What is Business Continuity and why is it important?
Business Continuity is a business’ ability to continue to deliver its products or services following a disruptive incident. Basically, if something goes wrong, how will you carry on working without impacting upon your customers, suppliers or team.
A more formal definition from the Business Continuity Institute is:
“a holistic management process that identifies potential threats to an organisation and the impacts to business operations those threats, if realised, might cause”
Essentially, it’s all about developing a framework to build your firm’s resilience and making sure that you have effective response mechanisms when things go wrong. While you’d never want to have to us it, a business continuity plan helps protect your customers, staff, products, reputation and brand.
But with businesses sometimes being complex things with many moving parts, how can you cover every eventuality? This is where data helps.
Data is becoming more and more crucial in the day-to-day running of a business. Systems like ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) give you an overview of each part of your business and keeps all your data in one place.
They tend to be used by larger firms, but even micro businesses can use digital technology to build a Business Continuity plan. Superfast Business Wales are here to show you how.
What does Business Continuity mean to you?
Your Business Continuity plan will be unique to your business. Before you start putting it together, have a think about these factors:
- How are your products affected by supply and demand?
- What is your route to market?
- Do you trade online with a high turnover of products?
- What would happen if your website were to go down for a length of time?
- Do you hold confidential data or consumer information?
- How important is this data in running your business? Or you lost access to customer data or confidential documents?
- Where is your business based?
- How dependent are you on the location of your business?
- What would happen if your business premises were affected by fire or flood, for example?
What can you do?
Basic strategies include USB back up or using another drive or device, and physically taking the data off-site to a secure location.
It could also mean protecting your connectivity to the web for an interim period with a 4G dongle to enable immediate access to emails.
Make sure you have a record of passwords, information and basic data needed for your business to operate stored offsite or within an easy-to-access package, like a password manager.
Intermediary strategies include implementing cloud-based support to hold your data and documents. This could be as simple as adopting Office365 or Google Docs hold files and manage emails and project management.
Advanced strategies are needed if uptime is crucial to your business – for example, if you sell online or need to maintain systems for high volumes of traffic and transaction. Likewise, access to files that are crucial for the day-to-day running of your business should be something you consider. How long could you go without those?
What are the risks of not having a robust Business Continuity plan?
In the short term, not preparing for potential disruption to your business could mean an immediate impact on ability to trade – this could harm your sales and therefore cashflow.
Medium term, it may impact your key stakeholders – staff, suppliers, shareholders and, of course, customers. What happens if you’re unable to react to things in time?
In the long term, there could be an impact on your brand or reputation. Think about the Recovery Time Objective (RTO) – how long would it take for an incident, such as IT failure, to severely impact your business?
How digital can help
The right tools for your business depend on the size of business, your budget and what you need.
Thanks to the cloud, many systems are accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection. This reduces your reliance on your office, plus opens up the door to flexible working.
A small business could start with free platforms, such as Asana for project information and free accounting apps such as Wave to hold financial information, including sales, invoicing and receipts.
Suites such as Office 365 offer a whole package of cloud-based tools – including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other licenses for producing documentation, plus cloud storage and email.
These options would let your staff carry on working at another location if your office was inaccessible.
For external-facing aspects of your business, more work is needed. E-commerce businesses, for example, might benefit from off-site spin up, which protects your website from down-time by keeping a copy of it elsewhere that can be launched
quickly. Whether you have this depends on the service level agreement between you and your partner.