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3rd Sep 2013


Over the past few months I have been part of an in-house team looking at our ability to get the company back up to speed in the case of a disaster.

We have always had a plan, but we thought that a re-visit couldn’t hurt and wanted to concentrate on business continuity rather than just disaster recovery.

This type of project really makes you think carefully about how the company operates, especially the reliance on IT systems. You also need to be confident that you can continue to service your customers, pay your suppliers and pay your staff.

This was certainly a well-worth project. We’ve looked at the risks and made sure that we have back-up across Europe and a business continuity plan that will work.

I am always keen to pass on good ideas so have put together a few useful pointers on how to go about putting a plan together.

How to start a business continuity project?

First steps are to think about the possible disasters that could happen and analyse the risk to the company.

Not every disaster will impact every area of a business, so this is an important first step to ensure that the recovery plans are appropriate.

For example, consider these possible events; each one will need a different planned response:
• damage to the computing and network resource
• bad weather stopping the supply chain
• a ‘flu outbreak amongst your staff
• flood damage to stock
• power outage
• major disruption to site access

Once you have identified the likely risks you can start to plan appropriately to manage any crisis before it becomes a disaster. This is the essence of ‘business continuity’ rather than just disaster recovery.

Assess the impact

• possible incidents & outcomes
• probability rating
• potential impact level

Develop the plan

• immediate aftermath
• which critical functions need to be resumed & in what order
• identify key individuals & duties – ‘who does what’
• customers – make sure that you have a contact list, know what you will be telling them and who will be making the communication.
• don't forget suppliers
• involve your security company and fire service
• make reciprocal arrangements with other local companies

Test the plan

• this could be a desk test or something more extensive
• audit the plan regularly

Training/communication

• staff training
• documentation

Maintaining the plan

• assign someone to be responsible

Business continuity checklist

• Business continuity project manager’s name and contact details
• Team that will make the key decisions
• Contact details to enable the team to be brought together
• Nominated control centre as a meeting point
• Identification of business critical processes and the resources required to continue them
• General resource requirements, for example IT hardware and software, telecommunications
• Details of how a recovery would be phased
• Telephone divert arrangements
• Emergency contact number for employees to obtain the latest information
• Contacts for internal and external agencies who may support the recovery
• Utility supplier details
• Address of the recovery site
• Contents and storage location of a disaster pack
• List of key customers, suppliers, third parties and their contact details
• Comprehensive team cascade list
• Backup computer data and any critical paper records held off-site
• Network diagrams, building plans and other technical information
• Precautions to be taken in the event of an incident, for example, staff evacuation

There are lots of resources available, such as your local Fire Services, Chamber of Commerce or insurance company. If you are located on a business park you may find that there is an association or management firm that can help.

Let’s hope we never need to test it for real.

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