Business continuity is a plan put in place to keep a business running in the event of a disaster, and is most important to organizations that are transaction-based. Transaction-based organizations rely on user input to produce user data in a timely manner. Such companies would include Google, Bing, PayPal, etc. An effective continuity plan gets the organization running in a short time frame, and keeps a company running at full (or close to full) capacity -- saving revenue and protecting data. In order to be efficient, there are factors that executives need to consider when planning.
Understand the organization
What are the most important components to consider? Layering tools and software applications are a waste of resources when the key products and services are not analyzed, and long-term goals are not considered.
A contingency plan is developed to mitigate risk. Since it is impossible to protect from all risks that are inherent to the digital age, the possible risks need to be categorized from low to high priority. To facilitate this process, it's crucial for managers and IT to be on one accord in implementing company-wide policies that create a constant conversation.
Understand the technology
To identify the vulnerabilities to failure, you should understand full inventory of all components of the business ecosystem, and how vital each component is to the business workflow. Examples of components include servers, networks, storage, Internet, and XaaS providers.
Application infrastructure components may have a higher vulnerability to failure depending on the use and function. Circuits tend to be most susceptible to failure and the most overlooked mechanism for maintaining business continuity. Even if using XaaS, there is a high reliability on internet connectivity to access resources. Internal infrastructure for in-house deployments should be fully redundant.
Components typically overlooked are leveraging multiple niches for teaming or port-channel access -- this gives increased thru-put and also provides additional resiliency in case of failure. In addition, numerous environments from small boutique businesses to large enterprises, have experienced business downtime due to servers being connected to the same power circuits.
Don't put all your eggs in one basket
Is the company properly diversified? When I operated my own business, I relied heavily upon private contracts. I learned the importance of diversification after the 9/11 attacks. Although I had properly pre-planned for recovery -- after taking some time off for my emotional well-being -- government contracts helped to bring stability, and became part of my portfolio of clients that I maintain to this day.
Pre-planning for disasters of all scopes is necessary, and coincides with diversity to stay afloat. An added advantage to this concept is that with your hands in more than one basket, you hedge your bets. The market and people's flavor of the month can change monthly, but by being in more than one place at the same time, you can keep their hands on the pulse of their niche and be on the forefront of industry trends.
Create a culture conducive to business continuity
Keeping within the framework of a self-healing network, the final step is setting up key performance indicators (KPIs). It is important that all parties are familiar with how to read and understand the alerts, priorities, and policies. Keep technical jargon to a minimum, and communicate using vernacular your staff will understand. This enables all parties involved to comprehend the different aspects of the policies, and allows for a continuous dialogue between the economic drivers and caretakers of the infrastructure over the life cycle of business activities.
Ensuring your business remains continuous in the event of a catastrophic event builds faith and ultimately strengthens the brand of your organization. Being operational at close to full capacity in the event of a major crisis -- where your competition has been affected -- can leave your company as the last one standing. Prepare to rise above the competition by protecting your company from taking a fall.
Patrick Duroseau is the Director of Systems and Infrastructure for CohnReznick, LLP, and has over 20 years of technical and managerial experience as both an entrepreneur and consultant. Download his whitepaper on optimizing application infrastructure delivery at PatrickDuroseau.com.