Business continuity is the process of establishing a plan that will ensure that business functions are still available to stakeholders during a time of disaster. It is best to think about it as an action that happens before disasters in effort to reduce or eliminate downtime if these occur. This has become increasingly important to many businesses. A common problem, however, is ensuring that your plan will work in reality.
Here are six tips to help ensure that your business continuity efforts will work.
1. Know your risks When creating a business continuity plan, or updating existing operations, it is a good idea to step back and as a group – with key staff – identify all possible risks to your organization. It’s important to focus on risks both from within and outside the organization. No risk is too small, even if it and issue that could only affect one person or department.
You should also try to detail the consequences and what could happen should these defined risks come to fruition. This will give you a better idea of areas that need to be improved and potential problematic systems or positions. From here, you can also better develop a more solid plan that has a higher chance of succeeding.
2. Ensure your plan matches your business Because business continuity planning can be complex, many small businesses prefer to use ready made plans and templates. The problem with these is that they may not provide exactly what you need – most of these templates are fairly general. While we aren’t saying you shouldn’t use a template, and they can save time and money, you need to be sure that you either find a template that covers your business, or you adapt it to fit your business needs.
Pay close attention to where the plan fits in with your company, the scale of your company compared to the plan, available resources, where your work and how your employees work (remotely, onsite, both, etc.). If these differ from the template or current plan, you should take steps to modify or update your strategy to ensure it meets your needs.
3. Be sure that all staff buy in It is usually pretty easy to get the staff under your command to buy into a business continuity plan – after all, they may have helped modify or come up with the plan. What you have to ensure is that all upper management and stakeholders are not only aware of the plan, how it will work and when it is to be activated, but also support it.
One way to do this is to have a signoff sheet where all managers and key employees sign their names to ensure that they understand and support the plan. If you have holdouts, you should work with them to figure out what aspects of the plan they disagree with and work out if they have better or alternative solutions to bring to the table.
4. Keep your plan up to date A common mistake many businesses make is to develop a great continuity plan, but then not update it. Businesses and the climate around them are always changing. Having a plan that was workable five years ago will likely not meet your exact needs today.
To ensure that your business continuity plan is viable it is recommend that you update it on a yearly basis, or certainly when you undergo a big change in your business. Be sure to pay attention to whom has changed roles, any new systems introduced or retired and any changes to the core business
5. Communication is key Communication is a crucial part of any business. In order to have a continuity plan that actually works, you need to ensure that you communicate with all staff, and that they know not only their roles but who to report to and what to do if they are unable to reach the office, for example.
It is also be a good idea to communicate with those outside of the business who could be affected by a disaster that impacts your company. Generally, all parties involved should know and have access to the plan and be informed of updates or changes. Employees should also see how disasters might affect not only the company and their individual role in it, but people outside of the organization as well.
6. Practice Think of any professional athlete. They didn’t get to where they are today by sitting around and not doing anything. They practiced their sport and took note of what needed to be improved upon, then went and worked on their game. The idea here is that you should practice implementing your plan on a regular basis. The timing depends on your business and propensity to danger. If you have defined a high amount of risk to your organization, it is a good idea to practice implementing the plan once every two to three months. Most organizations should be fine with twice a year.
After each practice, teams should get together for experience sharing to talk about what they noticed worked well and what needs to be improved on. Then changes can be implemented and the plan evolved.
If you are looking to integrate a business continuity plan in your business, or improve on an existing plan, contact us today to see how we can create a viable, workable solution that will minimize negative impact on your business.
Each year there seems to be an increasingly large number of disasters that affect an ever growing population. It would therefore make sense to take action to prepare your business for disasters, whatever they may be. To prepare, most business owners or managers will adopt a Business Continuity Plan. While this is a good idea, there have been stories of these plans failing – something you probably don’t want.
Here are five common reasons Business Continuity efforts fail.
1. Inefficient communication When it comes to business, one of the most important keys to success is communication. The same can be said for Continuity plans – if the plan and actions expected aren’t communicated effectively and understood by all parties involved, there is little to no chance that it will succeed.
To minimize this from happening, you should take steps to ensure that you clearly communicate, orally or through email, the plan with all parties involved. They should have on-demand access to it, and should be clear about what their role is and how they are expected to act. You should also take steps to ensure that departments and representatives are prepared and understand all aspects of the plan.
2. Lack of testing When it comes to anything related to IT, testing and retesting is essential. Many businesses take careful steps to implement a sound Continuity plan that covers the organization, but they fail to test it to see if it actually works. This could be a costly mistake.
It would therefore be a good idea to test your plan in a number of situations at least twice to three times a year. It would be a good idea to do spot tests that involve all parties so they can not only get experience but find potential holes and issues that need to be addressed.
3. Lack of a complete plan To be prepared, you must have a complete plan, that way you will be ready for almost anything. Numerous businesses have failed because they simply weren’t prepared enough. Or their plan lacked crucial elements that would have prepared their business for an eventual disaster. Other examples of failure due to lack of complete plans is the fact that companies focused on their systems only, and forgot to plan for their employees’ needs.
Planning can be tough. The best way to ensure that you are ready for disaster is to work with an IT partner who has experience in Continuity Planning. They will work with you to create a plan that your company can rely on.
4. Poor expectations When planning for Business Continuity, you need to think outside of the box. Many businesses have solid plans, but these plans are based on assumptions like: The power will remain on, Internet and landlines will remain connected, Mobile networks will work, staff will come into work, other parties involved won’t be affected, etc. In smaller disasters, this could be the case, but in larger disasters you can bet that at least one of the above things will happen.
The best way to develop your expectations is to look at each scenario on its own, as you develop your plan. For example, how will you deal with Internet being down? Or, how will you operate with staff who can’t make it into the office or backup location?
5. No updates to the plan Almost everyone knows that the world changes, often quickly. Yet, some businesses fail to acknowledge these changes and update their BCP accordingly. It would be a good idea to audit and update your plan on a regular basis, usually about once a year, to take into account any changes.
These changes could include new buildings next door, new equipment, new staff, etc. The key here is to ensure your plan is as up-to-date as possible.
If you are struggling with developing your Business Continuity Plan, or are thinking about adopting one, please contact us today to see how we can help your business be prepared for anything.
Disasters can strike at any time and in any form. They can be as small as a single computer, crashing with a day’s worth of unsaved work, to as large as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011 which took out towns and cities. Regardless of their size, it’s certainly seems that disasters are happening with increasing frequency, and this highlights the need for a disaster recovery and preparedness plan. To capitalize on this, some companies have introduced DRaaS. Bud do you know what this is?
DRaaS stands for Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service, and is a cloud based service offered by an increasing number of tech companies. The concept is similar to other cloud based services like Software-as-a-Service, where the solution is delivered and managed by an IT partner.
DRaaS is a Disaster Recovery solution provided by a vendor that businesses can purchase. With most DRaaS solutions the vendor helps develop and implement a disaster recovery plan that fits the needs of the company that they will then manage to ensure that the systems are running properly.
When a disaster strikes, the vendor can work with you to help get your systems back online as fast as possible. Often this is quicker than other solutions, largely because the vendor’s systems will likely not be affected by the disaster.
It is for this reason that many companies are becoming increasingly interested in this form of disaster recovery solution. Many smaller businesses also seem more open to it because it’s a managed service. As these businesses likely don’t have a disaster recovery specialist on staff, finding a solution that works and is affordable can be a challenge. Therefore, going with a managed service like this is a big draw.
What to look for when picking a DRaaS vendor If you are looking for a vendor to help you with your disaster recovery plans, or for a DRaaS solution, you should look for a solution that:
Working with a vendor who provides a disaster recovery plan and service is only one option at your disposal. If you are in the process of updating your plan, or would like to implement one, contact us today to see how our solutions could help you and your business.
For many countries, August through to October is severe weather season. From wildfires in the western US, to typhoons in Asia, many regions see a rise in disasters during these months. In an effort to increase awareness FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Association) has named September as National Preparedness Month. Are you prepared for a disaster that affects your business though?
When it comes to preparing for a disaster, especially a natural disaster, there are so many things you need to plan for and prep. Frankly, it can be overwhelming. We found that a good place to start is to prepare two aspects of your business: Your employees and your physical assets.
Tips for preparing your employees Many business owners view their employees as the most valuable assets. If a disaster strikes you will rely on them to not only execute any plans you have developed but to also help keep the business running. Unfortunately, if the disaster is big enough your employees will also be affected. With this in mind, you need to ensure that you prepare your staff as well as your business.
Here’s four tips on how you can do that:
Tips for preparing your business and physical assets While your employees are your most valuable asset, they likely aren’t very productive without a physical place to work – your office or business premises. In order for any disaster-oriented plans to truly work, it’s a good idea to take steps to secure your physical assets and safeguard your company. Here’s four tips on how:
If you would like to learn more about how to prepare your business for disaster, why not check out these excellent resources on FEMA’s Business Preparedness site. Or, you could always contact us to see how our systems can help ensure you remain operational during any disaster.
Disasters can happen at any time and be of any level of severity. For this reason, it is always advisable to implement a business continuity or disaster recovery plan. By having a plan, you stand a higher chance of surviving a disaster. However, if something negative does happen the key to remaining in operation is communication. This can be harder than it seems.
Here are five tips on how to ensure better communication during a disaster.
1. Have more than one way to communicate During a disaster, you have to assume that communications will be affected in some way. Therefore, you should take steps to ensure that your company has more than one way to communicate with employees and people outside of your organization.
This could include mobile phones that are used only for disasters, extra phone lines, VoIP, etc. The key here is to identify how potential disasters could affect communications and look for alternative methods or ways to communicate.
2. Coordinate responders During some disasters, it’s not the communications themselves that cause further problems, but uncoordinated responders. In times of disaster, people react based on what they think will work best in the moment.
If you have not taken steps to ensure that all responders are on the same page, and know what they should be doing to not only carry out the recovery plan but also communicate, you could face a total breakdown.
When developing your strategy, take the time to ensure that the selected responders and communications leaders are up-to-date and are aware of what is expected of them and how they should go about communicating during a disaster. Cross-training employees so they can carry out other roles if necessary, can be a good back up too.
3. Coordinate responses During a disaster, you will have to communicate with parties outside of your business. This may be the media, shareholders or other businesses. If you have a disgruntled employee, or one who is not aware of the full situation when answering questions, the impact of the disaster could be exacerbated.
It is beneficial to develop standard responses and methods of responding during a disaster. As a small to medium business owner it is tempting to take on this role yourself. However, while you should definitely be a key person to respond to questions from parties outside of your business, having other people in place who can cover this role might help mitigate disaster.
4. Communicate outward In times of disaster it can be easy to forget that other people and businesses rely on you. If they are not fully aware of what is going on, there is a chance of compounding problems and even losing business.
When disaster strikes, your company should take steps to communicate with parties outside of your organization as to what is going on, what you are doing to fix the problem and if there is any help/changes you need. After all, the more people who are informed of the situation, the greater the chance that support will be available and more effective.
5. Be honest There is a temptation to put spin on a disaster within your organization and embellish the truth, or play it down so as to not make your business appear in a bad light. This could cause further problems though if important people find out that you have not been totally upfront and transparent.
All it would take is one employee mentioning a hidden fact to a friend and the truth could come out and potentially damage your brand reputation and possibly lose you business. Therefore, when communicating with outside parties and with your employees, be honest and open as to what is really going on. This will make communication easier, and could even help lessen the long-term impact of the disaster.
If you are looking for communications systems or disaster recovery plans that will help see you through any disaster, please contact us today to see how our solutions can support you.
Business is becoming increasingly complex, with the majority of systems and data now being stored online or on a computer. Because of this, a disaster such as one that knocks out power or even destroys your equipment could be devastating. Disasters put all business data at risk and that’s why so many businesses take steps to protect their data. But there are still risks that they may miss.
If you are looking to protect your data, one of the best ways to do so is to be informed, and learn from the mistakes other companies make when they develop data protection or Business Continuity Plans.
1. Not backing up data It may seem like common sense when preparing for a disaster or developing a continuity plan that you should back up your data. However, a 2011 study from Semantic found that only half of businesses back up more than 60% of their data. Other businesses don’t back up data or only back up certain systems. This means that if these businesses are faced with a disaster, they could lose up to 40% of their data. Some businesses could lose all of it.
Many experts suggest that businesses not only back up their data, but take more of an all-or-nothing approach. All data should be backed up so that should a disaster happen you can guarantee that nothing will be lost.
2. Failing to protect off site data Business is becoming increasingly spread out, with many employees working from outside of the office, or on their own systems. People who telecommute or use their own systems usually store important data on their local machines. When a company goes to protect or back up their data, some may forget to back up data on machines outside of the company premises.
What’s more, some industries have regulations stating that you must back up data from all end-points (e.g., computers and devices) regardless of their location. So, when you are backing up data, be sure that you also back up data on systems that aren’t in the office.
3. Not backing up data consistently The data in your business is always evolving and growing. Therefore, you need to ensure that it is backed up regularly. Because backups take time, there is a higher chance for them to fail. If you only back up once a year without checking, and disaster strikes, you could find that your data is incomplete, inaccessible or out of date. This may make any recovered data essentially useless.
The question is, how often should you back up your data? For most small businesses, a full backup at least once a week is suggested. If you work with client data on a regular basis or in a regulated industry, daily backups would likely be the best plan.
4. Using outdated backup methods Just because you back up your data doesn’t mean it will always be available, especially if you use older backup methods such as data tapes or disks. These physical backups can be lost or even destroyed in a disaster and possibly even stolen. You may want to employ a more modern data backup solution that is more reliable, such as cloud backup.
That being said, you don’t have to give up older methods as these can come in handy, especially if you are going to be operating without the Internet for an extended period of time. By employing more than one solution, you can cover all bases while ensuring that data is largely backed up and available.
If you are looking to learn more about how you can protect your data, please contact us today to see how our systems and solutions can help.
Backing up your systems and the data contained within it should be a task your business does on a regular basis. However, when it actually comes to backing up your systems, you have a number of options available to you, and it can be tricky picking which one to go with. From tape to cloud, you should be aware of the main options and what they offer.
When it comes to backing up your systems, there are three common platforms that are used:
Some businesses use all three, while others stick to using just one. While each of these options do the same thing – essentially backing up your data – there are differences between each platform.
Tape-based backup is the oldest forms of data backup available to businesses, and has been in use since the mid 1960s. Many older, or well established businesses, likely have used this method for a long time, so they may find it easier to stick with it, largely because no infrastructure upgrades are needed.
While this method may seem a little anachronistic, there are still manufacturers creating backup tapes – most notable Sony, who recently introduced a new tape system that can store up to 185TB (terabytes) of data on one tape. That’s about equal to the storage capacity of around 11,800 16GB iPhone 5s.
The vast majority of businesses using this system do so as a secondary backup. They use another system to back up their data, and then back up this backup data onto physical tape which can then be moved off-site and stored in a safe location, should disaster strike.
The biggest drawback of tape stem from the fact that it is an older method and it takes longer to back up data compared to other systems. The tapes themselves are also more fragile and can be prone to failure, leading to corrupt data and unreadability. Finally, if you do need to recover from a tape backup, you are going to have to do so in a specific manner, which means it will take longer to recover your systems than other methods.
Disk-based backup solutions use a variety of disk storage units to hold backups of your data. The most popular forms of disk storage used are hard drives or optical disks. Because these systems use more modern storage methods, backup and recovery can generally be carried out far quicker than with tape systems, and can be more reliable, especially if you take care of your systems and the disks the backups are stored on.
The added benefit with these systems is that hard disks are constantly dropping in price and increasing in capacity, meaning you can fit more data on fewer devices. This helps keep costs manageable, and may result in reduced costs over time.
Because disk-based systems rely on hard drives or optical disks, there is always the chance that your backups can be lost, ruined or even stolen. Also, many companies choose to keep these physical backups on-site, so if there is a disaster this could result in the loss of these backups.
To get around this, many companies have duplicate systems. They back up to different devices which are kept off-site. This redundancy can help ensure that your data is available, but it can be expensive to purchase multiple backup solutions.
Cloud, or online-based backup, utilizes off-site technology to host your backups. Most small business solutions work with providers who host the servers in their organization. The business then connects to the servers via a network connection in order to backup their data.
The biggest advantage of cloud systems is that they are generally more affordable. This is because you don’t need to have the systems in your office, which means you don’t need to pay for the data systems and the upkeep associated with them. Cloud systems are also less labor intensive because they can be managed by your IT partner.
Aside from being easier to manage, backup and recovery is usually quicker with the cloud because you can set up a solution that continually backs up. As long as you have an Internet connection, you will usually be able to restore your systems in a matter of hours.
While the cloud is becoming the most popular backup solution, there are some drawbacks. You need a faster bandwidth connection if you want to be able to back up while also working. This may require you to invest in better network infrastructure, which costs. The other issue some companies have is that because this is a new solution, they may not trust that the solution is secure. The vast majority of backup solutions available have been designed to be secure and have become a viable solution for many smaller businesses.
If you are looking to implement a backup solution in your business, contact us today to learn about what solutions we have to offer.
Disaster can strike at any time. And when it does, it may cripple your business operations, unless you have a business continuity plan (BCP) ready. It’s different from a disaster recovery plan (DCP), though the latter is a part of a BCP. DCP only focuses on the recovery of the organization’s IT assets, while BCP ensures that the business continues its operations in general.
Having a BCP for your company has several benefits. One of the most obvious is that your business can continue its everyday operations, thus allowing you to keep making sales. Aside from this, there are other advantages:
Since every business is unique, there’s no single BCP that works for all. However, there are common factors that must be considered by every company when devising one.
After determining which products, services, and functions are most vital to your business, you can start creating a plan on what to do in the event of a disaster. It should clearly tell the process that must be followed, as well as the specific roles of individuals. There are existing sample plans that you can find on the Web and you can follow the format of a business in the same industry and customize the plan to suit your individual company.
Your BCP plan must be studied carefully for quality. Every area should be reviewed properly to ensure the plan is a success. Since the needs and processes of the company may change, it’s also important to review the plan once or twice a year to ensure that it’s still appropriate for your business. If you are truly serious about establishing business security, a BCP isn’t a process that you can easily neglect. Remember, you never know when a disaster can strike! The sooner you get a plan of action, the better. Contact us today to see how we can help you develop a plan that will work for your business.
A business without a DRP (Disaster Recovery Plan) is like a circus acrobat without a safety net. The question is, are you willing to take that kind of a risk with your business? Considering how attacks to your business can come in many forms be it cyber, natural disaster or man made (among many others), it makes perfect sense to have an effective DRP in place.
While there are several facets to a DRP that are going to determine whether it will be effective or not, making sure that you’ve considered these 5 tips is definitely a good start.
Because the managers are the ones who will coordinate the development of the plan and be the central figures who implement the recovery plan, it’s crucial that they are committed to it and are willing to back it up.
They will also be responsible for setting an allocated budget and manpower to creating the actual plan. That said, it’s very important that they know the concept behind it and how huge of an impact a DRP can have on a business.
It’s unthinkable to believe that your DRP is well optimized when you haven’t had a representative from each department coordinate with you while creating the recovery program.
Considering how they themselves are the front line of your organization with the best knowledge about how their department works, it’s a huge plus that you should take advantage of when creating a DRP.
With the representatives on your team, you’ll be able to see things from their perspective and gain first-hand knowledge from those who do the actual work.
In an ideal world, you should be able to restore everything at the same time after a disaster strikes. But since most businesses usually have a limited amount of resources, you will usually have to recover systems one at a time.
Because of this, you need to have a hierarchy or a sense of priority when determining which systems should be recovered first. That way, the most important systems are immediately brought back up while the less important ones are then queued in order of their importance.
This is one of the main focal points of a DRP since this phase tackles the actual strategies or steps that you’ll implement to recover your systems.
When determining your actual strategies, it’s important that you brainstorm and think about all the options that you have to recovering your systems. Don’t simply stick with the cheapest possible strategy or even the most expensive ones.
You have to remember though that the simplest strategy to implement is probably the best one. That is, as long as the simplest strategy covers the critical aspects of your system recovery.
That said, avoid over complicating your strategies as you might face unnecessary challenges when it comes to the implementation of the recovery strategy.
Your DRP shouldn’t end with the concept alone. No matter how foolproof you think your strategy is, if you haven’t tested it you most likely have missed something important.
It’s during the dry run phase that the need for extra steps (or the removal of one) are made even more evident. You can then start polishing your strategies according to how your dry run plays out. It would also be a good year to practice your plan each year and update it accordingly.
These tips will help you ensure that your DRP will remain effective should a disaster occur. If you’re having a hard time figuring out how to go about the process of creating a DRP, then give us a call now and we’ll help you with the process.
Small to medium businesses continue to struggle when developing a comprehensive disaster recovery plan. DRPs or Disaster Recovery Plans, can spell the difference between your business’s outright destruction when unforeseen calamities occur or a careful and systematic recovery to normal operations with little loss to operations or profits.
When creating a disaster recovery plan for your business, there are certain key elements that you need to consider.
In building an effective disaster recovery plan, you should include thorough documentation that lays out the details of the ins and outs of the plan. You need to know that there is no right type of DRP, nor is there a single template that fits all. But there are three basic aspects to a disaster recovery plan: Preventive measures, detective measures, and corrective measures.
In addition, before building your disaster recovery plan, make sure that it can provide an answer to these basic questions:
Since you’re planning for an unforeseen event, you might as well make sure that you have plan for the worst case scenario. That way, you’ll never be overwhelmed and you’re as prepared as you can be for any situation.
Having different tiers of backup plans is also advisable. It gives you a better assurance that when bad comes to worst, you have a system in place to make sure that these disasters are handled correctly, regardless of the disaster’s severity.
One of the objectives of disaster recovery plan is to protect the collection of data. Almost half of the total population of business organizations experiences data loss from both physical and virtual environments. This is often due to corruption of the file system, broken internal virtual disks, and hardware failures. Thus, there is a real need for established data recovery plans such as backup features offered by many IT solution vendors.
Before deploying your disaster recovery plan, you need to have a sort of a test-drive to check if it works. Aside from making it work, you also need to know if it’s going to be effective. Through testing, any shortcomings can be identified and will garner corresponding resolutions to improve on your plan. Although the real score of its effectiveness can only be identified once a disaster occurs, at least you will have an idea of how your business and the recovery plan can operate during a disaster.
Building an effective disaster recovery plan is a must for your business. This might not directly lead to a positive impact on productivity but it will surely save you in the events that can possibly crush your business. Anticipating and adjusting for the things that might happen is one of the keys to a company’s success.
Setting up an effective DRP can be quite an intricate process since there are several elements that you need to consider. Should you want to learn more, give us a call and we’ll have our associates help you develop and test a plan that works best for your business.