What should you do if your company is affected by an incident? How can you ensure that your critical IT services remain accessible? In order to keep your organization functioning at a pre-defined acceptable level during an incident, you need to already draw up a Business Continuity Plan (BCP). In this blog, we explain why a Business Continuity Plan for your IT is indispensable and how to draw up a Disaster Recovery plan.
What is a Business Continuity Plan?
A Business Continuity Plan is a set of documents in which you preventively set out the measures that your organization will take in the event of a disaster – such as the unavailability of buildings, the failure of critical ICT infrastructure, but also a pandemic or a natural disaster. The cause or nature of the disaster isn’t the most important factor here; what matters is the impact this event will have on your business operations.
In your Business Continuity Plan, you specify the processes that are critical to your organization, how quickly they must be resumed, and how you will achieve that. This way, you know which processes take priority if something happens and which assets are indispensable for keeping your organization operating at an acceptable level during a disaster. It is also advisable to include contact details of employees and important external parties in your Business Continuity Plan.
You can draw up a Business Continuity Plan for different areas within your organization, but for now we will focus on a Business Continuity Plan for your organization’s IT. A BCP for IT is also called Disaster Recovery.
Why draw up an IT BCP?
Hybrid multi-cloud environments are increasingly becoming the norm when it comes to providing customers with the best possible customer experience. However, this also increases the complexity of your infrastructure. It also increases risks and the need for more specialist skills and tools to manage those risks.
As infrastructures are becoming more complex, system failures or outages and cyber attacks are becoming more frequent. This can have a major impact in the event of an outage or unplanned downtime.
You don’t want to have to decide which IT processes are indispensable for your organization – or have to think about how you can get those processes up at running as quickly as possible – at the moment an incident occurs. A Business Continuity Plan helps you to identify risks, analyse their impact, and decide how to ensure that critical business processes can be resumed quickly.
By thinking about your Business Continuity Plan now, you will prevent major disruptions for your employees and customers. And you will more easily comply with legal obligations.
- The most important reasons for drawing up a BCP are therefore:
- Minimize disruptions to normal business operations
- Limit the extent of disruption and damage
- Minimize the economic impact of the interruption
- Train personnel for emergency procedures
- Identify alternative operating procedures in advance
What is included in a Business Continuity Plan?
To ensure that your organization can respond quickly to incidents or unplanned downtime, your BCP should at least set out the methods for ensuring uninterrupted delivery of IT services. You should also identify the resources that you will need from an IT perspective to maintain business continuity, for example critical personnel, equipment, finances, standby equipment, legal assistance, alternative infrastructure, alternative accommodation, etc.
In your BCP, you can include plans for:
- Application failure
- Communication errors
- Problems at your data centre
- Problems in your building (such as a fire), city (such as a power failure), region or country (problems with your internet provider or a pandemic)
What is the first step in drawing up a Business Continuity Plan?
Before you can draw up a detailed plan, you need to know what risks your organization faces and what the consequences are. To do this, you need to start by performing a business impact analysis and a risk analysis. In the business impact analysis, you determine the impact of possible disruptions.
This then forms the basis for the risk analysis, where you assess not only the likelihood of a disruption, but also its potential impact. Once you have conducted both analyses, you can start setting recovery objectives for your IT.
When preparing your BCD, work your way through the following steps:
- Analyse incidents that have occurred and how they were resolved.
- Analyse the risks and the impact of these risks on your business operations.
- Identify the most serious threats or vulnerabilities in your infrastructure, as well as your most valuable assets.
- For each threat, determine the minimum level at which the processes must function to be able to continue operations.
- Specify the steps you need to take in order to guarantee this level as soon as possible after the disruption.
- Establish who is responsible for carrying out the repair work.
- Make sure that relevant infrastructure documentation is included in the plan.
- Have the BCP reviewed and approved by your organization’s board or management.
- Test all scenarios included in the plan on a regular basis.
- Update the plan regularly.
Unfortunately, your Business Continuity Plan is never ‘finished’; it’s a ‘living’ document. After all, your organization is constantly evolving and the employees who play a major role in your recovery plans may leave the company. This means that the risks, but also the solutions to disruptions, will sometimes change.
As such, it’s important that you review your BCP regularly and make sure that it’s always up to date. Also, be mindful of the fact that the value of your plan increases as more employees feel involved in it. So, gather the input for drawing up your Business Continuity Plan from all layers of your organization – from management to the receptionist.
Hopefully you’ll never really need your Business Continuity Plan, but it’s always good to have a safety net and practical plan in place in the unlikely event that your IT processes are interrupted.
Of course, all Business Continuity Plans look good on paper, but you only really find out whether they fit the bill when you actually execute them. Perhaps some things turn out differently than you had expected or you have overlooked certain aspects. That’s why testing is important. Also for your employees, because they need to be able to switch seamlessly to the role assigned to them in the BCP in case of an incident.
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