the common aim associated with a business continuity plan is to mitigate long-term disruption, there are some specific objectives that you might want to identify for your company by using the following ten metrics:

How to guide your company’s disaster recovery teams.
Identify the disaster recovery personnel.
Assess all risks and impacts that could arise.
Outline & evaluate your company’s preventative measures that are in place.
Demarcate the location of all vital assets, data, and information.
Make emergency communications a priority.
Locate backup locations and all resource anchors.
Establish concise step-by-step protocols.
Identify all potential weaknesses in operations and propose solutions.
Train applicable personnel in these steps and considerations well in advance of a crisis.

These should lead you to specific outcomes that your business continuity plan needs to cover, including and not restricted to reducing disruptions to operations, ensuring continuity of production, and protecting your business.

Hierarchy of Accountability

When disaster strikes, accountability goes a long way. This includes those responsible for business continuity planning and crisis management—or in some cases, the lack thereof. But it’s important to examine your company’s structure and identify the inherent hierarchy that comes with being responsible for resilience and rebuilding.

Authority Persons

While the CEO of a business might be ultimately responsible for the fate of a company, it often does not fall totally to their power to prevent all aspects of crisis management or data recovery planning.

However, those in authority should be confident in briefing personnel on potential disaster circumstances that might affect the company, extended business interruptions, and what impacts might be expected.

Recovery time frame is also important—any persons of authority need to understand the steps needed to get the company back online and the estimated work that will require.

Internal and External IT Consulting

One of the best supports to a business continuity plan is through the involvement of IT consulting.

Because IT infrastructures are often the first aspect of a company to be hit by the effects of a crisis, having a team of dedicated experts to handle the issues is essential.
Internal IT consulting teams

However, some businesses only rely on internal IT consulting teams to handle disaster recovery as it is needed.

This is not inherently problematic, but should the network system or workplace of a business be detrimentally affected by a crisis, the internal IT team might not be able to allay the issue effectively.

This is where external IT companies and managed IT consulting comes in.

External IT consulting teams

Not only can an outside team of IT support be useful in a crisis situation, but they also provide a helpful consultancy service in helping you determine the long-term effectiveness of your business continuity plan.

Managed IT consulting companies are an important tool for companies in planning their business continuity and disaster recovery strategies. They can analyze efficiency, identify weaknesses, and provide an objective view of your operation and all inner workings that could be severely hampered by an IT disaster.

Business
Continuity Plan Overview

Now that we have discussed the need for and importance of having a business continuity plan, let’s delve a little deeper into the aspects that make such a plan function.

This includes security for your data backups so that you can restore information lost during a disaster, and recovery strategies that can be implemented after a crisis to get all your company’s operations back to work with as little disruption or lasting damage as possible.

Backup Strategy

First of all, for your business continuity plan to be as comprehensive as possible, you should have an established strategy for protecting your data, assets, and information through backup protection and recovery.

What Is A Backup Plan?

A backup plan essentially is coverage for your data storage. Should a crisis or IT disaster occur, having a backup plan in place will ensure your company’s information is saved in a secure location that cannot be affected by the crisis at hand.

This also protects any of your customers’ personal or financial information which can be in danger.

There are a few different methods of backup strategies that can improve the security of your company’s information.

Cloud Backups

A key to understanding the importance of cloud backup strategies lies in redundancy.

While storing your information outside of the physical confines of a company server room may be beneficial, all cloud backup strategies should include data redundancy to additional cloud servers. This multi-verse of storage ensures full coverage in cloud backup and recovery.

CRM Database Backups

An essential part of many companies, a CRM database holds all collected customer data for your business.

This includes personal consumer details, engagement levels, purchase histories, and lead sources.

Thus, it is crucial for the integrity of a company to keep this information safe from IT disaster losses and breach situations. Backing up these databases to multiple secure locations is non-negotiable for companies that necessitate storing this information.

Server Backups

It can be wise to situate your backup strategy in more than just a virtual location, given the prevalence of cybersecurity issues and malware attacks in the corporate and business sectors.

However, experts do recommend a hybrid strategy that includes both physical and virtual infrastructures for your backup and recovery solutions so that all your bases are covered.

Essentials in Data Backup Strategy

Prevent the loss of important and sensitive information by covering your data storage bases. The main essentials to a good backup strategy depend somewhat on your preferred manner of storage, but should always provide three things—speed, comprehensive storage, and guaranteed restoration.

Backup Testing

Make sure that your backup storage systems are working by testing them frequently. With test servers or through a test system, run scenarios simulating data crises to ensure access to your backups and restoration. Then, analyze what aspects of the backup strategy are not working and alter them.

Offsite Backups

Should your IT disaster include physical damage to your backup storage, such as an electrical fire in the server room or a virus that shuts down an entire server block, it’s a good idea to have non-physical backup storage strategies.

Onsite Backups

Backing up to a network share or cloud drive is essential to most comprehensive data backup strategies. This allows you to juggle information locations should one source go down, and avoid unnecessary downtime.

Optimized Backup Schedule

Instead of completing backups of important data on a random basis, it’s important to implement a backup schedule that reflects optimal times to access your storage strategy. Set schedules ensure updated information is saved every time the system is changed.

Organized Storage System

While it is still good to keep older backups of information, priority should be given to new data backups. Decide the timeframe of historic data you want to save in case of information loss, and arrange your storage system accordingly to make room for updated backups.

Risk Management: IT Recovery Strategies

One of the most important parts of preparing for a crisis is the recovery stage. And instituting firm IT recovery strategies is key in this stage.

However, your company’s chosen IT recovery strategy should include consideration for the following aspects:

  • Assembly of a comprehensive disaster recovery team.
  • Data and backup information roster.
  • Determination of possible disaster scenarios.
  • Frequent testing and updates.
  • Inventory of company assets and services affected.
  • Security of communications.
  • Selection of a safe offsite location for recovery storage.
Assessing your company’s specific impact metrics should a disaster occur is key to determining individualized recovery strategies that can be put in place.

One way to accomplish this is through various business disruption scenarios that can illuminate flaws in existing systems, and balance cost with the speed of recovery.

Alert, Escalation, And Plan Invocation

These aspects of the business continuity plan’s IT recovery strategies would be triggered by the onset of an emergency, stemming from any of the common company threats already discussed.

In the case of an IT disaster, all containment, mitigation, and recovery systems would be alerted and spring into action, with escalation determined by the direness of the threat to IT systems and company data.

It is essential for companies that put a business continuity plan in place to frequently test and practice these recovery strategies to ensure the plan invocation systems have adequate response times.

Disaster Recovery Team

We have mentioned a dedicated recovery team previously, but what would their responsibilities be when it comes to keeping your company’s systems and information safe?

An IT disaster recovery team’s roles include the following, and exist both before, during, and in the aftermath of a crisis:

Together, your disaster recovery team members are responsible for creating your company’s recovery plan based on organization-specific considerations and developing all relevant procedures.

In addition, this team is responsible for putting this recovery plan in motion if a crisis does occur and maintaining its systems until all damage is mitigated and normal functions are restored.

Plan Testing & Maintenance

Finally, to ensure your disaster recovery plan and strategy for business continuity are sound, it is essential to test these systems frequently, especially after major infrastructure updates or changes in the company structure.

If you have customer data to protect,

Run test scenarios on a routine basis to ensure all new information entrusted to your services remains secure and backed up across as many platforms as your disaster recovery team deems necessary.

And on top of this, regular maintenance is as important for your business continuity plan as it is for a vehicle that is driven daily.

Keep the plan updated and ready to handle any changes that occur within your operations. Don’t allow this plan to sit on a back shelf, gathering dust—ensure it stays up to date with all new procedures, data storage, and technological advances.

Business Continuity Planning During COVID-19

Over the past months, COVID-19 has thrown a proverbial wrench into the middle of many plans and strategies, requiring a swift and dynamic shift in many sectors.

And during this time, continued business operations and the IT infrastructure that powers them are even more essential.

So, how can we take steps to protect the continuation of these business operations, even during a pandemic that places inordinate amounts of stress on all aspects of business?

Let us take a look at the four main steps to take for integrating the issues associated with COVID-19 into business continuity planning.

1. Identify The Risks

Before you can make plans for the aftermath of a crisis, you must first identify the risks that your business might be susceptible to. This is especially crucial during the time of COVID-19 when your resources might already be stretched thinner than usual with financial difficulties, remote workings, and other special considerations.

Instead of trying to prepare for every eventuality, identify the primary issues that could impact your operations.

Because services have become hampered somewhat by the effects the pandemic has had on workplaces and the workforce, trying to prepare for each possibility of crisis is likely unfeasible and unproductive.

Take a moment to examine your business areas and sector, and determine what really might be problematic for you in terms of disruption, based on your industry, location, and size.

2. Identify And Prioritize Essential Functions

The first step is to examine your areas of business and identify what is most essential to their function. What are the key aspects of your operations that must remain intact even through an IT disaster or a crisis with business systems?

Prioritize what functions are the most necessary to your business and identify your interdependencies by asking questions like these:

Essential resources needed for your business

What are the essential resources needed for your business, such as vendors, physical equipment, digital devices, personnel, etc.?

Key services and operations that your company offers

What are the key services and operations that your company offers, including your vision and goals for the future?

Points of highest risk in your business’s infrastructure

What are the points of highest risk in your business’s infrastructure when it comes to disaster or crisis, and how can these be protected?

Primary business functions

What are the primary business functions that are essential for your continued service or production?

Your obligations when it comes to legal compliance

What are your obligations when it comes to legal compliance, and how can these be affected by a crisis?

Estimated period your systems will need to come back online

What are your obligations when it comes to legal compliance, and how can these be affected by a crisis?

Events that could possibly adversely affect your company

What is the estimated period your systems will need to come back online after a disaster, in order to maintain continued service or production with few negative consumer side effects?

3. Consider Areas of Impact

Because any IT disasters typically impact three major areas in any business, your continuity plan must consider these and apply the constraints that COVID-19 has on recovering these areas. In most cases, operations, people, and property are the top factors affected by a disaster or crisis.

To plan for this and mitigate the possible effects, you should assess these areas for the highest risk factors and what the severity of impact would be on your business.

Additionally, don’t forget that these areas also tend to overlap quite significantly—each organization is different, but in most cases, you cannot have an operations crisis that does not also affect the people and property involved in the company.

Operations

Your business’s operational capacity can be impacted in almost every aspect, including financial transactions, productivity, customer service, and data storage.

People

The human aspect of a business will also be severely impacted by an IT disaster, and particularly during COVID-19. Do not leave people and your employees to figure out crisis management in the middle of one—consider the following in your planning:

Attendance Impact

Consider the physical ability of people to continue arriving at your place of business: could public transportation be affected? Can dangers arise from continued attendance that needs to be either mitigated or provided with a safe workaround for business to continue?

Employee Wellbeing

Some kinds of disasters that motivate a business continuity plan will inevitably affect the employees and their wellbeing. From the physical dangers of a natural disaster to mental health considerations that come with a variety of crises, your plan should include the people that power your company and their wellbeing.

Property

From physical disasters like storms or floods that can ravage a business’s operations to digital holdings going offline, property is important to consider within your business continuity plan. And as the “invisible” impact of COVID-19 has shown us, even less tangible effects of a crisis are just as important to anticipate.

Assess the impact that disruption to your business properties might have—generators going down, inability to access digitally stored information, power loss, or separation from key equipment and supplies.

How can your business continuity plan help account for these physical or proprietary removals?

As for COVID-19 considerations in operational property, does your company have applications in place for work to continue outside of physical business properties should a disaster occur? This includes laptops, access to networks, and even VPNs for employees not able to reach a company headquarters in person.

4. Integrate Resiliency Planning

Your business continuity plan should not only preempt physical, personnel, and operational issues but should offer a way back to full recovery.

Resiliency planning is essential to emergency management because it mitigates the effects of a crisis and helps guide all levels of business back to normal operations as quickly and effectively as possible.

Protecting Your
Business From IT
Disaster: Business
Continuity And
Disaster Recovery
Backup Planning

IT disasters are treacherous and can strike at any given time, be it through a cataclysmic storm or malware attack on your company’s network. And the damage caused by these crises can be excruciating and at times even fatal for your operations.

However, through determining and instituting a business continuity plan that assists with operational resilience and backup recovery, you can work to preempt and mitigate the most harmful and lasting damages that come with such a crisis.

Additional Information,
Plans, And
Templates

More resources for disaster recovery plans and strategies for business continuity can be found in various places, including the following:

16 expert strategies for creating an effective IT disaster recovery plan.

20 recovery strategies and procedures.

IT disaster recovery planning.

Sample business continuity plan.

IT disaster recovery plan template.

We hope you enjoy reading this article
If you want to learn how New Charter Technologies can help you with MSP services, book time with us today.

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