Unplanned events happen in business all the time: a staff member can phone in sick, a computer can break, a customer order can get lost, a project can overrun. As a business leader you have to be adept at dealing with this ebb and flow. What about when a major problem occurs, though? How would your business survive major disruption or disaster?
This could happen in a number of different areas:
- Staff – particularly if you are a small business. In a large organisation, three or four people leaving or becoming unavailable for work is an everyday issue that has to be dealt with. In a small business with less than 10 people, losing four members of staff is a significant event.
- Premises – fire, water damage, break-ins, vandalism etc, or loss of power for a prolonged period of time
- Equipment – failure of equipment including POS equipment, vehicles, machines in a production line, etc
- Technology – data loss, issues with your website, or other technological failures
The way to deal with these issues is to have a plan. This is often referred to as business continuity planning or business continuity management. It involves identifying the areas where your business is at risk, and putting in place processes or solutions to mitigate them.
Not having such a plan in place can have a dramatic impact on a business. This includes:
- Business failure – if you lose too much money before you recover the situation
- Loss of income – the question in a business disaster is how much income you will lose, rather than if you will lose income
- Loss of customers – for example, you could have insurance to recover the physical losses you suffer as the result of a fire, but while you are unable to offer a service your customers could move elsewhere – permanently
- Reputation damage – how will potential business disasters affect your reputation?
- Legal penalties – some business disasters can result in fines or other penalties
- Staffing – the impact of disasters on your team can be varied, including staff leaving
- Increased costs – in disaster recovery, increased insurance premiums, and other areas
Having a plan to maintain business continuity involves ensuring that critical services are maintained, and that your team understands their responsibilities.
Here is an example of how you can do that:
- List and prioritise the critical functions in your business
- List the risks that your business faces – issues with staff, fire, technology failures, etc
- Write a plan for how you will deal with the critical functions if one of the risks materialises
- Put in place the extra resources or equipment required to deliver the plan (see below)
- Discuss the plan with your team and make sure each individual understands what they need to do
- Test the plan by running simulated scenarios
The solutions you put in place in point four of the list above will depend on your business and the risk that you are planning for, but it could include any of the following
- Additional staff training
- Cloud backup solutions
- Getting access to a generator
- Plans to allow staff to work from home
- Getting access to an alternative building
- Hiring replacement equipment, vehicles or machinery
- Additional layers of IT security
- Additional staff training in IT security (because most IT breaches are the result of people, not equipment)
- Relationships with other businesses or contractors who can step in during periods of staff shortage
- And many more
Crucially, plans should also be put in place to communicate with your customers. One of the biggest issues that customers have when problems arise, particularly major problems, is a lack of information. So make sure you include a plan to effectively communicate during a disaster or major period of disruption.
Most businesses suffer at some stage from a significant event that could be described as a disaster, so having a plan in place is important.
Need some IT Disaster Recovery Assistance?
If you wish to discuss your IT systems business continuity and disaster recovery or require guidance in setting this up contact our IT Services team and we can happily assist.