A business continuity plan is a mandatory document in corporate management. A well-designed list outlining crisis response actions has helped many companies avoid downtime during the COVID-19 pandemic. If your organization does not yet have such a document, now it is time to draw it up. This article covers the essential elements that must be included in a business continuity plan and what you should pay attention to when preparing it.
A crisis can strike unexpectedly. To avoid risks, it is important to take necessary actions in time. That is the main task of the Business Continuity Plan (BCP). Such a plan allows companies to design and agree on the main crisis management procedures, maintain the company operation and quickly resume it in case of any failures. In fact, it is a set of rules that the entire company must follow to ensure the continuity of business processes and to protect its assets. Sometimes it includes disaster recovery planning.
What is a Business Continuity Plan?
Business Continuity Plan is a set of documents that helps your company to continue running after various incidents. It covers the step-by-step process you need to do to prevent business from the impact of potential crises – from natural disasters like floods or fire, to power failures, IT system theft, or illness of key staff. BCP focuses on protecting critical business functions so that you can continue to operate and implement a recovery strategy.
The strategy differs depending on the kind of crisis the business is facing. There are three main types of risks:
- Office or production facility loss – for example, when a natural disaster destroys an office or as with the pandemic, employees cannot go to work. In this case, the plan should include options for quickly transferring employees to remote work.
- Infrastructure losses – when a power failure or hacker attack disrupted the operation of critical systems: accounting, information systems, etc. Consider and outline in your plan alternative technical solutions to restore normal operations or support the most critical processes manually.
Every business is unique and the incident response will also be different. A business continuity plan provides a framework for making decisions, as well as a clear indication of responsible employees who will handle them.
Key steps to a successful business continuity planning
You must make a business continuity plan that outlines in writing how you will cope if a crisis occurs. It includes the following elements:
Establish an emergency team
During an emergency, it is important to act quickly and cohesively. Employees should not question who is responsible or has the authority to make a particular decision. Create an underlying business continuity team comprised of employees from across the organization, including senior management, IT staff, facilities and real estate, as well as physical security, communications, HR, finance, and other departments. Ensure all employees are aware of what they have to do.
Draw up a plan
Identify potential business process threats that could affect any branch of your organization, such as power outages. In the plan, consider worst-case scenarios rather than options for an individual incident so that the number of scenarios is kept to a minimum.
Prioritize the key business functions you need to get operating as quickly as possible; define who will perform them, and determine how operations will be reassigned when key employees are unavailable.
To make sure the key steps are followed, arrange the plan in the form of checklists.
Test your business continuity plan
Once your BCP is prepared, test how it will perform in the event of an emergency. Consider the situations that most likely can happen and cause disruptions. Be sure to measure and record test results and strive for constant improvement, whether the goals are to ensure application availability or to guarantee personnel safety. Conduct emergency simulation each year. This will help you identify any weaknesses and make changes if necessary.
Keep your plan updated
BCP is a living document – update it regularly to address the changing circumstances of your business. For example, even when you move to a new office or adopt new technologies and processes, you may face a completely different range of risks.
For companies that cannot afford downtime, the cloud is an essential component of business continuity. Cloud4U cloud disaster recovery and business continuity services provide continuous availability, automatic backups, fast and reliable support. Our cloud offerings include more redundancy and resiliency against potential failures than if your company could build and maintain in-house. If you would like to start your cloud journey, let us know!