What Is a Business Continuity Plan?

What Is a Business Continuity Plan?

By George Rouse

Most organizations don’t appreciate the value of a business continuity plan until a disaster interrupts their routine operations and processes. Unanticipated hurdles can significantly affect business efficiency and production, and create costly setbacks that eventually impact revenue streams.

Even the simplest unexpected events like a power outage can disrupt business operations and lead to downtime. With a business continuity plan, managed service providers (MSPs) can help businesses to significantly minimize the impact of an unplanned event.

What is a business continuity plan?

A business continuity plan (BCP) is an organization-wide strategy, setting out the procedures and steps to maintain the business’s critical operations and keep them running during an unexpected interruption or a disaster. The process of creating this detailed plan is known as business continuity planning.

The BCP is more extensive than a disaster recovery plan, which primarily focuses on the restoration of data and access to the IT infrastructure following a disaster. BCPs include contingencies for business partners, assets, processes, operations, human resources, and every other business aspect that may be affected.

The BCP contains a detailed structure and a step-by-step guide for people to follow during an emergency. It includes a checklist that states data backups, supplies and equipment, and backup locations. It also contains contact information of key personnel, their substitutes, emergency responders and backup site providers.

Importance of a business continuity plan

Creating and implementing a business continuity plan is time-consuming, but all the efforts will be worth it if a disaster strikes. MSPs are routinely called on to design a BCP for their customers. Here’s why every business requires a business continuity plan:

Ensuring success of the disaster recovery

The primary objective of a business continuity plan is to prepare the organization for unplanned disasters. The unexpected nature of disasters makes their impact on business operations more devastating. Anything from accidents like data deletion by human error to ransomware attacks, to catastrophic events like earthquakes and floods can disrupt a business’ operations and impact its revenue stream. Studies show that nearly 40% of small businesses never recover from an unexpected event. To avoid this, a business continuity plan is crucial to help your business with disaster recovery.

Preserving revenue streams, corporate image and reputation

A comprehensive business continuity plan helps a business bounce back and continue its processes as usual. As an MSP, you can significantly reduce the impact of an unplanned event on your customers’ revenue stream if you know exactly how to handle the situation. When the stakeholders and competitors see how well your customer’s business tackled the disaster, it will significantly improve both their corporate image and reputation as well as your own.

Restoring valuable business data isn’t covered by insurance

While business assets and equipment may be insured, company data isn’t. The increasing number of cyber- and ransomware attacks makes data safety and recovery planning more crucial than ever. Many insurers do not cover losses related to data loss due to breaches, hacks, data center and server failures and backup losses. A business should be able to deal with any cyberattack — a BCP can help organizations effectively manage and store their data and help them to reduce downtime caused by a cyber breach or data loss.

Continuing the business

Sustaining business operations during and after a disaster is essential. Business continuity planning makes this possible by creating an outline of actions to be taken to keep the operations active, no matter what happens.

With BCP, MSPs can evaluate how your customers will respond in times of uncertainty. For instance, if the business workplace becomes inaccessible due to any reason, can employees work remotely? The business can gather resources and improve its technical and physical infrastructure to aid these changes during a disaster. A business continuity plan helps an MSP consider all possible disruptions your customers’ business might encounter in the future.

Components of a business continuity plan

Although each disaster or business interruption is unique and decisions depend on the scenario, a business continuity plan provides a blueprint to guide these actions and helps to streamline the operations. Essential elements of a successful business continuity plan are:

Well-defined team structure

A clear decision-making hierarchy is a must for the success of a business continuity plan. It helps avoid chaos regarding who has the decision-making authority during an unexpected event. MSPs should help create a business continuity team that covers the entire company, including IT, human resources, executive leaders, finance, communications, security and other relevant departments. Create support teams to handle related functions such as business readiness, campus response, communications and emergency response. Another important angle is to define a substitute - a second stakeholder to every key role - in case the primary stakeholder is not available during the disaster.

Establishing a plan

One of the most crucial elements for the success of a BCP is the accurate identification of potential disruptions that can affect business operations. Establish your plan by accounting for worst-case scenarios for better management. The BCP should prioritize the business operations, establish who will perform them, and how to reallocate work if the designated personnel are not available. The business continuity team should update the plan regularly to reflect any changes in the business location, risk management, business priorities and operations.

Testing the plan

A business continuity plan must be tested against challenging and credible scenarios. Understanding the testing procedures and criteria, and finalizing how to document the findings can contribute to the success. The BCP team should conduct comprehensive emergency simulations such as safety drills, crisis communications and workplace recovery processes to test its effectiveness. Recording and analyzing the test results can help improve the plan and prepare the business to tackle any disasters.

Crisis communication strategy

Incorporating pull and push systems to communicate promptly and establishing emergency notification procedures helps employees get credible information about the disaster and recovery plan. You should collect the contact information of all the stakeholders, including executive management, media, contractors, vendors, employees and clients. Preparing scripted communication that can be readily transmitted and updated helps speed up the communication process.

Educate and train workforces

MSPs should train all of the organization members to make them aware of the steps they should follow in an unplanned emergency. This reduces the chances of creating panic and chaos among the workforce. Some local and federal agencies can also help train employees for emergency response and guide them to handle disasters. Businesses can also conduct drills to familiarize their employees with standard procedures common for most disasters.

Business continuity planning with Datto

If any unforeseen disaster affects the operations of a business and its employees, the risk of loss of productivity, customers, revenue and reputation can cause irreparable damage. With a business continuity plan, you can position your customers’ businesses to survive severe disruptions by keeping their operations on track. Datto offers MSPs solutions to keep your customers up and running even during unexpected disasters.

Request a demo to discover how Datto SIRIS can help with a well-executed business continuity plan.

4 Business Continuity Planning Essentials

This eBook features the 4 essential aspects of Business Continuity for IT professionals.

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