Business Continuity: How to Minimize Your IT Risks
Posted 05 Feb at 7:25 pm in Business Continuity
In simple terms, business continuity is what you do to make sure your business suffers the minimum possible disruption from an unexpected interruption. This could include a network crash, cyber attack, or physical damage to equipment. It’s a concept that has replaced the old term, “backup and disaster recovery.”
Using the term business continuity isn’t a rebranding exercise, but rather a change of mindset. It means concentrating on proactive solutions – making sure your technology doesn’t fail you in the first place – rather than reactive processes like backup and disaster recovery.
While backup and disaster recovery is still an vital aspect of business continuity, it’s much more cost-effective and more productive to focus on maximizing operational uptime, while relying on backups when your back is up against the wall.
Business Continuity Answers Fundamental Questions
The problem with thinking simply in terms of backup and disaster recovery is that it can create a false sense of security. Being able to answer yes to the question “Is our data backed up?” doesn’t answer a host of other, more fundamental questions such as:
- “Why did our network go down in the first place?”
- “How do we make sure this doesn’t happen again?”
- “What’s the procedure and how long will it take to restore operations?”
- “How is downtime affecting my bottom line?”
Business continuity answers these questions by getting to the root of problems first, before they have a chance to manifest themselves. It’s a proactive approach that saves time, money, and provides you and your staff with peace-of-mind.
Business Continuity Addresses a Host of Threats
One of the reasons for thinking more about business continuity as a whole rather than getting caught up in single specific measures is that the threats to a business are so diverse.
Just some of the events that could interrupt your network operations include:
- Software failure or corruption
- Data breaches
- Physical infrastructure damage from fire, flooding or other natural disaster
- An extended power cut
- Internet connection failure or interruption
Remember that some threats may lie beyond your premises. For example, if you rely on accessing data stored or processed by a third party, a problem there could interrupt your business as well.
Business continuity addresses each one of these threats by implementing tools, plans, and procedures to keep events like these from happening in the first place and mitigating the effects if they do happen.
Business Continuity Minimizes The True Cost of Downtime
One of the reasons businesses often underestimate the importance of business continuity is that managers don’t think through the full consequences. It’s not enough to reason, “If we lose files we’ll restore them from the back up: job done.” This reactive approach is bad for business!
For example, the time files or networks are unavailable is key. During this time you could be losing staff productivity. You could be missing out on new business. You could face financial penalties for delays fulfilling existing contracts. There could even be legal consequences: imagine, for example, a data breach that exposes sensitive customer information.
If your business is operating at full or close-to-full capacity, it’s not always as simple as being offline for a set period. When you are back up-and-running, it could take weeks or even months to catch up with the backlog.
Another element to think about is keeping track of exactly how up to date a backup is and if – or even how – you can deal with any disparities between the position you were in at the time of the backup and the position when the interruption happened.
The 3 Keys To Business Continuity
Exactly how to ensure business continuity will vary from business to business is why an overall strategy is key. You’ll need to think about the right measures for your situation. They’ll often fit into three main categories.
1) Backup & Recovery
We’ve covered some elements of this already, but it bears repeating that the logistics and timescale of recovering and restoring data is just as important as knowing the data is backed up in the first place.
You also need to consider the way in which you backup data and how you balance the need to have up-to-date backups against the costs and time of doing so. One option that suits some businesses is a more modular approach of backing up the most sensitive or time-critical data more frequently and then a more comprehensive back up at less frequent intervals.
Don’t overlook the risks to the backups themselves. For example, storing data on disks in your offices may protect them against a system failure, but won’t be any use if they are damaged by the same physical disaster that took out your computer hardware.
2) Network Security
Vital as backups are, reducing the need to use them is also key to minimizing business interruption. There’s a host of steps you can take to protect your network against disruptive breaches. Some may seem obvious such as strong security settings like passwords to authenticate users, or anti-malware protection.
Others are less well-known but may be even more important. For example, your business could be hit by a denial of service attack where either your website or your network is flooded with bogus requests for data, a crude but effective way of blocking legitimate connections.
3) Routine Upgrades and Maintenance
Cyberattacks snatch the headlines, but some threats are much more mundane. Hardware such as computers, storage drives or networking equipment can break down. Software can become corrupted or networking systems overloaded. The best way to protect against this is routine maintenance to adequately check everything is working as designed and spot potential problems before they become disruptive. You also need to keep an eye on infrastructure and make sure it’s up to date and has any relevant upgrades, making sure to check compatibility between the different elements of your network.
Developing Business Continuity Plans and Procedures
Developing a business continuity plan can’t be done with a “one size fits all” approach. For companies that do not have the time or expertise to develop plans and procedures in-house, many seek the help of a Managed Service Provider like Proper Sky.
If you’re interested in discovering how we can develop business continuity for your organization, consider signing up for our C-Level Workshop. Our no-obligation C-Level workshop will allow you to walk out of the meeting with a complete understanding of how downtime affects your bottom line and how a business continuity plan can help your company prosper.
For more information on Managed IT Services and how they can help your business, please see our in-depth Guide to Managed IT Services.