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The Importance Of Business Continuity

Business continuity is essential if a company intends to withstand the challenges that it will face in average and extreme economic times.  Extreme tests of continuity occur in flourishing times as well as destitute times. It’s important to have a business continuity plan to weather all the possible conditions.

 Shaking handsWhat is Business Continuity?

Action taken by a business to guarantee that critical functions are never sacrificed and are readily available for customers, vendors, compliance departments and its employees.  These critical functions are used to maintain the services offered, service consistency and the recoverability of the organization in the event of economic or other business environment challenges.  Continuity is built on a foundation of standards, guidelines and planning.  While business continuity is not disaster recovery or work area recovery, parts of the continuity plan can be extremely useful and implemented if necessary during these circumstances.  Any continuity plan should be designed with application, support and maintenance incorporated in the plan.  It should also be accompanied by a plan of dispersal throughout the employee base to make sure it is a companywide practiced methodology and a universally accepted mentality.

Steps to Designing A Business Continuity Plan

1. Know the parameters of your company’s needs

A) If your company is forced to close, how much downtime is to be expected in the event of a natural disaster, IT disruption, hardware failure or power outage.

B) How long can your company afford to be down and how much data can it afford to lose?

C) How are your workforce and your company interconnected? Can any parts work independently?

D) Consider advanced technologies for document storage and recovery.

E) After extensive planning, test the plan.

2. Know your key personnel and their backups as well as their contact information.

3. Identify which critical staff members can telecommute.

4. Maintain a list of critical support members: primary vendors and contractors, bankers, attorneys, IT consultants, utility companies, post office, police and fire department.

5. Create and maintain a list of all critical computers and other office equipment and software.

6. Have all critical documents readily available: articles of incorporation, leases, taxes, critical HR documents, banking information and other important legal papers.

7. Have contingency equipment lined up in the event of a disruption of your primary offices.

8. From the above list, create a list of “To do’s” and assign lists to individuals or small groups for completion.

9. Create a written version of the business continuity plan and print multiple copies to be stored in a binder labeled Business Continuity Plan (BCP) and distribute a copy to key personnel.

10.  Use the BCP to train every employee so that they are aware of the steps your company would take in the event of a disruption of business.

11. Test the Plan and plan to change the plan after the test is completed.

 After Testing the BCP

The testing of the BCP will expose its vulnerability to internal and external threats.  It should reveal any compromise to the recovery of the company.  The recovery should bring the company back to its original functioning capacity, which should allow them to maintain their competitive position with the competition.   After evaluating the testing results, changes should be implemented to address the failures and shortcomings of the plan.  A new revised BCP should be printed and distributed and the old BCP should be archived.

Overall, the concept of a business continuity plan is to provide a company the necessary tools to recover from an interruption of normal activity.   The company maintains its integrity, customer base, supply chain and network of other business relationships.  Most importantly, its employees know what’s expected in the event of a disruption due to natural disaster, loss of access to company premises, IT failure, and any other forced interruption.