4 Steps to business continuity planning

4 Steps to business continuity planning

Today’s organizations face an unprecedented number of threats ranging from weather-related events to cyberattacks to catastrophic hardware failures. The fact that they are dependent on increasingly complex networks and supply chains doesn’t make it any easier to prepare for a worst-case scenario. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try. Business continuity planning is a must for any organization, regardless of its size and industry.

Business continuity planning refers to the documented way in which you handle unforeseen events to minimize disruption and recover damaged, lost, or stolen assets. It’s not just about technology, either. In fact, it’s more about people and processes. Without a documented plan, your team won’t know what to do in an emergency, and you can’t count on insurance alone to recover from a serious incident.

With that in mind, here are the four main steps towards building a bulletproof continuity plan:

Step #1. Evaluate the risks

The first step is to ask “what’s the worst that can happen?”. Most businesses never reopen after having their premises wiped out by a natural disaster. Florida organizations face more threats than most in this respect, such as hurricanes, tropical storms, floods, and wildfires. However, cyberattacks and other IT-related incidents are far more difficult to quantify and qualify.

Most cyberthreats take the form of social engineering, although anyone can also be a target of malicious software and hacking. The level of risk facing your organization depends on how sophisticated your defenses are and whether there are any single points of failure. Other threat you must also account for include hardware failures and human error.

Step #2. Determine your priorities

Some businesses have systems and processes that are largely peripheral — nice-to-haves that the organization can continue functioning without. But something that every organization has is mission-critical infrastructure. Examples include payment and accounting systems and any data-bearing systems that hold sensitive data subject to retention and other compliance laws. If your business can’t operate without them, then those systems must always come first.

To evaluate the impact of a disaster and prioritize effectively, you’ll need to pay attention to two very important parameters: recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO). These refer to the maximum amount of time it should take to recover a system and the maximum amount of data you can afford to lose, respectively, before your business suffers irreparable damage. You’ll need to assign different values to systems based on importance.

Step #3. Get everyone involved

A common misconception among organizations is that business continuity is solely the responsibility of the IT department, or some other dedicated team that understands all the nuances of modern tech and how it impacts business operations. But in reality, the ability of a business to continue functioning during and after an incident is everyone’s responsibility.

The more people involved in your plan, the better prepared you’ll be for a disaster. You might also want to consider evaluating your plan alongside other businesses in your area to determine its effectiveness. Every plan should also include an up-to-date list of key personnel to contact, such as law enforcement, insurance companies, suppliers, and any stakeholders within your business.

Step #4. Test, refine, repeat

The worst thing that can possibly happen with a business continuity plan is facing a disaster only to find that your plan is no longer relevant. Considering the fast-changing and technology-driven nature of businesses, even a plan that’s slightly out of date can see you overshooting your recovery objectives by a mile. This means if your plan hasn’t been thoroughly tested and updated with every significant operational change, it will be all but worthless.

Your business continuity plan should be treated as a dynamic entity, something that you keep updated with every new variable in your organization. For example, if you change a supplier or insurance company, you’ll need to update your plan accordingly. Any changes to key personnel, including their roles in your company, should be diligently noted down. Finally, keep testing your plan and make sure everyone understands their responsibilities during and after an incident.

PC LAN Techs helps organizations in South Florida get more out of modern technology with an outsourced IT department they can depend on. Call us today to stop the stress.

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