Aviva, one of the worlds largest insurance groups, have recently urged SME’s to focus their attentions on Business Continuity Planning in 2011. This was based research carried out online as part of Aviva’s Bi-annual SME Pulse, with help from 500 SME owners and looks into how SMEs are running their businesses.
Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery planning was a question posed to the SME’s; the results which are published here, are quite surprising. Half the SME’s who were questioned admitted to having no Business Continuity or Disaster Recovery Plan in place. 16% of those asked felt there wasn’t a business requirement for one, whilst only 28% of those surveyed said they had a Business Continuity Plan in place. Given the amount of studies that have been conducted about how soon business go out of business after a major data loss incident, it seems not all SME’s are taking the issue too seriously.
The study reveals much more and states that owners of SME’s are underestimating how long it can take a business to get back to normal and continue trading. Obviously this is dependent on the type of business, but it is reckoned 33% of SME owners would be back on their feet within a week, whilst 31% believed within a month. With only 19% of those surveyed saying they had a full contingency in place, with full insurance cover, these figures seem to leave many SME’s exposed and their businesses at great risk.
By carefully planning data backup and business continuity requirements, companies can ensure that thier businesses downtime is kept to a minimum. Could any business cope with being out of action for a week, let alone a month? With no plan in place businesses run the risk of losing their customers they have spent years to attract and maintain the credibility they have built up.
Industry analyst Gartner has advised that Enterprises should not overreact to the worldwide swine flu outbreak and the media attention surrounding it. But they should take this event as a wake-up call and review and test their pandemic response plans.
On 27 April 2009, governments and public health authorities worldwide were preparing for the anticipated spread of AH1N1 influenza (swine flu). The outbreak is currently centered in Mexico, where AH1N1 influenza is believed to have caused more than 100 deaths, but the disease is known to have spread to the U.S., Canada, Europe and elsewhere.
The swine flu outbreak is not yet a pandemic — and may never become one — but the media attention paid to it is already affecting enterprises. For example, declining oil prices are being attributed to fears of a disease-driven slowdown, and the European Union has issued travel warnings for the U.S. and Mexico. A true pandemic could cause absenteeism rates of 40% or higher for enterprises and their business partners and suppliers, resulting in severe operational disruptions. For this reason, enterprises must recognize the urgent need to develop and implement pandemic response planning.
Enterprises, governments and regulatory agencies should not make panic-driven moves — for example, closing down operations — in response to possibly overblown media reports. But business continuity management (BCM) and disaster recovery (DR) professionals and other stakeholders should use the widespread concern over the swine flu to increase enterprise awareness of the potential business impact of a widespread outbreak of disease. A recent Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) study found that only 12% of participating institutions had “very effective” plans in place. Nonetheless, financial services is one of the few industries that have undertaken serious pandemic response planning, and the FFIEC study is the only large-scale testing of such plans yet conducted.
Enterprises in all regions and across all industries should review their BCM/DR pandemic response plans. Senior executives, line-of-business managers and other high-level decision-makers should be made aware of the seriousness of this pandemic preparation, to ensure a broad, ongoing commitment to this effort.
It is important to deal with business risks first, while dealing with the business continuity analysis. All the risk factors to the business should be examined first and detailed planning prepared to deal with them one by one. There are four options for dealing with each risk:
This can be split into two problems, one to tackle the likelihood of the problem and the other to reduce or minimise the impact of the problem which has already occurred. An example is that of the fire alarm and the sprinkler system. The fire alarm reduces the chances of fire spreading unnoticed, whereas the sprinkler system douses fire.
This is a perfect way of taking care of problems though it may seem as an escape route. This does not mean that we will look for scapegoats.
One must accept the fact that there exists a potential risk. Only then a plan can be prepared to tackle the same. This will automatically reduce the impact of the problem.
After accepting the potential risk factors, one cannot ignore their fallout. It is imprudent to believe that such a situation will not arise. A risk-based testing approach should be adopted for optimum safety.
The plan should be thoroughly tested. It is better to entrust this job to an independent agency, in the case of data backup, it is of paramount importance that the data is kept off-site and preferably online.
Everyone running a business should ask oneself if their business is ready to face any unforeseen disaster and to what extent it will affect business. The next query is what one is doing to meet with a crisis if a disaster strikes. This can happen at a time when it is least expected. Everyone associated with a business is bound to be affected.
It can be nature’s handiwork, such as fire, tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunami, or man-made calamities like terrorism. The list is unending. The after effects of a disaster can be mitigated if one takes the necessary precautions to keep the business going despite disaster. In such an event keeping a business continuity plan ready becomes essential.
Thankfully, now many businesses know that a Business Continuity Plan is very important. This is not about just working out who will inherit the business or who will continue running it. It is rather about how the business will continue after a disaster strikes unexpectedly. Any disaster is always unexpected and that’s the reason why a plan for business continuity is needed.
Equipment can be placed, staff can be relocated, even new premised can be found, but how would it affect your business if you lost every piece of information the business ever had? Data takes a long time to build up and is necessary to know how much people owe you, where contracts were up to, names and contact details of past customers and more. Online data backup ensures you do not lose your data.
Following are the Vital Ingredients of any Business Continuity Plan
The backbone of any business structure is the staff. It is not possible to replace the highly trained staff at a short notice. What if the key personnel who manage the affairs are not there to perform? These are vital factors to think and make adequate precautions.
How much can you rely on the remaining machinery in case of a disaster? Whether stand-by machinery is available and how soon it can be made available for smooth functioning of the business is an important aspect to consider.
Data and Software
You must consider the importance of backing up systems and data in an offsite server. The offsite server should be in different location other than the place of business.
You must check if all the paper data have been transferred to proper storage facility before a disaster.
Have a business continuity committee in place comprising staff from all important departments to formulate ideas and prepare for disaster management.
Following are the key elements of a Business Continuity Plan:
Plan of Communication
A contact list should be prepared to indicate who should be called and for what purpose. Normally the contact list includes names of stake holders, employees, customers, suppliers, software providers, property managers, etc.
Proper Insurance Coverage
It is advisable to go for business income interruption policy coverage. There can be possibilities of upstream and downstream losses. On site injury to staff and clients should also insured along with the goods of your customers. The business premises also need to be adequately insured.
List of Inventory
A list of inventory and other assets should be maintained. The list should be comprehensive to include the entire stock, ready, in production, raw materials, etc.
Prepare a business recovery plan. The plan should be comprehensive and cover all aspects, such as whom to contact, how to rebuild, how to procure alternate machinery, how to seek help from business associates, etc. In times of disaster, pre-approved engineers are in demand and one can go for out of town engineers for rebuilding.
Ensure that your data is backed up, preferably offsite. If it is kept as an online data back up, then you will be able to access it from anywhere at any time.