In today's society, several factors can impact business continuity. In addition to physical threats like theft and natural disasters, the Internet — despite its many benefits — can also wreak havoc. Downtime, in any form, can cost a company money and, perhaps, its reputation if not managed correctly.
The good news is that a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) can lessen the impact of downtime by helping your organization take the appropriate steps toward a quick resolution. In many cases, plans can be built in-house with the proper coordination of different departments. Despite everyday risks and global situations like COVID-19, the recognition of the importance of a business continuity plan and uptake of emergency preparedness plans remain low. With data from more than 300 businesses across 37 countries, Mercer states that 51% of organizations did not have a business continuity plan. If you fall into this statistic, it is time to learn more about the critical components of building a disaster recovery and business continuity plan for your organization.
What Is Business Continuity in IT?
What is business continuity? In its most simple form, it is about ensuring that your organization can keep running, even when disruptions occur. A BCP will act as a guidebook on tackling specific issues, like a cyberattack or damaged equipment. It reduces improvisation and widespread panic.
IT teams play an essential role in a BCP. Nowadays, when disruptions occur, it usually involves an organization's tech. Who understands your organization's tech best? IT, of course! Planning and execution should be left with them, although it may be a good idea to hold emergency preparedness sessions with other organizational teams. When disaster strikes, internal teams must be on the same page, working together toward a solution.
Examples of Business Interruption in IT
Interruptions to your organization can come in several forms. When they do happen, it can frustrate employees and clients alike. The biggest frustration may come from the fact that it was avoidable to begin with! As you will see in the examples given below, many organizational disruptions can be made less intrusive or avoided entirely with better planning.
- Natural disasters: Large storms can knock out power or wreak havoc with flooding at brick and mortar locations, damaging physical equipment. Moving data to the cloud and reducing the amount of physical tech that you have on-site can be helpful — especially in climates prone to tropical storms and hurricanes.
- Theft: Equipment can be stolen off your premises. It would be wise for an organization to recommend that employees lock away equipment when they go home for the day. Having the ability to remotely wipe data off a stolen device would also work in the favor of an organization in order to minimize the impact of the theft.
- Human error: This can include employees clicking on malicious links received by email or via a web page. IT should consider hosting regular training sessions on cyber security awareness.
- Software updates: Unplanned updates, which are then forced onto the system, can cause hours of downtime. Ensure you build a software update schedule inline with your provider. Trigger updates to occur on weekends or in the early hours of the morning (i.e. between 2 and 5 AM).
Business interruptions are not only costly to the bottom line of an organization, they can also have even greater effects. When work-stop issues occur in a hospital, it can quickly become a life and death situation for patients. Learn more about the costs of downtime in healthcare.
Key Elements of an IT Business Continuity Plan
- Create a response team: When disaster strikes, it can be cause for panic. This panic can lead to further despair and confusion. Therefore, organizations should build a response team made up of employees across the organization, including in IT. This group would be in charge of several areas of response in the case of an interruption. Other employees outside of this group should hold until direction from the response team is provided.
- Conduct a risk analysis: Once a team is assembled, one of the first orders of business should be to determine what risks the organization is most prone to. This can involve taking a look at historical instances of downtime, new world threats like those posed by cyber criminals, and the climate in which equipment is stored.
- Run test scenarios: Although you may feel prepared, there is nothing quite like encountering a realistic scenario. Running test situations can help the response team to better understand if their plan is actually workable. For example, IT teams can develop mock cyber attacks, a real threat to organizational interruption in today's hyper-connected society.
- Develop a communications plan: Organizational interruptions can be costly. Ensuring your customers know what is happening is important. Providing estimated "online" timing is also essential. Frustrations can mount quickly, however maintaining an open line of communication can help to reduce the pain for your clients.
- Maintain continuous IT operations: Maintaining business continuity in IT is perhaps the most important component of any interruption response. If IT equipment goes down, a resolution can be much harder to achieve. It is important that IT teams plan for this scenario by storing back-up data or devices in off-site or other secure locations.
What is a business continuity plan? It could be the difference between an organizational disaster or a seamless hiccup. With so much technology involved in the operation of a modern organization, it would be naive to think that disaster could never strike. Over time, your organization will likely face a disruption that knocks specific services or the entire system offline. These instances are frustrating for clients and businesses alike. They can hurt both your bottom line and your reputation. When disaster strikes, every minute counts. A business continuity plan can help you proactively avoid situations and react quickly when they do happen.