Creating a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan

Here are the key components of business continuity and disaster recovery plans to keep your business running.

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Creating a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan
How prepared are you for an emergency?

Business continuity plans and disaster recovery plans are documents that outline what steps the organization will take to minimize damage and bounce back from an unexpected service disruption. The plans created ahead of the event guide what to do in emergencies, who should act and how. These plans may be critical to maintaining the business in a natural disaster, malicious cyber attack, or data loss.

One of the lessons learned from the pandemic was how critically important it is to have a Plan B for business survival. When disaster strikes, whether natural, accidental, or malicious, you must have a plan to mitigate damage, continue working, and survive the event. Crisis management is key to assuring your organization can weather the storm, whatever form it may take.

Business continuity plans

A business continuity plan outlines how processes, assets, resources, and partners will be affected by a disaster and how the company can lessen the effects of the situation. A well-thought-out plan may even allow businesses to continue working without disruption if they have the necessary assets and protocols in place.

An effective continuity plan can allow your business to continue functioning during a disaster.

Create a checklist of equipment and supplies you might need in the event of a disruption. You should note off-site, contingency locations, if available, in the plan, as well as administrators and key personnel who are knowledgeable in the strategies and protocols necessary to make the transition.

Train your management team

The plan itself is only as strong as those who can execute it. Ensure management teams are trained in their role and have translated critical components of the plan to staff members. An example may be a fire on-site shifts employees to remote work to minimize disruption. These staff members and their managers should have backup software on their home computers, including access to databases.

Have these secondary plans ready before the event to mitigate the damage and continue servicing customers.

Back up your data

Consider backing up your data to a cloud service in case your server becomes uncoverable.

For a data loss or breach, make sure all databases are backed up continuously and in separate locations, easily accessible to recover lost information. Backing up your data on a single server won’t help if that server is unrecoverable. Instead, consider backing up data to a cloud service provider. Not only will it be off-site and safe, but it can also be easily accessible by everyone who needs access from wherever they log in.

The Department of Labor has created a business continuity template employers can download. It outlines areas you should identify in your plan and guides businesses to develop a comprehensive list of tasks, assets, and protocols to keep the disruption to a minimum. It lists:

Manual workarounds

  • Incident management
  • Training, testing, and exercising
  • Program maintenance and improvement

This can be a great starting-off point for business leaders, providing them with guidance on defining roles and responsibilities for team members and leadership.

Your continuity plan should include short- and long-term contingency plans. If the disruption is longer than anticipated, you may have to switch to extended protocols. Having both ready will help the transition if the situation is short-lived or doesn’t return to normal quickly.

Disaster Recovery Plan

A disaster recovery plan is the next tool for a business to maintain its position in the market. Like a business continuity plan, having a recovery plan before an event occurs allows for as seamless a return to normal as possible. Here you’ll want to identify key stakeholders, assets, and processes and pre-determine how to leverage them to get back to business.

What to include

The plan should outline things that will be key for your business to return to normal:

  • Employees
  • Equipment and assets
  • Records
  • Facilities
  • Third-party services

Create a disaster recovery team to develop the plan, listing their ideas and options in the event of a problem and how the organization can recover in the aftermath.

Consider what processes are vulnerable and how to restore them, if necessary. A minor disaster, like a broken piece of critical equipment that shuts down production, can be easy to plan for. Have a vendor at the ready to replace or repair quickly. A more significant disaster, like a data breach, may take longer to repair and restore. The longer it takes to reverse the damage, the more contingency plans you should have in place.

Communicate

Communication will be critical to recovering your organization. How will you contact employees, customers, and vendors to notify them you’re back in business? Determine these ahead of time, with employees on notice where to find information if an emergency arises.

A critical component of your disaster recovery plan is to communicate your status to your team, customers, and vendors.

Create a list of who will contact whom and how. You’ll want to reach customers with updates on status and reopening, as well. Use social media pages, customer email lists, and your website to provide information as widely as possible. If applicable, for vendors and scheduled deliveries, notify them with alternate delivery sites.

Training, testing, and revising

Even the most comprehensive continuity or recovery plans require a dry run. After your teams have created their plan(s), make time to train employees on their roles and responsibilities for rollout. If they’re trained in advance of an emergency, they’ll know the protocol and be able to execute. If they’re busy figuring out what to do, you’ll be waiting time, which could mean short- or long-term consequences.

Testing your disaster recovery plan

Next, test the plans. With a manufactured emergency, a dry run helps determine what works, what plans and procedures don’t have the intended outcomes, and what you need to tweak. These could be critically important to assure if the time comes and action is needed, everyone is ready, and the procedures are adequate.

Every business should take time to create its individualized plans. While there are templates and basics to cover, the plans will be unique to your company’s situation and needs. Plan for every contingency, whether it’s a weather situation that closes your doors or a data breach that puts employee, business, or customer data at risk. No company wants to be in a position to use its continuity or recovery plans. However, having them ready, workable, and in place before a situation arises could be vital to salvaging your organization.

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