What are Business Continuity Plans?
At any given time, a business may face unforeseen changes, disruptions, and challenges that are difficult to manage. If you feel that your business may be unprepared for something like this, you should consider creating a Business Continuity Plan (BCP). Business Continuity Plans are put in place to manage risks and outcomes by supporting employees and protecting business-critical systems when an unplanned event has taken place.
Examples include natural events such as floods and fires, or even cyber attacks leading to essential data loss or equipment failure. These types of disruptions can be extremely damaging financially, operationally, and even reputationally, so it is important to have plans in place to deal with these matters should they arise.
On a more day-to-day basis, BCPs can also help businesses to run during planned disruptions, such as data-backups and maintenance.
The key elements of a good Business Continuity Plan
A good BCP will have contingencies for both short and long-term disruptive events and will factor in all aspects of the business, including:
- Business processes;
- Human Resources;
- Business Partners;
- Facilities within the company; and
- IT infrastructure.
When drawing up a BCP, businesses should consider supplies, equipment, and the protection of both digital and physical data. Depending on your business, your data may be stored locally in the form of physical documents, on harddrives in server rooms, or on a combination of both.
If there are complications within the workspace, a BCP should outline how employees can retain access to equipment and systems. This could be done by allowing employees to set up workstations at home, or having backup equipment that can be accessed from a different location.
To ensure a company can maintain business as usual, the BCP should also ensure that the goods and services can continue to be delivered to customers. Failing to do this may result in customers switching to a competitor for the same service.
Finally, should data be lost, backups should be easily accessible to reduce the impact on the business’s productivity. This can be done by outsourcing or maintaining a cloud storage facility in another location or network.
Many BCP experts are also increasingly recommending improving disaster or disruption defence to ensure disruptive or disastrous events such as lost or stolen data do not occur in the first place. This is largely due to cyber attacks becoming more common; data recovery can be difficult after a particularly devastating attack.
Increasingly, creating Business Continuity Plans is becoming more difficult, as many business processes overlap - if one system goes down, the rest might quickly follow. This highlights why it is even more important to have an up-to-date BCP.
Disaster recovery plans
A key part of any BCP is the Disaster Recovery Plan, which outlines what should be done in the event of a severe disruption that may damage equipment or harm life. In this case, the movement and recovery of equipment should be planned, as should the ways in which employees can continue to function without putting themselves at risk.
How to effectively manage continuity
While it is possible to create a BCP internally, many businesses now outsource this work to companies that specialise in it. These companies are likely to carry out regular risk assessments and draw up suggestions based on a given company’s weak points. Some also offer data hosting, meaning that in the event of an outage, the BCP can be handled offsite by professionals already familiar with your BCP, with little disruption for your employees.
Many of these companies act proactively instead of reactively. This means they will strengthen your business’s defences and create processes well in advance to increase the chances of avoiding a disruption completely. In cases where a disruption cannot be avoided, they will ensure your systems stay operational and return to normal quickly.
After analysing your business, an expert should identify what the security priorities are. A working BCP should consider:
- How to maintain the ability to complete day-to-day operations;
- The organisation of communications and the responsibilities of employees;
- Access to software necessary to the operation of business;
- Which processes are critical to the running of the business, including IT processes;
- The networks and industry technology needed to continue operations; and
- Where the backup data or equipment should be stored, and how to get it back.
Dealing with unforeseen circumstances without a BCP
Without an up to date Business Continuity Plan, your business is likely at risk. For accountants, an event such as data loss or system failures could negatively impact business critical processes such as bookkeeping, payroll, and more. Most importantly, it can have a devastating impact on client relationships and the businesses reputation as a whole.
Sherlock & Co can help
The expert business accountants at Sherlock & Co can offer advice on software and systems that you can invest in to secure your BCP. Additionally, we can assess your situation and offer suggestions on how you can improve your business continuity.