Your 20-minute business continuity plan

A life buoy on a computer keyboard - business continuity

A business continuity plan helps your company stay up and running if things go wrong with your IT. Whether it's a system crash, a power failure or a flood in your server room, your business continuity plan keeps you working

The idea of writing a business continuity plan can be daunting. However, it's better to put together a one-page plan then do nothing at all. It can take you as little as 20 minutes - read on to find out how.

Business continuity or disaster recovery?

There are two aspects of planning for IT disruption in your business:

  • Business continuity plan. This is how you'll keep working during a problem. It might include temporary measures or backup equipment.
  • Disaster recovery plan. This covers how you get your usual IT systems back up and running to full capacity.

Both are important elements of your IT planning.

What your business continuity plan should include

These are the key elements you need to include in your business continuity plan:

  • A list of staff contact details. Make sure you can get hold of everyone in your business - include home and mobile phone numbers and postal addresses. Good communication is vital to working in difficult circumstances.
  • A note of who has broadband internet. A standard broadband internet connection may be all your staff need to log in and work from home if your office is out of action for some reason.
  • Details of who keeps backup data at home. It can be a good idea to nominate a trusted member of staff to keep a copy of your backups at home. Make sure you know who this is so you can access the data!
  • Key log in details. Your email provider's username and password is probably most important (so you can read and reply to emails), but also keep the details for any other key online services you use, like your CRM or accounting systems.

It's also a good idea to work with your IT supplier to get a quote for replacing all your IT equipment - and in particular, a computer or network server with everything you need to restore your data. That way, you're ready to act quickly without having to scramble to work out what you need to fix things and how much it's going to cost.

Where will your business operate from?

Your business continuity plan should also specify where your business will operate from if your usual location is out of action. Think about an immediate contingency and longer-term options:

  • In the first few days you may decide that working from home is sufficient for you and your staff.
  • In the medium-term (beyond the first few days) you might want to use a temporary office, so your people can gather and have a base from which to work. Search online for short-term office providers and include their contact details in your plan.
  • In the longer-term, consider how your business would operate if you couldn't move back to your normal premises for a while. Do you have insurance to cover loss of earnings and additional costs? Do you have an emergency fund?

Delegate responsibility

Some types of problems could mean that not everyone in your business will be available to take charge. Make sure there's a clear line of responsibility so your business doesn't become paralysed by indecision.

People who can stay cool and have good organisational skills are often good at assuming responsibility in an emergency. You may wish to look for these qualities when nominating deputies.

Keep it somewhere safe

Finally, remember that your business continuity plan is only of use if you can get at it when you need it.

Make sure everyone in your business has a copy, and store it in several places so you're confident you can access it. Keep a hard copy in your desk and at home, save it to your central server and upload it to an online storage space - like that provided by Dropbox or Box.

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