Has your business ever experienced a lengthy downtime event? A few hours? A day? Longer? Every minute that you’re out of commission, the backlog of work gets deeper. You’ll be bombarded by questions about how you could let it happen. But those questions will subside when the customers give up and switch to another vendor.
Business continuity is the answer. Whether the outage is caused by a natural disaster, a cyberattack, an accident, or something else, your ability to maintain essential functions is critical. Your preparation level will determine whether the incident is a brief inconvenience or a full-blown catastrophe. To achieve continuity, you’ll need a comprehensive plan, an alternative location (if work from home isn’t possible), ready-to-use computer hardware, and recent backups. But there is more to think about to be fully prepared.
We have identified six aspects of business continuity that are frequently overlooked but merit consideration.
Disaster Recovery Does Not Equal Business Continuity
Disaster recovery plans are often hyper-focused on data backup. How far back do the backups go? How quickly can data be accessed? Those are pertinent questions, but more is required to get small and mid-sized businesses back up and running. What good is data access if employees don’t have working computers? Or if the entire network is locked by ransomware? Or if the headquarters city is completely without power?
A comprehensive business continuity plan considers the “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, and “why” questions related to a downtime event. Having a detailed understanding of the data your organization possesses and how it flows is crucially important. The worst time to map out new workflows is in the middle of a disaster.
In some cases, emergencies last far longer than anyone anticipates. Executing your Business Continuity plan should result in a sustainable working environment where things can operate as long as they need to.
Trade-Offs are Required
In a perfect world, a flooded-out company could switch to a perfect replica of their office with the flip of a switch. But in the real world, resources are scarce and some job functions matter more. Firms need to conduct a deep-dive review and prioritize the departments, individuals, and services that are necessary. When a disaster occurs, there’s no internal debate. The plan must be followed as outlined until all job functions have been restored or until the disaster ends.
Establish a Chain of Command
In 1981, there was a near-fatal assassination attempt on the life of President Ronald Reagan. After being shot, Mr. Reagan was rushed to the hospital. During his hospitalization, Secretary of State Alexander Haig told reporters, “I am in control here.” That quote was controversial because, in the event of incapacity, it’s the Vice President’s job to assume the powers of the Presidency.
Having a clear chain of command is key to crisis management. When things feel most uncertain and chaotic, your team needs to hear clear direction. By defining the chain of command ahead of time, there’s no confusion – if the primary person can’t act, the next person in line will.
Testing is Imperative
Some plans look great on paper but fail in practice. Conducting dry runs can highlight oversights and inefficiencies that can be addressed before disaster hits. A business continuity test can be as simple as a tabletop simulation, where staff walk through the plan and discuss each step in detail. More rigorous testing might include full simulations. Regardless of how you choose to test, consider performing it with limited notice to better mimic a real emergency.
Update the Plan Frequently
Your business isn’t the same as it was six months ago. People come and go. Technology changes. Clients and vendors are lost or added. Quality business continuity plans are living documents. As conditions change, the plan has to be updated. As you conduct tabletop testing exercises, communicate how the business continuity plan has evolved since the last time.
As conditions change, your insurance should change accordingly. Recovering from a disaster is expensive. Without sufficient insurance, you may not have the capital to bounce back. Remember: cyberattacks happen to businesses of all sizes, shapes, and industries. Adding comprehensive cyber liability insurance simply isn’t optional with today’s threat landscape.
No matter what precautions a company takes, disasters will happen. Business continuity is critical to its continuing success. It’s more than just having recent copies of important files. It’s a multi-step process to establish a plan, iterate as things change, and test. It’s a complex process – one that Envision Technology Advisors is prepared to help with. So, if you need a consulting partner that can see the bigger picture, contact us today.