Business continuity planning: The difference between staying afloat or going under

Business owners put a lot of time and energy into developing a solid business plan. The foundation of building a successful business is documenting the resources that enable operations to flow: phone systems, emails for employees, computers and software programs. Someone has spent a lot of time researching the best of each of these, however, the problem is that a business plan assumes that these resources will always be in place and available.

The reality is, more often than not, unexpected disruptions can result in detrimental costs to your business. According to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 40% of businesses close due to power outages, hardware failures, severe weather, flooding and other unexpected outages.

Having a business continuity strategy in place can be the difference between your company staying afloat or going under. So, you’re ready to prepare. But where to start?

Developing your comprehensive business continuity plan

There are three key elements every comprehensive strategy should have in place for handling disruptions – an Emergency Response Plan, a Crisis Communications Plan and a Business Continuity Plan.

[Read more about how Intermedia can help with business continuity for phones.]

A successful Emergency Response plan needs to identify all the possible emergency scenarios. Consider what sorts of emergencies you might encounter in your area. Next, you’ll want to understand how local emergency services agencies will notify you of these events. Who within your organization will be the main point of contact to receive these notifications? You’ll also want to discuss emergency planning with your insurance agency and legal representation. Now that you have considered the possible scenarios and how each will be identified, you can start defining and documenting the actions your company will take in the event of each emergency to ensure all employees are safe and the threat is contained. You’ll need a backup plan for communications and retrieval of important information in the event phones and power are knocked out. For instance, if information is being emailed out, will you be able to access and retrieve this information?

A Crisis Communications plan is important for pinpointing how you’ll efficiently contact customers, suppliers or partners to inform them of the situation. It’s critical to identify which people in your organization are authorized to speak on behalf of the company and which audiences will need to be addressed. Develop your Crisis Communications plan in tandem with your Business Continuity plan to better tailor your message, depending on the type and length of disruption. How will you be able to communicate with other employees and customers if your business phones go out and people are trying to reach you? Some company owners are moving to a cloud IT infrastructure to take advantage of the continuity features the cloud offers.

Your Business Continuity plan should include analysis on how the type and length of these disruptions could impact your different business processes. Once this is done, it is critical to develop recovery strategies for each of your business processes and disruption categories. By writing out detailed recovery strategies, you can more easily spot resource gaps that require further attention. Now it’s time to write your formal plan that can be distributed to all of your company’s managers. Use this document as the manual for when disruptions occur. But don’t let your Business Continuity plan stop with just managers. Once roles and responsibilities are clearly understood at the management level, be sure to distribute your plan among employees too so that everyone knows who is responsible for performing what functions and when. Finally, don’t forget to conduct regular disaster drills to put your plan and recovery strategies to the test.

While there is little that your company can do to prevent natural disasters, a well thought out business continuity strategy can help make unexpected disruptions less impactful on your business. Focus on what you can control: putting in place resources and infrastructure with a backup plan if these resources fail. Part of your solution could include finding a cloud service provider that prides itself on uptime and reliability, with safeguards in place to mitigate the impact natural disasters can have on business. Since cloud services reside in remote datacenters with multiple redundancies, local disruptions can have minimal impact. Having a business continuity strategy in place can be the difference between your company staying afloat or going under. Which path are you on?

Read more about how Intermedia services can help solidify your business continuity plan and mitigate your risk of downtime.

Check out Intermedia’s Data Vulnerability Report series that looks at the impact and outcome of email breaches and threats, ransomware, and data loss for more tips on what to plan for.

About Melanie Lombardi

Melanie Lombardi is Intermedia's Senior Communications Manager.