We rarely get advance notice that a disaster is ready to strike.
Even with some lead time, things can quickly spiral out of control. While some business disruptions are unavoidable, how you respond to them can have a major impact on your bottom line or even your survival.
For some businesses, a service disruption or outage could result in lost revenue and a drop in sales. For large organizations, the repercussions could be more severe. According to one estimate, the monetary loss for a typical ecommerce business is close to $5,600 per minute, equating to more than $300,000 per hour.
With the combination of malware attacks, software failures, and natural disasters, the reality is that business interruption is not a matter of if, but when.
While no single strategy can cover all scenarios, diligent planning upfront helps you better prepare for what needs to happen after a disaster to help ensure a fast recovery.
A key element in your business continuity strategy is a disaster recovery plan. If you don’t already have one, make it a top priority. If you do already have one, don’t assume that all requirements have been factored in. You need to be sure your recovery objectives are clearly defined and the plan closely aligns with your business priorities.
Be realistic about the objectives and requirements outlined in your business continuity plan and incorporate as many contingency scenarios as possible.
- Could your business recover from a ransomware attack?
- How about a natural disaster?
- How much downtime could your business sustain?
- Are your mission-critical systems and applications adequately protected?
Every incident is unique and unfolds in unexpected ways. The last thing you want is to find yourself in a disaster situation and discover your action plan is not up to the task. That’s where a carefully-crafted strategy based on sound best practices can deliver immense value.
1. Identify Plan Objectives
Business continuity planning extends beyond your IT department and related infrastructure—it applies broadly to all critical business functions, including human resources, operations, public relations, and more.
At the highest level, the objective of creating a business continuity plan is to keep essential business processes running, prevent data loss, and minimize disruption. Every business is different, so you’ll need to identify the goals and objectives most important to the way you operate.
For each application or service area, determine the tolerable downtime and recovery time objectives (RTO).
Insight into these parameters helps ensure that you implement the optimum level of resiliency and high availability for each application or system. Prioritizing systems and applications by degree or level of importance will help speed the restoration and recovery process.
2. Conduct an Impact Analysis
Your planning process should begin with a business impact analysis, which evaluates key elements of your IT and enterprise infrastructure to determine existing capabilities, backup strategies, and potential impact a threat could have on each area of the business.
The assessment will provide insight into the business applications and services that support your company’s mission-critical functions and help prioritize which areas are vital for business continuity. The assessment should document any resources needed to keep essential departments operational during a disaster event.
The analysis will likely uncover areas that need updates or correction, such as having backup power sources or generators nearby.
It might also include implementing an additional or alternative communication channels.
3. Define Responsibilities
Your business continuity plan should clearly define the core roles and responsibilities each team member will have during a system outage and recovery incident.
This is especially critical when working with outside partners and suppliers.
The contributions and responsibilities of each party need to be clear to help ensure a fast, efficient recovery. Select a few cross-functional managers who can bring valuable expertise and leadership skills to the table. Designate a leader to keep things moving forward and make decisions when necessary. Implement a curriculum to train the business continuity team as well as employees in the event of an emergency.
This could include basic training and an overview of plan procedures and protocols. The training might include tactical exercises designed to test the procedures and prepare employees.
You might even stage a mock emergency to evaluate areas for improvement.
4. Create a Communications Plan
A written plan by itself does not guarantee a rapid recovery when disaster hits.
It’s essential that everyone impacted by an event clearly understands their responsibilities and the role they play in the recovery effort.
- When a disaster strikes, how will you communicate with internal teams?
- Will employees know how to access systems and resources they need to perform their assigned tasks?
In some instance, primary communication systems (email and phone) will be impacted and out of commission. Make sure your plan clearly defines communication steps and includes contingencies to keep teams updated and informed throughout the duration of the disaster and recovery event.
5. Safeguard Critical Data
For many businesses, data is their lifeblood. Loss of critical data, whether caused by malware, software failure or human error, can be devastating for organizations of any size.
A core element of your business continuity plan is outlining and defining the management and operational procedures for protecting sensitive and confidential information.
The procedures should define how protected information will be secured, managed and accessed once the continuity plan has been put into motion.
While a data backup and recovery solution can’t prevent data loss from happening, it can help ensure that your business can recover data quickly if or when disaster hits―which is the fundamental purpose of business continuity.
6. Test and Refine.
Testing a plan is the only way to truly know it will work. Inconsistent testing can result in inferior performance of your recovery systems, putting your business at substantial risk.
It’s preferable to identify potential issues early in planning rather than have them surface in the midst of a crisis. Clearly, an actual disaster event is the best way to find out what works and what doesn’t. Still, a controlled testing approach is obviously less risky and provides an opportunity to identify gaps and improve.
Determine the areas that need improvement and continue refine until processes are perfected. Don’t settle for an easy scenario―make it credible but challenging. Also, make sure your objectives are measurable and bold.
Doing the minimum inhibits improvement and diminishes confidence in your ability to respond effectively to a real event.
Reaping the benefits of smart planning
If your business is like most, business continuity planning is not given the strategic priority it deserves.
While creating a robust, well-crafted disaster recovery plan does require an investment in time and resources―no matter how long it takes―the effort will pay dividends far beyond the initial investment.
Contact Wooden Spoon today to see how we can help!