A step-by-step guide in starting a business continuity plan

A step-by-step guide in starting a business continuity plan

Imagine that you suddenly get attacked by a ransomware or that your entire IT infrastructure gets destroyed because of a fire. Will your business still be able to operate normally the following day? If not, then you need a robust business continuity (BC) plan.

A BC plan is a set of guidelines that tell you what to do in case disasters strike. This includes defining whom to call for help and what actions to take once you’ve realized there’s a problem. By having one on hand, not only will you avoid losing thousands or even millions of dollars due to lost work opportunities, but it will also give your business an edge over other companies that don’t have a BC plan. As such, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to help you create your own BC plan.

#1. Determine all critical resources

One question you should always ask yourself during this step is this: “What is crucial to my business’s operation?” This answer mainly depends on your business. A shipping company, for instance, may prioritize order requests and inventory management software over emails. Meanwhile, international companies may value email above all else.

A thorough assessment of your IT infrastructure will help you identify which assets are essential and should be recovered first in case of disasters.

#2. Prepare your IT

No matter how recent your backups are, you won’t be able to retrieve it if your technology doesn’t support it. To prevent this, regularly examine your bandwidth usage and requirements, make sure your database and backup networks are compatible, and update your software. This will ensure everything you’ve backed up is retrievable during the recovery process.

#3. Set your recovery point/time objectives (RPO/RTO)

An ideal recovery plan should explicitly state how much downtime and data loss your company can tolerate. Knowing these details can help you better prepare for any disaster and determine which technology should be recovered first during the actual incident. For example, if you determine that losing access to your customer service software for more than an hour will lead to catastrophic failure, your business should prioritize its recovery over less-critical systems that can be recovered 24 hours after a disaster.

#4. Test your BC plan

One misconception many companies make is a BC plan will always work perfectly, even if it was devised several months ago. Research found that only 9% of businesses test their BC plan every one to five months and 29% test it every six to 12 months. What they don’t realize is BC plans and backup equipment can fail at any time. That’s why it is recommended that you regularly test your BC plan two to four times a year; more if you’ve recently experienced high employee-turnover for key positions, implemented major IT changes, or changed any business processes.

There are three exercises that many businesses use to test their BC plan:

  • Tabletop exercises involves role-playing disaster scenarios with different teams to test how well they know the BC plan.
  • Structured walkthrough is when each member meticulously goes through each component of the plan and tests them against a specific disaster. Any weaknesses found during this test will then be improved upon and updated in the BC plan.
  • Disaster simulation testing is when you conduct a simulation of the disaster. This means planning controlled downtime and testing whether data can be recovered quickly.

Unless you have your own qualified IT expert, we recommend enlisting a managed IT services provider like Refresh Technologies to build your BC plan. They’ll be able to thoroughly assess your IT, devise BC plans that fit your business, test it out, and provide prompt IT support when a disaster strikes, ensuring fast recovery. If you’re interested in getting your own BC plan, call us at 704-374-0107 or send us a message.

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