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:
Implementing a business continuity plan will help your company proactively prevent and/or minimize the effects if a disaster should arise.
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:
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.
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.
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
- Exposure of
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:
Though more difficult to predict than natural disasters, these disasters can be just as detrimental, including burst pipes or electrical fires.
Not all aspects of the workplace are affected by things like the weather, but if your business operations are interrupted by a fire or a flood, this can drastically impact your workings.
Crashing systems, backup failure, or lost files can all be detrimental to your company’s operations and revenue, especially if vital information is lost permanently.
Theft or Vandalism
On-site or off-site burglary is a major issue for many businesses. This can also include malware or malicious insiders who are intent on stealing data for financial gain.
Companies are subject to human error as well, including password malfunctions, losing a removable device, or accidental information transfer.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are a few different methods of backup strategies that can improve the security of your company’s information.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Your business’s operational capacity can be impacted in almost every aspect, including financial transactions, productivity, customer service, and data storage.
Analyzing Your Company’s Financial Position
While this is generally a good idea for companies to assess where they stand financially, you should give it extra thought when it comes to planning. Review available financing, investments, liquidity, projected revenue, and more to determine your baseline for continued operations, should a crisis occur.
Considering Remote Working
While many companies have been able to transition to remote working, should an IT disaster occur you might not be able to access all online or digital information that is required for this process. Remote working considerations not only make a company pandemic-proof but helps in case of a natural disaster that prevents office access.
Optimizing Payroll Operations
Payroll is an essential part of keeping a business running but is sometimes overlooked in planning for a disaster. If something happens to your systems, and no one is available to fix it immediately due to pandemic procedures, your company requires significant backup oversight for keeping your workforce and operations going in the aftermath of a crisis.
Not only do your employees need to be paid, even after a disaster has grounded your operations, but so do the utilities and vendors who also supply your business. Consider what purchasing and payments will be most affected by an emergency and shape advance protocols around these priorities.
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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
Determined through the management and assigned responsibilities, while placing measures for continued collaborative and cooperative work.
All board-driven or policy-based considerations that can establish priorities for preparedness.
The process of preemptively identifying the key requirements necessary for responding to an event and completing essential tasks.
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.
More resources for disaster recovery plans and strategies for business continuity can be found in various places, including the following:
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