Business Continuity

Business Continuity is a popular topic at the moment and is high on the list of priorities for businesses around the globe. Business Continuity is about ensuring your business continues to function in event of a disruption (foreseen or unforeseen). Many people think about the stereotypical disasters e.g. building catches fire, earthquake or even terrorist attack. The reality is the around 80% of computer system downtime is actually the result of the people who run the computer system i.e. your IT people and not terrorists.

So what should you do to ensure business can continue in the event of an “IT disaster”?

Before you begin make sure the basics are right

  1. ensure you have good backups. This is your first line of defence.
  2. ensure your servers are in a protected environment. UPS, computer friendly environment, secure room etc
  3. ensure your IT staff know what they are doing and act in the interest of your business.

Develop a Business Continuity Plan

  1. identify and document your key business processes e.g. order processing, banking
  2. identify the things those processes identified in step 1 depend on
  3. work out your threshold for pain i.e. how long can you live without each process
  4. calculate the business cost if that business process is not available e.g. lost sales, delayed payments etc
  5. document what you will do if the process is disrupted e.g. manual processing, alternative process

Following these basic steps you will soon get an idea of where your business is vulnerable and how long you can continue before the pain threshold is reached. Businesses with large suppliers or customers should consider getting those partner organisations involved in the plan as they may also be affected if disaster strikes.

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to Business Continuity, some businesses are happy to ride out a short outage and have manual processes while others require a duplication of IT infrastructure. Compliance with regulations is also an important consideration.

From a technical point of view, a number of technologies can be used to build the IT components of a Business Continuity solution. Virtualisation allows portability of servers and applications. Replication technologies allow data to be copied to a secondary location. Remote access technologies allow employees to work from outside the office. Backup technology can also be an important component of the solution.

Knowing what to do when a disaster occurs is a big part of BCP. Being prepared will reduce the time it takes to recover and reduces panic. It is important to test often and update your plan where necessary.

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