Five Steps for Effective Business Continuity Planning

Planning for disaster is one of those things that you just can’t put off, because if you do it will truly be too late. Jim Olson, vice president of inside sales and solutions engineering at SunGard Availability Services, reminds us, “When the unexpected occurs – from unplanned downtime to a major disaster – the details and unplanned variables are what always impede a fast recovery. It is important to test the way you recover, and recover the way you test. Practice and experience pays off in a time of crisis.”
SunGard Availability Services shared these steps to consider when putting together your own plan.
What Every Small- to Medium-sized Business Needs to Know About Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Planning
According to the 2007 Best’s Underwriting Guide by A.M. Best, only six percent of companies that suffer catastrophic data loss survive, while 43 percent never re-open and 51 percent close within two years of the disaster. It is imperative that SMBs recognize and plan for the potential risks that exist in today’s IT-focused climate. Below are five steps to consider when developing a business continuity plan.

Consider a wide range of possible scenarios.
Downtime – whether it is a result of a hurricane, fire, power outage, hardware failure or human error – affects your IT infrastructure and ultimately your productivity and bottom-line. When developing a disaster recovery strategy, your company should consider various possible disaster scenarios and plan accordingly.
Understand your time and data requirements. Understand how much time your company can afford to be down – also known as Recovery Time Objective (RTO) – as well as how much data you can afford to lose – Recovery Point Objective (RPO). Armed with this knowledge, your company can monetize your risk by balancing recovery requirements, risk tolerance and how much you are willing to spend on a disaster recovery strategy.
Look to keep your people,systems and information connected. Your business continuity strategy must encompass information, systems, people and processes, as well as the complex interdependencies among them. If your workforce cannot connect to systems and data, there is no business. As part of the planning process, also consider what the best strategy is for your company in managing critical systems and components – either internally, with a managed hosting provider or a combination of both.
Investigate advanced technologies. Disaster recovery technologies have changed considerably in recent years with solutions common in large enterprises, such as replication, vaulting and virtualization, now becoming more accessible to SMBs. With these new powerful yet affordable technologies, it has never been easier for SMBs to achieve even greater precision in recovery timeframes and data points.
Plan and test. Planning involves much more than just backing up your data. Many companies think they have an effective disaster recovery plan, but unless it is tested, it is only a plan on paper and not in reality. It is essential for your company to develop and test your plan so the first time it is executed is not during an emergency. Industry research firm the Yankee Group recommends running a disaster recovery test every quarter to help ensure your protection mechanisms will actually protect you when you need them most.