In our day-to-day conversations with businesses, one topic that comes up regularly is the disaster recovery plan, particularly after the area has been on the receiving end of one of the nasty storms that are part of living in the Tri-State area. Disaster recovery is critical to the continued operation of your business in such an event, but it’s only part of the picture.
When a business owner wants to discuss disaster recovery with me, it’s generally because they realize that their data is important, and keeping their business operational is important. And they’re right. But disaster recovery is what lies at the end of a difficult road. If that business owner isn’t actively responding to a disaster at that moment, I change the conversation to business continuity.
Business Continuity vs. Disaster Recovery
Business continuity can be considered the long view on the subject of protecting your business data, and it’s not the same thing as a disaster recovery plan. In fact, the time to develop a business continuity plan is well before something happens – while realizing that something can happen at any time.
Business continuity is a plan encompassing the processes and procedures that need to be in place in order for a business to continue its essential functions during and after a disaster. By developing this plan, a business can prevent the interruption of its most critical services and recover from an event in the quickest and smoothest way possible.
Disaster recovery is, at its simplest, the deployment of these processes and procedures in the face of a disaster or disruption of business. It is the action set forth by the business continuity plan.
Why does your business need a business continuity plan?
Business continuity plans are holistic – that is, they are greater than the sum of their parts. They take a broad overview of your business, its processes, equipment, data, and critical functions, prioritizing these things so that in the event a disaster occurs, the steps you will need to take to recover are clearly outlined.
If your business is displaced by an event like a fire or a significant disaster in your area, having a business continuity plan will help you to assure that for the most part, your business doesn’t skip a beat. But it’s not just for an event that leaves your place of business uninhabitable. Someone operating heavy equipment in your area could sever a power line and leave your business without power. Your computer systems could be compromised by ransomware. A critical piece of equipment could fail. With a business continuity plan in place, you can respond to these scenarios more quickly and get back to business.
Business Continuity Basics
When it comes to developing a business continuity plan, there are various elements you will need to consider. Among them:
- Key personnel – not just your CEO, but anyone on your staff whose responsibilities help you to maintain daily operations
- Critical equipment and data – the equipment and information that make it possible for your business to operate
- Documentation – those documents that would allow you to start over from scratch, such as legal instruments, banking information, tax returns, system configurations, account credentials, and key vendor accounts, as well as a documented sequence for restoration of services
- Alternate work environments – identification of those employees who are able to telecommute if necessary while your business recovers
All of these elements will help you to determine where a business continuity plan begins and how it will be deployed, regardless of the emergency that occurs. Developing a business continuity plan may also reveal areas in your business that need better protection or further development.
Plan and Review
After the effort needed to develop a business continuity plan, it may be tempting to adopt a “set it and forget it” attitude toward your plan. But like any other process in your business, a business continuity plan will need regular tune-ups if it is to work as intended in the event of a business disruption. Your business continuity plan will need to include a regular review process that examines each of its elements so that adjustments can be made if necessary.
As you develop a business continuity plan, you will want to determine which outside companies will be helpful in restoring your business operations. Many businesses, such as Lieberman Technologies, offer specific services designed to protect your business data, both on a daily basis and in the event of an emergency. We can help you to establish a business continuity plan that takes into account many of the elements described here, and can help you to deploy a plan if the need ever arises.