What is the primary goal of business continuity planning? It is simpler than you think.
Have you ever heard the scouting motto, “Always be prepared”? When’s the last time you applied it to your business functions? The primary goal of business continuity planning is simple: Have a clear, actionable, proactive plan in place for whatever might come your way. This could include outages, natural disasters, cybersecurity attacks, and more. We’ll go through some of the major pain points you need to address before you can declare your business continuity plan (BCP) ready for anything.
What does a business continuity plan typically include?
A BCP should outline what your business needs to do to recover from a disaster or setback, with a strategic disaster recovery plan as a subset of your overall approach. When creating a business continuity plan, you should be thinking about:
1. Your customers’ most urgent needs
Creating a plan with your customer’s needs in mind from the outset will help you determine which applications need to be treated with the greatest urgency in the recovery process. If you have some data and applications that don’t have as big of an effect on business continuity, they can appear further down your list of priorities. Start with critical, client-centric functions.
2. A plan to keep your workforce moving
Losing employee productivity can quickly snowball into other problems, including lost revenue, an erosion of trust, and abrupt turnover. Adding alternate workplace and remote access options for your employees will stop the snowball in its tracks. Keep the lines of communication open as you work to recover essential business functions so your team feels in the loop.
3. Building with remote work in mind
We have all seen over the past couple of years how remote work isn’t just a nice offering but is now often a requirement of doing business. Your business continuity plan isn’t robust enough if your VPN can’t handle remote workers, especially a surge of heavy demand. Think about what you would need to do to host most, if not all, of your workforce on VPN and other remote options.
4. An outline of recovery objectives specific to your business
Besides knowing what to recover first, you also need to know how quickly it should be recovered to minimize lost revenue. A BCP includes setting recovery point objectives and recovery time objectives – where things should be restored from and the time it takes to restore them.
5. An up-to-date disaster recovery plan and redundancies
Disaster recovery is a subset of business continuity planning and should be revisited often to ensure new technology and best practices are included. Also, if you are using a cloud platform, just assuming it’s redundant without ensuring it has been designed or implemented to work can land you in some hot water. With that, it’s crucial to conduct periodic testing to ensure things are running smoothly.
The right disaster recovery solutions are right-sized for the systems you have. Consider the cost of disruption versus the cost of bringing everything back online to evaluate the true benefits of your plan.
6. A cybersecurity policy
Cybersecurity team members should be brought into the BC and disaster recovery process early and often. Because cybercrime can greatly affect your business’s ability to keep running, neglecting to include a response in your plan can be disastrous.
Pain points to address in your business continuity plan
Long before the pandemic, ransomware was on the rise. However, with an increase in remote workers and unsecured machines, ransomware attacks have risen by 200%. They are becoming more frequent, more expensive, and more sophisticated. The cost of an average ransomware breach in 2021 was $4.62 million. Cybercriminals are getting more creative by selling Ransomware as a Service (RaaS) to make it easier than ever for other criminals to exploit vulnerabilities without much technical know-how.
The threat landscape will continue to be a moving target. What looks like cloud-based malware and triple extortion now will look like something completely different in a year or two. There will always be a new danger on the horizon looking to capture and hold hostage valuable information.
No matter what comes along, the best way to be prepared is by setting solid cybersecurity policies before anything happens. Employee onboarding needs to include cybersecurity training. Regularly test your employees by sending fake spear phishing emails. Enroll your staff in ongoing training so they are kept up on the latest security threats. Make them feel like they are your first line of defense because that’s exactly what they are.
Cybersecurity should always be seen as a layered approach. Services like extended detection and response (XDR), firewall services, and DDoS mitigation help protect your company’s data by performing a risk assessment before an intruder can make it far. Many data center providers have 24/7 staffing and are monitoring for any potential threats that may come in.
Finally, if you have a remote workforce, virtual desktop infrastructure can allow your employees to easily work from anywhere while accessing the necessary files and programs they need, all with an extra layer of security between their device and your infrastructure. Manage roles and limit access however you need to work on reducing the risk of compromising your most sensitive data.
Extreme weather poses the second most severe global risk to businesses in 2022. It also goes together with the number one global risk, which is climate change action failure. If that risk continues to increase, we will see a likewise increase in extreme weather, which can cause major disruption for business operations during disasters.
One of the main vulnerabilities comes from where your data centers are located. If they are in geographic areas particularly prone to extreme weather like tornadoes or hurricanes, you may be putting your business’ data at unnecessary risk.
To combat this problem, you need geographic diversity in your data systems as part of your disaster recovery plan. Your primary and backup sites should be far enough apart that if a disaster strikes, both centers are not simultaneously affected. Frequent outages can cost you revenue and make your customers lose faith in your reliability.
When considering data center locations, think about their geographic susceptibility to weather, where your customers and staff reside, and how the failover resources will work in cooperation between the centers you select.
RPOs / RTOs
It’s not good enough to simply say that you hope to have your data restored as soon as possible, and at any point, you can. Before something happens that has business-impacting consequences, you need to decide how much you can afford to lose at any given moment.
Start by setting realistic business recovery objectives. A recovery point objective (RPO) determines how much data you can lose after a failure or disaster that isn’t too disruptive to your business processes. A recovery time objective (RTO) sets how much time is acceptable between failure and restoration.
Your requirements for minimizing data loss and downtime will differ depending on your industry and type of business. Consider setting the RPOs and RTOs per application. Ensure your most important applications are recovered first and move down the list from there. Ask yourself the following questions if you’re trying to figure out where to start:
- Is this workload mission-critical?
- How much effort will it take to reconstruct the data?
- What compliance requirements govern the workload?
An important part of disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) involves setting these objectives and restoring data after a disaster in a tiered manner.
One of the overarching objectives of a business continuity plan is figuring out what business activities need to be restored first to create the smallest impact on your bottom line when a disruption occurs. To do this, you’ll want to run a business impact analysis (BIA).
Constant uptime is a given expectation for almost all businesses, causing increasing investment in business continuity management. Customers expect 24/7 availability. Organizations also have to meet compliance requirements and mitigate their downtime costs. Staying always on and always available is a must for many companies.
The staffing necessary to maintain constant uptime can be hard to come by, especially due to the cybersecurity workforce gap that will take several years to close, if ever. Choosing a data center provider that promises near-constant uptime and day-and-night monitoring and crisis management for any outages that may occur unexpectedly means you can remove some items from your ever-growing to-do list. Plus, data centers offer best-in-class technology and access to specialists that would otherwise be costly to keep on staff full-time in case of sporadic events.
Providers can also help you with a backup and data recovery plan that builds on your RTO and RPO goals, to restore data to your ideal point in your given time frame. Everything works together – DRaaS, backup as a service (BaaS), and your RTO/RPO objectives, to form pieces of your business continuity plan.
The primary goal of business continuity planning is getting you back to your normal
There’s never going to be a good time to slow or halt your business operations. With large enterprises losing an average of $400,000 per hour of downtime, it can be an expensive undertaking to be down for even short periods. Figuring out the goals of a business continuity plan for yourself can mean the difference between a long and prosperous business or being forced to close your doors. When you’re ready to put the continued operation at the forefront of your planning, download the ‘Ultimate Guide to Running Your Business Through Uncertainty and Disruption’ eBook to learn more.
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