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Friday, September 6, 2019

A Business Continuity Template for Your Biz

You’ve seen all the disaster movies and are well aware of the catastrophes that can threaten your business—fire, flood, tornado, zombie apocalypse, etc. But unfortunately for business owners everywhere, even small, more common occurrences like hardware/software failures, burglary, staff disruptions, cyberattacks, or power outages have the potential to equally doom your business. Whether it’s a natural disaster affecting your entire area or a personal disaster affecting just you, business must go on. Fortunately, the day—and your livelihood—can be saved in the face of danger by creating a simple business continuity plan.

What’s in a BC Plan?

Regardless of your company size, a business continuity plan should contain all the critical information necessary to resume operations during any unforeseen event. It establishes risk management procedures and processes in order to do two important things: minimize disruption to vital services and restore operations as quickly (and seamlessly) as possible. Creating a BC plan from scratch can be overwhelming, so to get you going we’ve included a sample plan template to fill out for some peace of mind.

Download the Business Continuity Template from TechTarget and author Paul Kirvan.

What You Need for a Successful Plan

Here’s our advice on turning this blank template into a successful business continuity plan.

  • Get your facts straight. Your BC plan doesn’t have to be encyclopedia thick; it just needs the right information. A one-page plan with current and accurate information is more valuable than a lengthy document nobody can use.
  • Get an emergency plan. Go to gov—part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency site—and complement your business continuity plan with suitable disaster preparedness and disaster response checklists.
  • Exercise your plan regularly. Once your plan is complete, test it semiannually to ensure the documented procedures make sense in the indicated sequence, and that all information is current.

How the BC Template Is Organized

Now, let’s take a look at the structure of our business continuity template and point out key issues to address and activities to perform.

  1. Initial data.It’s important to have your emergency contacts section filled out so you won’t have to waste valuable seconds searching for the information.
  2. Revision control page.This is page two of the plan, and it reflects your change management process.
  3. Purpose and scope.Provide details on these attributes, as well as assumptions, team descriptions, a list of terms, and other background information.
  4. Instructions for using the plan.Provide information about when and how the plan will be activated, including outage time frames, who declares a disaster, and who should be contacted.
  5. Emergency response and management.Specify situations in which the plan and response procedures are to be activated.
  6. Plan reviews and maintenance.Describe how often the plan is to be reviewed and updated and by whom.
  7. Checklists and flow diagrams. Assuming an incident has occurred, identify the steps to address it. These can be in the form of checklists—which are useful to keep track of scheduled and completed tasks—and flow diagrams that provide a high-level view of response and recovery.
  8. Notification of an incident affecting the site.Information needs to be gathered before officially declaring a disaster. This includes damage assessment data and firsthand reports from staff and first responders. Convene meetings as soon as possible with key emergency team members to evaluate the facts before proceeding to a declaration.
  9. Decide on a course of action.This section addresses actions to take when it becomes obvious that management needs to declare a disaster. A damage assessment can be initiated before or after the declaration—it is up to company leadership.
  10. Business recovery phase.This section provides instructions on recovering operations, relocating to an alternate site, and related activities.
  11. Detailed appendices are provided at the end of the template. These include lists and contact details for all emergency teams, primary and alternate vendors, alternate workspace locations, and other relevant information. It is very important to keep this information up to date.

Maintaining Business Continuity

Too many companies view the creation of a BC plan as the end of the process. To get the most out of your plan, you should make the plan’s regular upkeep a priority. But it doesn’t have to be reviewed all at once. Start by focusing on sections that are most likely to change throughout the years. These include your company’s emergency team names and contact details, as well as lists of mission-critical equipment, applications, vendors and suppliers, and org charts. 

Help in Getting Back on Track

While taking the lead in resuming business operations in the wake of a disaster falls heaviest on the head that wears the crown, you can still count on a technology partner to greatly ease the burden. Talk to a managed solutions provider to learn how you can leverage the cloud to seamlessly get your business data and network back on track after a disastrous episode of rain, sleet, snow, or a break room microwave fire started by a stray piece of aluminum foil.