If you remember Y2K at all, it’s probably because you lived through it. These days, the Y2K bug is widely considered a hoax—just another example of an overly hyped threat in which there were very few issues.
In the business world, threats to organizations, especially SMBs, are very real. However, you want your response to a cybersecurity attack or natural disaster to seem more like Y2K—boring.
That’s where business continuity comes into play.
What Is Business Continuity?
Business continuity refers to an organization’s ability to continue functioning at a level acceptable to your staff, clients, vendors, and partners following a significant disruption.
While there might not be a millennium bug on the horizon, any number of weather-related events, cybersecurity threats, utility construction, or even a simple hardware failure all can knock your business offline if you’re unprepared. In many industries, downtime is a business nightmare. In other industries, downtime is a compliance or regulatory violation.
A good business continuity strategy can help you avoid costly downtime after a major event by providing a blueprint for your organization to get back on track. A strong business continuity plan allows your team to act with speed and intention to quickly address the problems you’ve already outlined as priority, strengthening employee and customer confidence in your business, and minimizing your financial exposure and liability. In extreme scenarios, a strong business continuity plan could even save lives.
How to Start a Business Continuity Plan
If you’re truly committed to having a proactive strategy to deal with potential disasters, you’ll need to understand the ways an emergency could affect your business operations and create policies to respond to these challenges.
The first step is to make an honest assessment of your vulnerabilities. Stand up, walk around your office, and assess the physical on-site security. Review the location of key systems and backups. Explore the internal and external interdependencies in your system and possible points of failure. Using this info, create a Business Impact Analysis (BIA) to determine the potential threats to your critical business operations.
Next, you’ll have to formulate a plan. Define its scope by establishing the essential functions of your business. Determine the acceptable downtime for each of these critical systems, then develop clear and effective workarounds that will allow your organization to push through and deliver during challenging circumstances.
Finally, rigorously test the plan (annually, at least) to make sure it’s precise and efficient. Check for commonly overlooked elements of a strong business continuity plan. Gather your team, distribute your plan, and carefully walk through the strategies step-by-step to identify weaknesses. Make sure key stakeholders are comfortable with the steps outlined within it. Then update your plan to address any weaknesses or gaps you identified.
Testing Your IT Maturity
Disastrous events can put a spotlight on the maturity of your business. By spending time to develop (and test) a business continuity plan, your company creates a unified, proactive attitude that permeates your organization at every level and ensures potentially serious threats end up as laughable anecdotes—just like Y2K.