Running and operating a business is one of the best things an enterprising person can do. However, maintaining a business always comes with some risks. Unfortunately, when things shut down or start going wrong, you may find yourself losing money a lot faster than you realize. To help protect your company, assets, employees, and financial security, here are six steps for establishing a business continuity plan to keep you afloat in times of crisis.
What Is a Business Continuity Plan?
Before you start putting together your business continuity plan (BCP), you should look at what this plan is and the primary idea behind it. Your company’s BCP is a series of steps, processes, tools, specialists, or anything else you may need to get things running as quickly as possible in an emergency.
A stable business continuity plan should enable you to analyze, prevent, and most importantly, recover from as many threats to your company as possible. There’s an old saying that time is money, so you want to lose as little time as possible if something goes amiss.
1. Consider Your Potential Risks
No matter what type of business you run or what manner of company you are in, there are potential risks that could shut you down. For example, if you run a business where you take a lot of incoming phone calls, consider what may happen if the phone lines go down. Business owners should also include the risk of natural disasters depending on their region. For example, a company in Canada may have to deal with heavy blizzards, while a company in Florida may have to consider hurricane damage.
Some of the most common risks for any company include hardware failure, human error, outside attacks, natural disasters, or power outages. Discovering which problems are the most considerable risks for your specific company is an invaluable first step in creating your business continuity plan.
2. Conduct a Business Impact Analysis
A business impact analysis is one of the essential steps for establishing a business continuity plan. At its core, an impact analysis is a carefully laid-out plan that helps owners figure out how much money or time the aforementioned risk factors may cost them.
How much money would your company lose if everything shut down for two days? Is that something you can recover from? Understanding how much time or money you can lose through unforeseen circumstances helps you figure out what your business can bounce back from before the impact is insurmountable. Many business impact analyses create a recovery time objective (RTO), which concerns how much time you can lose, and a recovery point objective (RPO), which concerns your monetary losses.
3. Strengthen Potential Weak Spots
Once you understand your most significant risks, you can better plan to protect those weak spots and try to keep things running more efficiently. Using the earlier example, if your business relies heavily on incoming calls, do you have a system to forward calls to company mobile devices if the phone lines go down? Do you have an enterprise cell phone signal booster to ensure those phones maintain a stable and reliable signal? When you know what your risks are and how much they can hurt your bottom line, you can make plans to reduce the chance of these risks holding you up.
4. Protect and Duplicate Your Data
Nearly every business has valuable data, including employee information, customer records, receipts, tax forms, and other vital information. The unfortunate reality is that in the digital age, this information is always at some risk of cyberattacks, hackers, or software failure that could wipe it all out. To keep your records safe, back up your data. A helpful tip is always to have at least two digital copies on-site, some physical copies on-site, something kept off-site, and something stored on a digital platform like the cloud.
5. Have a Recovery Plan
A critical factor in your business continuity plan is to incorporate a disaster recovery plan. This plan entails the individual steps that you list to bounce back from your potential risks. For example, does your company have a backup generator for when a snowstorm knocks out the power? If so, how long does it take for it to turn on?
Likewise, if human error deletes the past six months of client transactions, how soon can you access your backup files and recover the missing data?
When you look at your RTO and RPO from your analysis, does your recovery plan account for that amount of time and money? If your company can’t bounce back from two days of unexpected downtime, then an ideal recovery plan gets things running again before that time limit comes to pass.
6. Frequently Test Your BCP
There are two ways to see if you’ve prepared your business for the risks and created a stable recovery plan that accounts for potential mishaps. The first method is to wind up in the deep end from an actual disaster occurring. Obviously, this isn’t the best way to check if everything is working. The second method is to run regular drills. For example, some services will work with your company to simulate a full data shutdown, or you can try flipping the power off yourself.
Running regular tests is the only surefire way to check that everything can still run smoothly in faan emergency. In addition, having some hands-on preparation can help you feel confident that your business continuity plan is up to date. It also ensures everyone at your company understands the risks and what they need to do.
Your business continuity plan should change and grow as your company does. Therefore, it’s worth regularly checking it to see if there are any new dangers, challenges, factors to consider, or changes to your RTO and RPO. You can perform regular business impact analyses to see if you need to adjust your BCP to keep your company ready for anything in the coming years.
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