Business Continuity For SMEs – Safeguarding Business InterestsJune 10th, 2012 by BrightCloud
The second blog in this series of 3 looks at Safeguarding Business Interests and the necessity of having a solid business continuity plan in place.
So how do you take the next steps to make sure your business is as prepared as possible for any predictable disaster? If you have already invested in an insurance plan to cover your premises and their contents, then it will also make sense to invest in a set of contingency plans to ensure business continuity. It is all part of the same concept: the need to plan for the worst to safeguard your longer term interests.
Business Interruption Insurance
You should also consider investing in some form of business interruption insurance. This will compensate you for lost income, based on your financial records, though it is unlikely to provide cover for other possible consequential losses such as lost future business. Minimising lost future sales will rely primarily on your ability to continue to satisfy your customers both during and immediately after a disaster.
If your clients include large organisations, government agencies, or public sector organisations it is likely that they will at some point ask you about your business continuity arrangements. This issue might also be raised at some point by your bank manager, insurance company or investors.
Business Continuity Management
Business continuity management is a vital element in maintaining your safety and security from any major incident that results in damage to critical infrastructure, such as electricity supplies, transport and communications, which are vital to many business services. That is why the UK Civil Contingencies Act 2004 mandates it for frontline responders, such as fire and rescue services. It’s also why business continuity is a a mandatory policy for all UK public sector organisations.
How to Implement Business Continuity Planning
1. Decide what to protect – and what to put on hold – Start by determining which business processes and services you will need to maintain after a major disaster or failure. You will not be able to keep everything running normally, so you need to be as ruthless as possible in deciding priorities.
2. Assess the risks – The next step is to identify and assess the possible hazards to your critical processes and activities. It involves careful consideration of the probability and impact of each risk. Note that this is not a precise science, as many aspects of risk are unknown, uncertain and difficult to measure. But even an educated guess is a better basis than an arbitrary decision.
3. Identify your requirements – This step is to identify and set out your specific requirements for contingency plans, fall-back arrangements, and a crisis response team. Your decisions will need to take into account your identified critical processes and services, bearing in mind the effect of identified risks on their operation.
4. Prepare your plans – Preparing a formal set of plans might seem a daunting task, especially if you are not comfortable with paperwork. But it need not be difficult. You do not need fancy prose or lengthy procedures. Simple, brief instructions and reminders are more effective. Set out the key elements in a concise manner to ensure actions are easy to understand, execute and update.
5. Brief your response team –In a small enterprise, a response team will probably encompass your entire staff, who might operate in a single, collaborative unit. In a larger business, however, it will be necessary to assign individual roles or specialist teams to coordinate particular activities. The important point, in both cases, is to ensure that everyone involved understands the contribution they are expected to make.
6. Test and update your plans Many plans and arrangements, especially concerning fall-back facilities, fail to work the first time you try them out. Regular tests and exercises are essential to correct errors, spot gaps and identify further requirements. Plans can become out-of-date surprisingly quickly with changes in personnel, facilities or business practices, so regular updates and reviews are essential.
Each of the above steps is relatively straightforward, and can be carried out without prior experience and specialist skills (other than a good dose of common sense!).
Get a Free Business Continuity Assessment
Whilst we won’t understand your business as well as you do, our decades of IT experience means we may well understand your IT better than you. BrightCloud can build you a realistic and workable IT continuity plan, so in the event of a disaster we’ll get your IT up and running as fast as possible. Contact us today for your free business continuity assessment.