Business Continuity Hacks: How to Manage Your Data Effectively
A disaster can strike at any time. Your company should be prepared by having a plan in place that will keep your business running during and after a disruption. This is known as business continuity and it is much more important than many managers and executives think it is. The following key hacks can help ensure your business continuity even in the face of a major emergency.
Why a Business Continuity Plan is Important
A business continuity plan can get your company up and running much faster after disaster strikes, which can give you an edge over your competitors, reduce lost profits and ultimately prevent the loss of operations in an emergency.
With modern businesses being especially dependent on digital sales and communications, cyber attacks are a serious threat, making a business continuity plan more important than ever. Remember that a business continuity plan is not the same as nor a substitute for having proper insurance coverage.
A WORD OF ADVICE: A business continuity plan is not the same as a disaster recovery plan. It is important for company leaders to understand the difference between the two. A continuity plan consists of procedures to keep your business running during a disaster while a recovery plan is meant to restore lost data and damaged infrastructure following a catastrophe.
Coming Up With a Continuity Plan
Knowing you need a plan is a good start but coming up with one that will be effective can be a little more challenging.
As with any other important plan relevant to your business, it’s best to put the plan into writing. This will give your employees something to refer to in the event of a disaster as well as be legally binding if any questions are raised.
Do not simply assume your employees will know what to do in the case of a disaster. The wrong action during an emergency could prove catastrophic for your business and customers. All managers, executives, and others in charge should be aware of the existence of your business continuity plan and be briefed on it. Having a plan in place will do no good if the employees at your company don’t know or forget it exists in a time of crisis.
Make sure any employee whose role is named specifically in the plan consents to taking responsibility during a disaster, understands what they are charged with doing and are capable of doing what is being asked of them.
Make sure every stakeholder has access to your continuity plan. You can do this by keeping a physical copy of the plan in your office — for example, in a designated file cabinet, but also have digital files on your own servers as well as in the cloud. Do not forget to ensure all sensitive information is properly secured.
The actual contents of your plan will depend largely on your company’s individual needs. Still, there are some common areas a successful plan should address.
Plan Activation Parameters: This section defines when the plan will activate and when it should lapse. It should also specify under what circumstances activation and deactivation will occur. This leaves no doubt as to where the scope of the plan begins and ends.
Roles And Responsibilities: Without clearly defined roles, operations can descend into chaos during an emergency. The plan should outline the responsibilities of everyone involved — all employees should know what tasks they are responsible for. For example, this section could outline who is authorized to take certain actions during the disruption, who is authorized to make emergency purchases, who should speak to the media and other key details.
Maintaining Communications: Clear, timely and effective communication is paramount during a major disruption. This part of the plan should define how communications will be maintained, how often, who the key players will be and what methods will be used. Also, make sure to include backup methods, as often times main methods, such as e-mail and phone lines, might not be available.
Physical Records Backup: This section should outline the procedures to preserve physical records in the event of an emergency. One solution is to begin digitizing your records so the loss of physical files won’t be as catastrophic if it happens during a disaster such as a fire. However, for this to be effective, you will want to ensure your digital records are adequately protected as well.
Digital Records Backup: Most modern businesses keep at least some of their records digitally. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to ensure digital records are sufficiently backed up on outside servers so data is not lost in the event of a disaster. Be sure to back up data regularly.
Recovery Priorities: The plan can also outline in what order various procedures should be recovered. Your individual business needs to decide for itself which operations should take top priority, although vital business functions should generally come first.
Potential Recovery Timeline: You can include a section in the plan consisting of a basic timeline of events that should happen after a disaster occurs. You can outline different events and procedures for different types of incidents, such as a cyber attack or a natural disaster.
Important Contacts: A business continuity plan should include a list of contacts that will be important in the case of an emergency. These contacts can include investors, the media, local officials, law enforcement and others. A list with all contact information of current employees should also be included in your plan so anyone can be reached if needed.
Relocation Strategy: In the event that your business needs to relocate, this section should cover your relocation plan so there will be concrete steps to take while moving and beginning to operate in a new location. There should be strategies in place for both long-term and short-term relocation.
Putting Your Own Business Continuity Plan Into Motion
Many companies don’t see the need for a business recovery plan. But seeing as how many small businesses never reopen after a disaster, it is an essential component of keeping your business operations running during and after an unforeseen catastrophic event. This is especially true for businesses that operate in areas where certain natural disasters are common such as floodplains or hurricane-prone areas. Remember that these plans are strong guidelines, but alterations may need to be made during a disaster based on changing events. Having the right plan in place, however, will put you on the right path.