Business continuity is a term that’s growing in popularity in risk management circles, but what does it mean exactly?
The following is a list of common questions about business continuity and how it affects an organization and the people within it.
What is business continuity?
If we break down the word, continuity is defined by Merriam Webster as “the quality of something that does not stop or change as time passes: a continuous quality.” Business continuity takes that definition and applies it to the business world. Business continuity is the capability of your organization to continue to function as normal when faced with potentially disruptive incidents.
How does business continuity affect me?
Business continuity affects all levels of an organization, from the CEO down to the systems analyst. If something happens to interrupt your business, it can have devastating repercussions. If you’re a hospital and suffer a system failure, patients’ lives are literally at risk. If you run an e-business, any loss of ability to process financial transactions means a loss of revenue that could potentially put you out of business. Ultimately, the more revenue at risk per minute of disruption, the more your business is at risk to survive.
How can I make sure my business thrives in spite of disruptions?
First, you’ll want to conduct a Business Impact Analysis. A BIA can help you determine the magnitude and timescale of a disruption or failure to your business, therefore allowing you to start determining recovery solutions. There are many kinds of scenarios that should be considered when conducting your BIA.
After you’ve conducted your BIA, you need to come up with a business continuity plan to further address recovery strategies outlined in your impact analysis. Based on what you uncovered, it should include which processes and systems are mission-critical and provide information to keep them running. Whether you’re a business or technology executive, it’s important to work with other members of your organization rather than coming up with a plan in isolation. Collaboration is key to helping you and your colleagues follow the proper procedures to right the ship after a disaster.
I already have a plan. Am I all set?
If you already have a plan in place, you’ve taken a huge step. But just because one is already written doesn’t mean you can check off business continuity from your to-do list. It’s continuous for a reason. Is your plan up to date? If you added new staff to your team or opened a new office branch, you’ll want to include those people, technologies and processes into your plan if need be. Have you tested your plan to make sure it works as designed? If not, then it is only as good as the paper it’s written on. Regular testing is the key to making sure it works in a time of need.
How important is disaster recovery to my plan?
While there are many parts to your total business continuity plan, the ability to get back online quickly after an incident such as a server outage or a natural disaster is key to keeping your mission-critical applications running. Having a disaster recovery plan in place can keep your business ahead of the game when something unexpected comes up that threatens the continuity of your organization. When you already have a backup in place and ready to go, it lessens the impact of a disaster and you can get back to what you do best, whether that’s managing the IT department or the entire company.
The overall process of mapping out your business continuity plan, including identification of key operations components, developing a plan and testing it, is an involved, long-term project that can take anywhere from 12-18 months, depending on the size and complexity of your organization. It’s a large investment, but the peace of mind you’ll get knowing you’ve taken precautions to protect your business is even greater.
Ready to get started or update your business continuity plan?
The federal government can help you develop your own continuity plan (http://www.ready.gov/business/implementation/continuity).
Learn more about business continuity by downloading our disaster recovery white paper.
Next time we’ll talk more about disaster recovery and how it is an integral part of your overall business continuity plan.
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