Would My Business Really Suffer?
You may feel your organisation is too modest to benefit from a business continuity plan, thinking disaster recovery measures are only for multinationals.
just one function that has become a critical operation to most companies, whatever their size, is electronic communication: data, email, voice. Without power nothing happens or moves
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How would your business fare if some catastrophic event meant you lost power and, consequently, your email went down? More and more, businesses are relying heavily on email. When this essential electronic communication fails, much of business communication stops. Important messages can get lost resulting in frustration for your personnel and, more crucially, impatience from your clients.
An adequate business continuity plan, including emergency power provision, will help your organisation minimise the risks. Having backup power systems in place means your IT systems will benefit from continuous power, so that even if a disaster strikes they will not suffer a power failure. With reliable power to your critical equipment you are reducing your vulnerability to a failure in your essential electronic communication and helping your business to succeed even during a crisis.
ARE YOU PREPARED FOR DISASTERS?
Recent events have demonstrated how situations can suddenly develop, leaving businesses unable to function. For example, remember the images on the news of flooded business districts? What would your business do if you had to suddenly evacuate your premises because of floods, fire – either in your own building or a neighbour’s – or terrorist threat? And if the situation was not localised but spread over an area, restricting the activity of your suppliers and support services? And how would you cope with the loss of electrical power?
Experience shows these catastrophic events do occur, giving little or no time to make contingency plans when they happen. A wise precaution, therefore, is to develop a business continuity plan now to reduce your vulnerability and make sure you have procedures for your business to continue to function during the crisis, and in its aftermath.
Basic points you might want to give attention to are:
- Where would you operate from if your business premises were inaccessible?
- Will your property be secure during and immediately after any crisis?
- Will you still be able to access your data systems?
- How will you make contact with your employees?
- How will your customers and suppliers know you are ‘still in business’?
- How will you prevent disruptions to your cash flow?
- And how will you put all this into operation?
Emergency situations vary in nature. Some may be a temporary inconvenience, but a domino effect means these can still cause significant disruption. Others may be prolonged and widespread, severely restricting your own operations, and those of your support services, for days or even weeks.
So, you need to identify the kinds of disasters you are most likely to face and make emergency plans for them. Assign a disaster-recovery team of employees with responsibilities for specific tasks. Prioritise your critical business functions and establish how quickly they must be recovered. And test the efficacy of any plans at least annually.
Are you at risk of a disaster which would prevent your using your premises? From where would you operate during the crisis? Perhaps another branch or office of your business would serve to temporarily house your critical operations. Or the office of a work colleague, or even hotel facilities. For a Business Health Analysis Click Here.
Give thought to how your alternative site is equipped. And remember, in an emergency it may not be possible to move your critical equipment. Can you make sure your backup site has critical equipment now – computers and software; current business data crucial to normal operation (payroll, sales and purchase ledgers, stock details, customer order information); supplies, communications equipment (telephones, radios); equipment and spare parts; stationery. It may also be prudent to make sure you have first aid supplies, water and food.
And in a major emergency, will there be power to your backup site? It may be out of the immediately affected zone, but concomitant power disruption is often more widespread. There is no point equipping an alternative operations site with everything you need, only to find there is no electricity to power it all. Emergency power generators with adequate reserves of fuel should also be important considerations when making your disaster preparation plans.
You also need to make sure your property is secure. Can you take steps now to minimise the impact of, say, any freak weather conditions? Are your premises well-maintained? Should it be necessary to abandon your property, how safe will it be? Make sure your computer systems and company records are secure. Give consideration, too, to making company vehicles, equipment or other assets safe.
How easily will you be able to contact others? Maintain a list of current contact information for employees, customers, suppliers – and your insurance companies. If the information is held electronically, make sure you can retrieve it during an emergency. You will need power to your IT systems and if power supplies go down, standby generators will supply the need. Give thought to how you will communicate with others. If communications networks fail, do you have alternative means – mobile telephones, satellite phones, etc? And don’t overlook the internet. Email and notices on your website are effective ways of communicating. Make sure you have power to these vital services.
You need to keep your employees informed. Make them aware of any contingency plans you develop – where they should relocate to, how they can communicate with you. If business is suspended, how will you notify them when you are operational again?
You will want to maintain contact with your customers during the crisis. They will need to know you have plans in place and can continue to serve them. Make sure they have access to your emergency contact details by publishing them on your website. Before any disaster occurs, let them know what they can expect from you in the event of prolonged disaster displacement. Give thought to how they will be able to place orders with you, how you will bill them and how they will make payment to you. In a major crisis it is likely postal services will be disrupted.
Financial matters are crucial and close to the hearts of businesses at the best of times. Your bank may also be affected by the disaster. Will you be able to manage your financial affairs online, over the internet? Are you able to make payments to suppliers and employees by BACS, where the payment is made direct into their bank accounts? And can customers make similar payments to you? Credit cards may become an effective way of making and receiving payments. Keep enough cash on hand to meet immediate needs. Disruption to postal services may mean that payments by cheque will not be effective.
If a mandatory evacuation order is issued, you will need to have an emergency pack to hand. Be prepared by having together:
- Your disaster-recovery plan and checklist
- Insurance policies and other critical documents
- Company cheque books, credit cards, bank account details, etc
- Computer equipment – do you have a laptop computer for use in an emergency?
- Payroll and employee contact information
- Customer records and order book details
- Photographs of your business property
Post disaster contact information inside your property, visible to emergency workers, etc, who may need to reach you, and secure your building and property.
And should a disaster occur and you have to put into operation your business continuity plan, learn from the experience and amend your emergency procedures to improve them where necessary.
Remember Better To Be Prepared!