Business Continuity: what is it and why does your business need it?

Business continuity: what is it and why does your business need it?

If your business was without power for an hour, how would your employees continue to do their work? It’s probably quite manageable, right?

But what if it was a whole day, or a week, or even months that you were without access to your office and the equipment you and your staff used? It may sound like worst-case scenario, but it is a reality many have had to face in Christchurch, and more recently in Wellington, due to serious earthquakes affecting infrastructure. Business owners and their employees were effectively locked out of their working environments with no warning, and no opportunity to recover anything.

Of course people are generally understanding and patient when it comes to natural disasters and things outside of a business’s control, but if they require a specific product or service, at some point they will need to take their patronage elsewhere.

So this is where a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is vital – as it allows an organisation to be back up and running, at full capacity, when something unexpected occurs.

What is Business Continuity and why is it important for businesses?

Charlie Kang is a Cloud Architect and Azure Expert for Microsoft, and he explains that a BCP isn’t just about having a backup in place for data.  

“Where would your staff work? What would they use to work on/with? Will they be able to access all the information needed to continue with their jobs?

“It is important for a business to have a BCP in place because if a disaster were to happen, what would the cost be to your organisation by not knowing how to continue with your day-to-day operations?”

How does a business go about creating a continuity plan?

Kang says the best place to start when creating a plan is by an owner looking at all the technology and processes that are critical to the function of their business. And then ask themselves “if I were to lose access to the physical workplace, or someone bulldozed through our internet cables, how would my staff continue working?”

“You then consider that scenario if it were to affect your business for 15 minutes, an hour, half a day, 3 days – you keep going in terms of working out the strategy that you would implement should those time lapses occur.”  

Kang explains that there are two terms that are used when it comes to putting together a BCP. These are Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO).

“So time is about how fast you can get everything back up and running again – which is usually critical for businesses that rely on CRM/files/emails/data. And then the point objective is how far back do you need the information to be – is the last 24 hours workable, or would you need data from the previous month?”

It is also important to consider what action you would want your employees to take in order to continue with their roles. If they don’t have access to a work mobile device (laptop, mobile etc.) is it okay that they log in on their personal computer, or use their home phone to make business calls?

There are many questions a business owner or management team need to ask themselves when it comes to putting together a BCP, but it is the best way to make sure it is workable and effective if a disaster were to occur.  

What kind of software/systems are useful for a BCP?

It can depend on the business, but the Cloud is an ideal platform to store information and data securely, where it can be accessed from anywhere at any time. This mitigates the risk of having server hardware in one particular place, and Kang notes that it is an industry standard for IT organisations to have three copies of a business’s data in two different locations.

“So if something happened to a Cloud-enabled business, it would simply be a matter of sending staff home, and they could connect via the public internet. For example: with Office 365 you can easily work off your phone.”

Who can help a business put a continuity plan into place?

Generally an IT partner is the best resource when it comes to putting a BCP into place, as in today’s business world it is normally technology (emails, data, software, systems) that people require in order to carry out their work.

You could also engage the assistance of other service providers to your organisation, while also asking them what their plan would be if a natural disaster were to occur – as you may very well be reliant on their service in order to continue with yours.   

For information on tips for SMEs in New Zealand, call our Microsoft Sales Centre on 0508 526 917 and we’ll put you in touch with a Microsoft representative who can help you build a Business Continuity plan for your business. Or ask one of our team a question.