Business Continuity Planning: Don’t Wait Until it’s Too Late

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Your website crashes. There’s a major network error. You’re hit with a cyber attack.

These are just a few of many scenarios your business may encounter that can lead to downtime.

Regardless of the catalyst, the result is always the same. Operations (and often sales) come to a grinding halt.

And as studies have shown, this is much more common than you may think.

Startling Downtime Statistics

  • 64 percent of Australian companies have experienced downtime in the last 12 months, according to Chief IT.
  • Every hour of downtime results in a loss of over $123,000 (AUD) for 98 percent of companies.
  • However, this can surge all the way to $1.23 – $6.1 million for larger enterprises with more complex infrastructures.

When you consider the fact that the average Australian business has experienced more than 27 hours of unexpected downtime in the last year, the financial backlash can be quite severe.

Second, it adversely impacts productivity. Needless to say, productivity will plummet when employees are unable to access critical data and perform routine operations that they’re accustomed to.

Adweek reports that this amounts to a 34 percent loss in productivity for enterprise employees and a 43 percent loss for small business employees.

Third, it can quickly tarnish your brand reputation. Consumers often become annoyed and frustrated when they’re unable to access your platform. In turn, many will become wary of your brand and question your professionalism.

  • Surveys have even found that 68 percent of consumers say they would think less of a brand if its Ecommerce platform crashed.
  • 37 percent would avoid buying from that brand.

In a world where most people have no issue voicing their displeasure via online reviews and social media, the results can be devastating.

The bottom line is that serious downtime hits your organisation from many different angles and can have some serious repercussions.

Business Continuity Planning: A Viable Solution

These statistics prove the severity of downtime and the adverse impact it can have on your organisation.

So how do you protect your company and mitigate your risk?

Or in the event that downtime does occur, how do you get your systems back up and running as quickly as possible?

Business continuity planning is your best bet. If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, it can be defined as the process of planning and creating systems of prevention and recovery so that your company can deal with potential threats and maintain operations with minimal disruption.

Regardless of the shape and scope of a crisis, business continuity planning ensures that you’re able to cope with it and either eliminate or reduce your downtime.

Four Key Steps

This process involves the following four steps:

  1. Business Impact Analysis (BIA) – Identify critical business functions and the processes and resources that support them.
  2. Recovery Strategies – Explore and develop recovery strategy options in association with management.
  3. Plan Development – Develop a framework to implement the recovery strategies.
  4. Testing – Conduct training with staff and perform exercises to test the practical implementation of the continuity plan.

Let’s elucidate.

A BIA allows your organisation to determine what your critical business functions are and rank them in terms of priority. For example, your company may be heavily reliant upon your Ecommerce store and having access to customer data.

Furthermore, maintaining functioning of your Ecommerce store may be dependent upon a particular server, while accessing customer data may require that you’re able to use a particular customer relationship management (CRM) software.

This first step ties into the first phase of Stickman’s cybersecurity by design framework where we first define your organisation’s current state. Having a firm grasp on where you’re at and where you need to ultimately be paves the way for security optimisation and improvement.

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Recovery strategies are pretty self-explanatory. These are what enable you to stabilise things in an adverse situation and reduce the impact that it has on your company. A simple example would be migrating critical data a different server so that your Ecommerce store still functions properly and customers are able to access it while you address the issue.

Plan development is where you establish a workable methodology for team members to follow in the event of downtime. This can include defining the series of steps each person will take and outlines who is responsible for what.

It also includes the types of communication that will take place. For instance, employees may notify management who will in turn notify the IT department and so on.

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This ensures that there’s no confusion or misunderstanding in a time of crisis. Actions and communication can be carried out swiftly and with a high level of efficiency. Not only does this expedite the recovery, it helps reduce panic as well.

Recovery strategies and plan development both overlap with the second phase of our cybersecurity approach – planning. It’s a stage where detailed strategising takes place in order to develop an implementation plan that’s suitable for your company’s unique needs.

You can think of testing like you would a fire drill. Everyone within your organisation is thoroughly educated on proper protocol and will engage in exercises that allow them to respond correctly during a crisis.

This final step ties into the execution and monitoring phases of our methodology. To ensure that your organisation’s BCP is not only effective but practical, it must be periodically tested in a real-world scenario and perpetually monitored so that you’re able to make the necessary adjustments.

The Full Scope of Benefits

Besides the givens of eliminating/reducing downtime, saving money, increasing productivity and preserving your reputation, business continuity planning offers some other significant benefits.

Some of which include:

  • Improves your decision-making in times of calamity
  • Ensures individuals across different departments are on the same page with one another and able to function as a cohesive unit
  • Allows you to provide ongoing service to your customers
  • Helps you build a greater sense of trust and confidence with those customers
  • Proves that your organisation is both professional and competent
  • Secures your supply chain
  • Serves as as a considerable competitive advantage over other companies who lack a business continuity plan
  • Provides confidence and peace of mind
  • Adds to the sustainability and longevity of your organisation

Also note that this doesn’t just protect against cyber attacks, but a myriad of other scenarios including:

  • IT outages
  • Severe weather
  • Natural disasters
  • Energy disruptions
  • Sabotage
  • Even terrorist attacks

Considering the level of uncertainty that most businesses face on a daily basis, the positive impact is undeniable.

Developing a Business Continuity Plan

At this point, we’ve established that downtime is alarmingly common and can have some disastrous consequences. It’s also clear that a business continuity plan is pound-for-pound the most effective way to mitigate that risk.

But how exactly do you go about developing a business continuity plan?

How do you get started?

To begin, it’s helpful to take a look at a template that covers the core areas. This resource from FINRA allows you to download a free template that will help you get started.

Another and perhaps better strategy is to partner with a cybersecurity professional who understands the ins and outs of this process. They’ll be able to assess the unique needs of your company and assist you in developing a solid business continuity plan.

If you have little to no experience in this area, partnering with a professional is usually your best bet. They’ll do whatever is necessary to keep your business running likes a well-oiled machine.

To learn more about the process, click here to talk to a consultant.

Periodically Updating the Plan

Putting forth the effort to develop a business continuity plan is huge and shows that your company is taking a step in the right direction. However, one mistake that’s commonly made is viewing it as something that’s static and unchanging.

But this is an oversight. Keep in mind that IT is inherently dynamic and in a constant state of flux. Therefore, periodic updates are necessary for a business continuity plan to remain effective and capable of combating the plethora of issues that can arise at any given time.

That’s why you should think of it as a living document that requires regular reviewing, editing and updating. To get the most from your plan, you’ll want to get into the habit of making relevant updates. This way your company is able to respond as effectively to an incident three years from now as it would to an incident that happens tomorrow.

Providing Stability in an Unstable World

Let’s recap. Downtime is an omnipresent threat that organisations face the world over. Nearly every company has experienced it at some point, and roughly a third deal with it once a month.

As technology continues to spread its tentacles and infrastructures become increasingly digitalised, the threat of downtime will only become more serious. Considering the crippling effects that downtime can have and the long-term toll it can take on a company’s profitability and reputation, it’s clear that a proactive response is in order.

Unfortunately, many organisations aren’t where they need to be.

  • Less than half (48 percent) of businesses still don’t have a business continuity plan.
  • Of those companies, 75 percent end up going out of business within three years of a disaster.

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Don’t let your organisation be one of these statistics. Taking the time and devoting the resources to develop a business continuity plan is the ultimate form of self-preservation.

It’s like having a lifeboat to save you even in a worst-case scenario and can mean the difference between flourishing and being forced to close your doors.

How much effort has your organisation put into business continuity planning up until this point? Please let us know:

 

Image Credits

Featured image: Wikimedia Commons

In-post image 1: StockSnap / Pixabay

In-post image 2: Bluesnap / Pixabay

 

 

Ajay Unni

Ajay Unni is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Stickman. Ajay specialises in helping customers manage the growing threat of data breaches and compliance with globally accepted industry standards for data security and compliance. More articles by Ajay Unni

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