Business Continuity and Disaster Planning

The news is regularly full of reasons why businesses need to look at continuity planning.

Whether it’s the recent riots, the fires at Peckforton Castle and Chester Enterprise Centre, or floods following rains, there are plenty of threats to your business.

It could even be something as simple as road works cutting the phone cable to your office, bringing down not just your telephone lines but also your internet connection and access to emails.

Have you thought how you would cope if something like this happened to you? And if you have thought about it, have you set up robust systems to protect yourself and tested them? 

As with many of these things, the first thing to look at is your requirements. If you run a 24/7 real-time operation with hundreds of people depending on you, then your business continuity is vitally important. But if you have an office because it’s convenient but in reality everyone could work from home remotely using their mobiles and laptops, then it’s not such an issue, providing it didn’t last for a long time and you had a suitable back-up routine.
Here are some of the continuity arrangements that you might like to think about.

Back-ups. These ensure things are recoverable if anything happens, but they don’t stop the event from happening or reduce the impact. Remember though that your back-up storage should be off-site. If your premises has a fire or flood and your back-up is stored on-site, then you can’t get at it so it will have been completely pointless from a continuity perspective. You want to be able to load up and get going again as quickly as possible.

Physical security. As prevention is better than cure, you want to stop as many dangerous elements as possible from getting at your IT. This includes making sure everything is locked and physically protected, but also the online aspects. Hackers can access your system whenever you sign onto an internet connection so make sure all your firewalls, antivirus and spam protection are up-to-date – automated updates are usually provided every day. Don’t forget about password protection and screen locks. 

Mirrored Services. If the priority is to carry on working seamlessly (known as ‘business continuity’), rather than recovering quickly (known as ‘disaster planning’), you will need some form of mirrored application. In effect, this is a duplicate of your systems that would be activated if your normal operations went down. This could be as simple as an email continuity system, an overflow telephone system to a telephone answering service, wireless internet or a full mirrored server providing seamless service to staff and customers. 

We’ve produced a couple of articles on different forms of business continuity and disaster planning which you might find useful (What is Disaster Planning & Business Continuity and How to help your Business Survive Disasters), and we also have a blog post on a specific form of mirrored servers – virtualisation.

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