Expect the unexpected to ensure your business can withstand interruption.
No business is immune for interruption, be it a freak weather event, a fire or an IT outage. A Recovery Plan is essential to minimize the impact to you and your business.
Disaster recovery is an increasingly important component of a company’s internal control system. As such, it is an area that receives a great deal of attention in larger companies, particularly plcs, where there are shareholders who need assurance that their investments are well-protected.
But disasters are just as likely to strike in small businesses, and sometimes even more so. And for a small business, the consequences can be even more significant. From IT and power backups to insurance and temporary outsourcing, we examine some critical aspects to business continuity planning.
It Pays to Plan
The fatalists among us might argue that if disaster strikes, the business will be in big trouble regardless of what plans are in place. This is perhaps true, but there is no doubt that a sound Business Continuity Plan can significantly reduce the magnitude of that trouble. This is why continuity planning is not just a sound business practice; it is also a requirement stipulated by many B2B customers, who expect their suppliers to have suitable plans in place and embedded in their Quality Management Systems.
It is also a certainty that if disaster strikes, there will be a certain amount of panic and chaos. Having a clearly documented, step-by-step plan that sets out who is doing what will help to bring a degree of order.
Buildings and Infrastructure
The first area that crosses most people’s minds when it comes to a disaster is some serious event that has a physical effect on property. This includes fire, flood, earthquake or that ever-popular example of a plane landing on the building.
While a serious event of this nature will have an inevitable impact on the business, this does not mean we are powerless to react and to mitigate that impact. For example, a serious flood or heavy snow might interrupt the power supply, which can be mitigated by use of a generator.
And even the effects of a major fire or some other event that completely destroys a building can still be mitigated by advanced planning. Business interruption insurance is available and should certainly be considered, but there are still mitigations that can be implemented with some thoughtful planning.
For example, if your business relies on plant and equipment, the Business Continuity Plan should detail where replacements can be sourced. And to ensure existing orders are met, consider how these might be outsourced to competitors as a short term measure.
Businesses in the service sector can often continue to operate at some level from almost anywhere as long as there is an internet connection. From short-term office lets to meeting at a coffee shop, it should all be decided in advance and detailed in the Plan.
IT and Data
The other major aspect to disaster recovery concerns systems and data. This is an area in which businesses are generally better organised and more comfortable. Most of us have some sort of data backup, whether it is virtually to a cloud or physically to hard disks.
The IT data recovery system should form a part of the overall Disaster Recovery Plan, however, and should still consider all contingencies. For example, where physical backup media are used, these should be stored off-site so that they can still be accessed in the event of a fire or physical disaster.
Prepare to Succeed
Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying that if we fail to prepare, we prepare to fail. Create a Disaster Recovery Plan now, and take comfort in the knowledge that your business is prepared to succeed, whatever circumstances the world might throw at it.
Sam Johnson is edito-in-chief of the Essex Business Hub, a business support network that provides advice to start-ups and SMEs in and around the county.