Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Business Continuity Planning

How would your business cope with a six-hour powercut?

That's what we enjoyed yesterday. It was a relatively minor inconvenience when compared to the flooding in Cumbria and Scotland but it's reminded me of the importantance of business continuity planning.

BCP, or disaster recovery, is one of those subjects small businesses are consistently being badgered about and, in my experience, consistently ignore. Planning for problems is a good idea but it takes time, can cost money, and there's an element of "if something happens we'll manage".

Small businesses have enough to do at the moment just to survive, without worrying about what to do if the sky falls in on their heads.

But there are some basic steps you can take which don't take much time or cost much money, but will be invaluable when the unexpected happens. And don't think that disaster recovery is only about fire or flood, which are admittedly unlikely. It's also about losing one of your key staff unexpectedly, having a major customer go under or suffering a major IT failure. Most businesses face major challenges from time to time.

A simple and effective business continuity plan that I've seen one business implement comprised a small printed card which listed the phone numbers of key staff and other contacts such as the people who managed the website.  It also summarised the issues to consider in the event of an emergency of some sort.

These cards were reviewed every few months and updated if details had changed. They were kept in pockets, briefcases and glove compartments in cars. In the event of an issue staff could quickly get in touch with one another and with key suppliers. A message could quickly be posted on their website letting customers know there was problem and giving alternative contact details.

I'm writing this post on a netbook PC which forms part of my business continuity strategy.  It's a backup for my aging laptop should it fail. Other elements in my plan include a plug-in hard-drive and increased use of cloud computing - storing documents online.

My business continuity plan is not a strategy that's been formed through hours of planning. It's a loose collection of ideas and hardware that I'm confident will work for me.

Whatever approach you take to business continuity planning, I recommend you avoid making the mistake of doing nothing.

If your business is flooded and your stock ruined your options are probably limited. But if you lose power in your premises you may still be able to do business, if you've planned ahead.


  1. I could not agree more with your comment "Whatever approach you take to business continuity planning, I recommend you avoid making the mistake of doing nothing." Can i add communication is also key to recovery with your staff , customers and any other interested parties. If they are kept informed they wont make rash decisions. The odd test doesnt hurt either

  2. Good post. There's nothing like an incident to raise the awareness of the risk. What you write is common sense, unfortunately it's not so common! Can I add.. Business Continuity Planning can prevent an incident becomming a disaster.

  3. Good Post - I agree 100% that people need to plan for the unexpected, Power cuts and adverse weather are just 2 of them.

    Small businesses can make themselves much more resilient by using hosted services for their email. phones etc. I have a blog item about this at //