Natural disasters usually hit without warning and the negative impact they have on organizations can be devastating. With that said, it’s critical to prepare your organization for a disaster before it strikes.
A business continuity plan is a great way to prepare your small business for emergencies or catastrophic events that could impact buildings, personnel, and technology. A recent survey found that over half of small businesses do not have a disaster recovery plan in place. However, a shocking 93% of businesses without Disaster Recovery who experience a data disaster are out of business within one year.
There are major costs associated with disasters and business downtime, and it is critical to have a business continuity plan in place to prepare.
In this post, we’ll discuss the basics of continuity planning and share a roadmap that will help your business easily create a continuity plan so you and your employees can be prepared if disaster strikes.
What is Business Continuity Planning?
Business continuity is the process of either maintaining critical business functions or quickly resuming them when a major disruption occurs, which could be natural disasters, fires, floods, construction accidents or malicious cyber-attacks.
A business continuity plan covers procedures and instructions a small business must follow in case of disaster. The plan covers business processes, assets, human resources, business partners and more. A large portion of the plan prioritizes IT infrastructure and restoring it after a major crisis.
An effective business continuity plan outlines what key processes should be in place to make sure your business can quickly and easily resume normal business functions in the event of a disaster.
Why Business Continuity Planning Matters?
Whether you operate a small business or a large corporation, it’s important to remain competitive and retain customers while increasing new customers, even when an adverse event occurs. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates that 40% of small businesses do not reopen after a catastrophic event, and another 25% fail within one year.
To make sure you’re completely prepared if a disaster were to strike, it’s important to develop and test a business continuity plan.
Critical Steps to Developing a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan
Consider the following three steps when developing your organization’s Business Continuity Plan.
1. Create an Impact Analysis
You should develop a business impact analysis, which determines the personnel and resources needed to maintain business continuity in the event of a disaster. They should also outline important systems, processes, and business activities. They should also identify the minimum recovery period that’s required for each. This analysis should also consider the potential impact on resources, reputation, reporting, and operations.
Your business impact analysis should consider the following factors:
Loss of Critical Technology
How would you maintain operations if your IT applications were not available? What would you do if your primary Internet service were down? What if your telephone lines were down? Would you be able to continue with critical business activities?
Loss of Personnel
How would you maintain your day-to-day business operations if essential staff members are not able to make it into work?
Loss of Facility
What would your business do if you lost access to your main facility? Do you have options for alternative locations? How would you find solutions for issues such as power supplies, physical security, electronic surveillance, and protection from intrusion.
Loss of Vendors
How would you maintain operations if a key vendor was unable to support critical functions?
2. Create a Business Continuity Plan and Disaster Recovery Plan
Once these analyses are complete, the next step is to document a business continuity plan. The business continuity plan identifies how your organization will monitor issues that may lead to a business disruption, and lists functions which, when not performed within a specified time period, would terminate business operations or jeopardize the safety of employees or customers.
A successful business continuity plan should identify objectives around:
Your Team’s Safety
Your team’s emotional well-being, health, and safety should be key considerations when developing a business continuity plan. Create a plan that ensures employees and their families are safe and that there are effective workplace practices and employee assistance programs in place.
Recovery of Essential Activities
Outline the processes required to maintain critical business functions both during and after a disaster.
Document how to protect and preserve your business's physical, financial, and intellectual assets, as well as your business's reputation.
Communicating to your team, customers and vendors is critical before, during, and after a disaster. Develop detailed instructions on how to distribute comprehensive, timely, and accurate information about the status of business operations and the current risk forecast.
A Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) outlines the recovery component of the business continuity plan and allows a smooth transition to recovery efforts following an incident, the escalation of recovery efforts in the event of a long-term disruption, and the return to normal operations as quickly as possible.
3. Implement Team Training Programs
Developing and implementing training programs will help your employees develop skills in how to respond in the event of a disaster. Consider offering programs such as leadership training, scenario-based emergency response training, and disaster recovery exercises at least once a year. The insights you gain during training should be incorporated into your business continuity plan.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and if you follow these steps, you’ll be setup for success if disaster strikes. Keep in mind that every business is different – make sure to prioritize the preparation that makes the most sense for your specific business.