A Business Continuity Plan for the Pandemic: A Quick Guide for Businesses

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    The 2020 pandemic shook the entire world and brought to light the importance of adapting to unforeseen circumstances. Companies that failed to resume their operations faced closure. So having a plan for business continuity is more essential than ever. And yet, 51% of companies had no plans or protocols in place to face the consequences of the outbreak, according to a study by Mercer. There has also been an increase in cyberattacks, meaning businesses are even more at risk without a business continuity plan in place. In this article, we’ll take a look at what a business continuity plan is, why you need it, and how to create one.

    1. What is a business continuity plan?

    As the name implies, a business continuity plan is a set of protocols and procedures that ensure a business will keep operating after a disaster occurs. A disaster is an unexpected event with a significant negative impact. Typical disasters include:
    • Natural disasters (hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.)
    • Man-made disasters, whether accidental and intentional (fires, cyberattacks, etc.)
    • Infrastructure failure (power outages, building collapses, etc.)
    A disaster can lead to serious consequences like:
    • The compromised safety of personnel
    • Losing physical assets
    • Losing data
    • A disruption in the supply chain
    • Closing your business for an undetermined period of time
    • Prolonged downtime
    If you can’t quickly bounce back, you will lose customers and your business may not survive the disaster. You may think of disaster recovery while reading this, and it’s indeed close in meaning to business continuity. But while many use the two terms interchangeably, it’s important to know the difference:
    • Disaster Recovery (DR) is a set of protocols that determine when the backup of business data will occur, and how their restoration will occur following a disaster.
    • Business Continuity (BC) encompasses a wider set of procedures that includes disaster recovery. A DR plan alone won’t keep your business up and running – it’s a subset of BC. A business continuity plan outlines all the steps you need before, during, and after a disaster, including:
    –  Identifying essential business functions – Finding a secondary location – Training staff for emergency scenarios – Defining health and safety protocols – Agreements with third parties that help maintain activity You never know when a disaster might strike, so you need to have a BC plan in place.

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    2. Why is business continuity important?

    It’s no exaggeration to say that a business continuity plan can make all the difference between the survival and death of your company. A BC plan lets you perform essential services even when an incident occurs. If downtime isn’t kept to a minimum, you will lose customer trust. But when you have a solid plan in place, you can react fast and do the following:
    • Deliver products and services without interruptions
    • Limit the financial cost of the disaster
    • Ensure employees are safe and don’t lose their jobs
    • Maintain customer trust and reputation
    • Resume normal activity in the shortest amount of time possible
    • Gain a competitive edge when a disaster equally hits competitors – as the pandemic did for entire industries
    The COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, has ramifications that make a BC plan even more crucial. A Tanium report revealed that 90% of organisations experienced an increase in cyberattacks. 98% of the 1,000+ surveyed executives said they experienced security challenges within the first two months of the pandemic, and 43% experienced difficulties patching remote workers’ personal devices, exposing their organisations to risk. That is one reason — among many — why businesses must be more proactive about getting the right DR and BC plans in place.

    3. Create a plan that works for your business

    Creating a business continuity plan starts with a proper understanding of disaster recovery metrics. When you know exactly how your system will be restored, you will be able to continue operations during and after a disaster. Every disaster recovery plan should include the following components:
    • Failover: the process of transferring all applications and processes to a redundant IT system, generally in a secondary location.
    • Failback: the process of returning applications and processes to the original and restored system. The data generated during failover must be retained after normal operations resume.
    • Restore Time Objective (RTO): the amount of downtime your business can tolerate.
    • Restore Point Objective (RPO): the maximum amount of time in which data loss can be tolerated.
    Once you have identified the right DR metrics for your business, you need to acquire a DR system that fits your specific needs and make sure your organisation can use and maintain that system. The heart of BC is ensuring your staff knows how to carry on their jobs with a failover system. The goal is to keep serving your customers as if nothing had happened while recovery is underway. To achieve that, you need to identify the non-technical and process-orientated steps needed to maintain your DR system and effectively continue operations. By creating a plan that supports your business, you can minimise downtime and ensure continuity in the post-pandemic world. Due to the worldwide shift to working from home, cyberattacks of remote sessions are increasingly common, so you need to be prepared for security threats like phishing attacks, ransomware, or cloud jacking — to mention a few. To that end, there are two main “as-a-service” solutions you can invest in:
            • Disaster Recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) brings the “pay as you go” managed IT model to disaster recovery planning. You can leverage the expertise of IT professionals without having to hire in-house staff. DRaaS solutions are mostly cloud-based and can help you focus on your core business with the reassurance of guaranteed positive DR outcomes.
            • Business Continuity-as-a-service (BCaaS) provides a DRaaS package that includes consulting on how to develop an internal business continuity solution. No service provider can truly guarantee business continuity for your organisation, but they can assist you in building your own BC plan.

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    4. Use the right software in your business continuity plan

    To create your BC plan, you need to invest in effective cloud disaster recovery software. There are three types of cloud services you can go with:
    1. Public clouds: a third-party hosts the software and platform on which your data is stored and accessed on the internet. Public clouds are cheap, easy to install, and scalable, but may lack reliability and accessibility speed.
    2. Private clouds: this solution relies on dedicated hardware that is hosted either at your organisation’s data centre or by a third party. Private clouds are much faster, more stable and secure, but also much more expensive to acquire and maintain.
    3. Hybrid clouds: a combination of public and private clouds that delivers the benefits of both. You can backup your business-critical applications within a small private cloud, and relegate the less sensitive data that can remain inaccessible until failback to a public cloud.
    Cloud-based disaster recovery is especially effective in the wake of the pandemic. Not only is it cost-effective and keeps downtime to a minimum, but it also enables remote workers to easily access the resources they need from anywhere while your business recovers from a disaster.

    5. Consult the right specialist to help you

    Creating and executing a business continuity plan is not an easy task, but during the still-ongoing pandemic, it’s even harder. You need to consider various components, e.g. RTO and RPO, and figure out the solution that is tailored to your business needs. You have to choose between DRaaS and BCaaS, and in both cases, you need a cloud service – whether public, private, or hybrid. On top of that, it’s important to make sure the procedures in your BC plan are adequately constructed. Test the efficacy of your DR system by running drills and testing your hardware. Identifying and fixing deficiencies ahead of time is key to ensuring the continuity of business operations when a disaster does occur. With so many aspects of BC involved, consulting specialists who understand what works for DR and BC and can tailor a solution that fits your business is essential. Nexstor can help with that. Reach out to us today to assess your needs and get a quote.

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    Rob Townsend

    Rob is a co-founder at Nexstor and has dedicated his career to helping a range of organisations from SME to Enterprise to get ahead of the game when it comes to their compute, storage and data needs.

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