In the last few months, many businesses have been scrambling to resume operations in a way that is safe for their employees, and delivers their services to customers. We've been speaking to Transcendit Director Dave Scott about how to approach business continuity.
What is business continuity?
'Thinking about business continuity means asking the question, how will the business continue when something goes wrong,' says Dave. 'What happens when people can't get into the office, or there's a risk to our employees from something like COVID-19. How do we continue operating in the event of a disaster? Figuring that out is business continuity.'
Dave says that Transcendit's planning stems from creating a risk register, 'A risk register is a list of your assets in your company, so it could include IT equipment, your services, key people, a building. A risk register lists everything that's important to the business, everything that you need to operate.'
'After listing all of the assets, we performed an assessment to identify the risks to these assets. By documenting people, equipment, services, we can start to analyse the threats to those things, and how to mitigate them.'
What would your business do in the event of a disaster?
Dave says that businesses need to think about how they would continue to operate on all key levels, 'Transcendit can operate remotely as well as from our two offices, one in Gateshead and the other in Durham. For example, we looked at what would happen if each office lost power or people couldn’t get to the office (like with COVID-19), which for most businesses would stop most things. We therefore incorporated relevant mitigation into our plan to have remote working and relevant cloud-based back-end systems.'
'There are a number of different ways your business can be more flexible, which not only addresses business continuity but also enhances the work/life balance of the great people working with you,' says Dave. 'Preparing for remote working is one of them. If your team can work from home, then the business can continue operating if something happens to your premises. By using VOIP, which allows staff to connect to our phone system through their smartphones, we're able to continue taking calls from customers. By using systems that are accessible from anywhere, whether they are securely accessed internal systems or cloud-based systems, we can continue providing all our usual services'
Dave says that there are often small technological solutions that you can put in place to protect you for localised issues which can be disasterous for businesses, 'Customers often need server equipment to provide their organisations with key IT services. Ensuring these have resilience (eg. for disks) and power protection (usually in the form of a Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)) backed up by responsive warranty are low cost measures which will more than pay for themselves in the event of hardware or short-term power issues. Having an effective, tested backup and recovery strategy that underpins it all is crucial.'
'Cloud based services are also useful,' says Dave. 'Cloud services are perfect as long as you've got the connectivity wherever you are. However, then the risk shifts to the internet connection; can everyone access it, is there sufficient bandwidth to support all your staff and the applications they're using. You have to think about these issues to keep your business going.'
What about disaster recovery?
Dave says making a distinction between the business continuity plan and the disaster recovery plan is essential. 'When something goes wrong, the main priority at that point is that the business has got to keep running - that's when your business continuity comes into effect. You make sure you've got something in place, so that whatever happens everyone and everything can still operate.'
'Disaster recovery is getting back to where you were before the disaster. It might be that there isn't a building to go back to, but disaster recovery is getting the business back to running as normal, or at least a new normal.'
Why is business continuity so important?
'Unexpected things happen all the time,' says Dave. 'With COVID-19, we're experiencing the kind of conditions that businesses can be expected to continue under.'
'Whether it's a computer virus, a fire, a car crashing into your premises - so many things are out of your control. What is within your control is how you respond to these situations, especially if you’ve given them some level of thought beforehand. Having a risk register, a business continuity plan and a disaster recovery plan means that you're as prepared as you can be. When the worst does happen, it doesn't leave you scrambling; you just follow the plan and get back to running your business. Just make sure that your plans are regularly reviewed, accessible under all situations, and everyone knows where they are - so you can find them easily when something happens!'
'You can't look at absolutely everything, or plan for every eventuality, but you can assess and prepare for the things that are the most likely, or high risk.'
'Transcendit can help with risk registers for customers, disaster recovery, and a business continuity plan. And when we help a customer with hardware, or a business with moving to the cloud, we'll always discuss the business continuity and disaster recovery side too. It's about working out what is best for their business.'
If you'd like to discuss business continuity, give us a call on 0191 482 0444