Careful continuity planning and a reliable backup system will make sure you can keep operating with minimal disruption. It’s important your disaster planning measures ensure fast business recovery.

Business continuity planning explained

Business continuity is to know about problems that may occur before they become a problem. These could disrupt your company’s ability to operate properly. For IT, these problems fall into two categories:

Physical threats: Fire, flooding or theft or failure of equipment.

Software threats: Viruses, Trojans and hackers.

Disaster planning

Good continuity planning involves logically assessing the threats to your business.

  1. Evaluate the threats
    What could damage your IT systems? A fire on your premises, a virus infection or the failure of your internet connection.
  2. The probability of each threat
    Some threats are much more likely than others. Get an expert to help assess risk levels.
  3. Potential damage
    For instance, would the threat take your main customer database offline? Or would the impact be relatively minor?

Continuity planning should prioritise threats by the highest likelihood of it happening.

Your business recovery plan

The plan should describe what your business will do in the event of a problem. Have procedures to follow if something goes wrong. Always have clear lines of communication to notify key people quickly.

  1. Plan how to get up and running
    Could you share offices with another company if your premises were out of action? Or work from home for the time being?
  2. Think about short-term contingency
    If it will take time to fix your systems, how will you cope in the meantime? Can you work manually, from another location or using cloud services?
  3. Once you’ve put a business recovery plan together, test it
    See how your communications work in practice, and how long it takes you to get working again.

You may wish to consider your business recovery plan when negotiating with IT suppliers. You may want to pay your support company for a faster response time in the event of important systems failing.

Your backup system

Your preparation should include a backup system, so you have a safe copy of important data. A number of factors will influence your choice of a backup system:

  • Amount of data up. Some backup options can copy large amounts of data quite quickly.
  • How often you need to back up. It’s a good idea to choose an automatic backup system if you have to take a new backup every day.
  • Timescale needed to keep your backups. Will you need several weeks, months, or longer? Are there any legal requirements on how long you need to keep certain data?
  • Where your data is stored? It’s easier to back up a central file store than files stored on lots of different computers.
  • Facilities and equipment. You also need a way to access your backups. Make sure contingency systems are compatible with your files.

Whichever backup system you choose, it’s important to keep backups in a different place to the main copy of the data. Test your backups regularly – many businesses neglect this step, only to discover their backups are useless when they have a real emergency.