Organisations are moving away from the typical office hours into a 24×7 operation to service the increasing demands of their customers. This change means that the cost of downtime is growing exponentially from an operational and financial standpoint, makes business continuity an essential element of modern business. This article looks to explain 5 of the key elements of business continuity and how they come together to form a plan which will minimise the threat of any downtime.
The key to an effective business continuity plan is preparation. The number of events that could disrupt your business activity is considerable and each of these need to be fully understood in order to effectively plan a response.
Is a key in-house server failing, are the telephone systems down, or has there been a fire or flood preventing access to the building? All these scenarios need to be taken into consideration, with a full understanding of just how they will disrupt your business. For instance a telephone system glitch may only last for 1 hour while it is being repaired under a contracted SLA, but an event which prevents access to your building could potentially last for a considerable number of weeks.
Whenever a situation arises that is disruptive to your business activity it is imperative that you act quickly to stop the situation escalating. This may or may not be something you can control depending on the event, but having a plan in place regardless can save a lot of time and money in the long run.
At this stage it is important to not spend too much time trying to analyse why something happened. This can hold up your continuity procedure and potentially increase the amount of downtime suffered.
This should be one of the larger sections of your business continuity plan. Here all the possible disruptive scenarios that you have previously identified need to be laid out with an explanation of how you would respond in order to carry on with your regular daily activities.
This could range from the internal maintenance of a server, to replacement hardware being installed with the help of contracted teams. Depending on the downtime expected, the best viable option could be to relocate critical teams to a workplace recovery centre which would have access to all of your data and systems in order for you to carry on working almost immediately.
Analysis and development
As previously discussed, it may be tempting to try and investigate the root cause of the issue whilst carrying out the damage mitigation, however, this is not the best time to begin that process. Only when you have mitigated the threat and put in place your recovery strategy should you begin the analysis. In some situations the fault may be unavoidable, for instance blackcircles.com, an Onyx customer, couldn’t access their workplace due to icy conditions making the roads extremely dangerous for staff. In this situation they utilised our network of workplace recovery sites to relocate staff to a safely accessible facility.
Once you have fully understood the underlying issues you begin to develop strategies which will address these potential weaknesses to your continuity, and put in place procedures that will prevent them from disrupting your activity in the future. This can include collocating internal servers into a dedicated data centre, utilising an offsite cloud backup solution to always have a copy of your data, and using a workplace recovery facility to access workstations and phone lines just as though you were in your own office.
All of the elements we have previously discussed must be supported with efficient communication as without it, the plan could be completely ineffective. If someone besides those directly responsible for business continuity discovers a potential disruptive fault what should they do? These actions should be laid out in the business continuity plan and distributed throughout the entire business.
What also needs to be considered is how you communicate the events of a disruption to everyone involved. If for instance you need to relocate members of staff to a workplace recovery facility how is this communicated through to key employees and stakeholders? Consideration also needs to be made for potential long-term relocation. Will this impact suppliers who need to deliver products to your business, and would you need to inform customers of a change of location?
While this article doesn’t go into detail on every single element of a business continuity plan, it should form a strong foundation upon which you can begin to build your continuity strategy. If there is anything you would like to discuss around this topic please get in touch to speak to an Onyx business continuity expert.