Build a Business Continuity Plan in 6 Steps

Business continuity plan illustrationIt could be a flood, fire, or even something as seemingly minor as a spilled cup of coffee. Whether the cause is an act of nature or human error, a disaster could take down your whole business for hours or even days if you aren’t prepared.

Even if you have backups in place, restoring your data doesn’t help much if end users can’t access it and/or don’t know what they’re supposed to do when disaster strikes. If staff members are cut off from critical data and applications and clients can’t reach you, the outage could come at a considerable cost to your business.  As of 2016, for instance, the average cost of a data center outage was $740,357, according to the Ponemon Institute.

Additionally, your organization’s reputation could take a hit if the outage leads current and prospective clients to question your reliability. That’s why it’s crucial to establish a business continuity plan, which allows your organization to keep operating after a disaster.

If you haven’t already created one, a business continuity plan can benefit your company in a few key ways, such as reducing downtime, giving employees the ability to work remotely, and improving customer service.

Following these seven steps can help you build an effective business continuity plan:

1. Carry out a business impact analysis. The first step toward creating a business continuity plan is carrying out a business impact analysis, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Your business impact survey should predict what will happen if your organization’s functions and processes get disrupted by a disaster.

Here are some areas of impact to include in your analysis:

  • Lost income and sales
  • Delayed income and sales
  • Additional expenses due to overtime work, outsourcing, etc.
  • Business plan delays
  • Any regulatory fines
  • Contractual penalties/loss of contractual bonuses
  • Decreased client satisfaction and/or loss of clients

Additionally, you’ll want to determine your recovery point objective (RPO), the maximum amount of data loss acceptable for your business, as well as your recovery time objective (RTO), which is the amount of time your organization can run without access to its data.

2. Identify mission critical resources. An important part of crafting your business continuity plan involves determining which applications/data/resources are the most critical to your organization. If there are certain functions (e.g., unified communications) that you must have up and running to do business and stay in touch with colleagues and clients, you’ll want to prioritize restoring them as quickly as possible.

3. Assess resources needed for recovery. What do you need to get your mission critical applications back up and running and restore your team members’ access to critical data following a disaster? In addition to backing up your data securely, you might want to look into having backup vendors on standby, according to AT&T’s Business Continuity Planning Checklist.  

Other resources needed to support disaster recovery could include the following, according to the DHS.

  • Office space and supplies
  • Utilities (e.g., power, internet, phone service, etc.)
  • Production facilities

4. Create a budget for business continuity efforts. Establishing a comprehensive business continuity plan will involve investing time, money, and resources. As a result, it’s important to ensure your company budgets for business continuity. Calculating the cost of downtime for your business should help convince anyone who’s hesitant to set aside funds.

5. Educate staff members about the plan. Everyone on your team should be aware of the game plan to keep your business up and running if you experience a disaster. It can help to appoint one person to lead the rest of your staff through recovery and business continuity procedures. 

6. Test your business continuity plan. Checking to ensure your backup resources and procedures work before you actually need them is a must. If there are any issues, you’ll want to identify and fix them ahead of time.

If you’d like to learn more about business continuity (as well as backup and disaster recovery), don’t hesitate to contact our team of tech experts today by emailing or calling 877-599-3999.

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