Sunday, April 20, 2008

Business Continuity 101

Do you have a business continuity plan? Do you have a back-up plan to keep your business productive and the money coming in during a short term disaster (an earthquake, for example) as well as a long-term disaster (pandemic influenza, for example)? Business continuity plans for most businesses usually revolve a three-pound glob of paper with lots of power words but very little practical application. The tome is stressed over, drafted, re-drafted, finally approved by the Board, and then it sits on a shelf and is never looked at again. Unfortunately, most disaster planning can be compartmentalized into two distinct areas--the written plan that is politically correct and looks good on paper, and the actual plan where the core of the company, if they are savvy enough to realize the importance of actually being PREPARED, will hammer out a bullet-proof plan for their company's survival no matter what type of disaster strikes. Your company's plan needs to look like this:

  • Facilities plan. Are you able to protect your current facility (insurance, retrofitted for the possibility of an earthquake, adequate fire protection, intrusion security plan, etc)? Do you have a back-up security plan in the event of an emergency which would bring the public to your door in a panic (ie: if you are a grocery store or clinic)? Do you have an alternate location in the event you cannot use your current facility? Can your employees work from home?
  • Equipment plan. Are you able to protect your necessary equipment (insurance, theft prevention, updating)? What equipment is critical to the continuity of your business? Do you have an alternate equipment plan in the event you cannot use your current equipment? Consider power equipment (generator), communications equipment (internet and phones), production equipment (computers and widget makers), etc.
  • Information plan. What information is critical to the continuity of your business? Is the information secured? Is the information backed up? How can the information be accessed in the event of a disaster?
  • People plan. Which employees are critical to the continuity of your business? Can you reach them 24/7 in the event of an emergency from where ever you happen to be? Are your employees personally prepared so that they would be able to ensure the safety and security of their family then be able to report to work? Do your employees know how to contact top management in the event of an emergency? Do you have a plan in place to continue to pay your employees in the event of an emergency?
  • Supplies plan. Do you have a back-up set of supplies that can be used either at the office or at an alternate location? Do you have emergency supplies (food, water, safety equipment)?
  • Your core business. Will your actual core business be able to continue during an emergency? Will your customers still need and want your product/service? Will you be able to continue receiving the raw materials necessary for your business (food, widgets, etc)? Do you use more than one vendor for critical supplies and have a disaster agreement with them?
  • Other considerations. Do you have a triple-redundant communications plan (for phone, internet, TV)? What will happen with your mail and other deliveries? How will you do your banking? Do you have a media/public information plan? Do you have a reserve fund to cover business continuity costs after a disaster? Do you have a disaster supplies kit for the office and each employee's car is much driving is involved in their work?

The bottom line is that you want to be prepared in all of the above areas no matter what kind of disaster strikes. You need a simple, comprehensive plan that covers all of the basics and that, most importantly, all of your employees understand. For fun, make it a point as you go through your day to play "what if"--what if this computer gets stolen? What if there is a fire right now? What if I need to contact my vendor immediately?

Here are some resources:

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