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Business continuity planning for different operational capacities

Business continuity is an unpleasant topic by nature. The only reason to discuss business continuity is that it’s possible that something—some kind of legitimate disaster—could risk the operational capacity of your company.

Produced in Partnership with VMWare

That’s not a fun thought.

But planning for a potential disaster truly can make a difference when things go sideways. The SMBs that have a plan have a much better chance of surviving. The ones that don’t have to fight tooth and nail to make it . . . and even then, their chances aren’t good.

So let’s consider what it will take to keep you up and running no matter what.

“[Your business continuity] plan should cover how to reestablish office productivity and enterprise software so that key business needs can be met.”

IBM

Why operational capacities matter

Operational capacity” refers to what you can produce in a given amount of time. Your operational capacity depends on a lot of things—resources, efficiency and staffing are key elements. Even if you’ve never used the term “operational capacity,” you think about it every day.

After all, we’re talking about getting the things done that need to be done to make your business profitable. Clearly, that’s a concept that matters a great deal.

Produced in Partnership with VMWare

How operational capacities are affected in a disaster

During a disaster, the things your operation capacity depend on are thrown off balance.

You may lose critical resources—anything from technical systems you rely on to physical materials you use to create products. Your staff is affected, both emotionally and pragmatically. Some of them may not even be able to work. And all of that dramatically impacts your efficiency.

Even if you have all the resources and staff you’d normally have, any changes to standard business process as a result of a disaster (like working from an alternate location) can slow production down.

The goal of business continuity is to minimize the negative impact of crippling situations. A strong business continuity plan will enable you to continue to serve your customers, even in the midst of challenging circumstances.

“Surprisingly, more than 1 in 3 businesses admit they don’t have a disaster recovery policy in place, a figure that is even higher amongst smaller businesses where an estimated 3 out of 4 are reported to have no contingency measures at all.”

CIO

Practical steps you can take to maintain minimum operational capacities

Perhaps the most difficult thing about taking operational capacities into account when developing your business continuity plan is this: operational capacities are different for every business. What’s slow for you might be really fast for one of your competitors.

There’s no universal standard, so the practical things you need to do to plan for operational capacities will be unique to your business. For that reason, it can be really helpful to talk to a business continuity expert (possibly your managed IT services provider) to ask for help with these important plans.

With or without the help of a pro, here’s what you need to take into account in your business continuity plan.

Determine your baseline

As we noted above, operational capacity is specific to your business. So first things first—you need to know your baseline. What’s the minimum amount you need to produce to keep the core pieces of your business in good shape?

We’re focused on the minimum because disasters may require you to scale back some operations. Think in terms of customer impact and overall operational health. There are undoubtedly processes you could skip for a short time without lasting damage.

Identify critical processes

Similarly, you need to know what your most critical processes are. These are likely the processes that core parts of the business rely on. They may not seem urgent, but if you don’t attend to these, the wheels come off.

For example, maintaining your website may not seem like the most important thing in the middle of an emergency. But what if that’s the primary way your customers contact you? Now keeping your website online is important. You need a plan for ensuring that it’s live and that your staff can respond to customer inquiries.

Cross-train your employees

Every business has a few employees who are linchpins. Without them, you’d be sunk.

The problem with that is obvious, though. What if one of those people is unable to pitch in during a disaster? Then you’re in real trouble. The solution is simple enough. Cross-train.

Every critical role should have at least one backup person. This ensures there’s someone ready and willing to step in should you need them to.

Document everything

Finally, document absolutely everything—your baseline, your critical processes, your plan for maintaining critical processes, the critical staffing roles, and the backup person(s) for each critical role.

Keep this documentation with the rest of your business continuity plan, and review it periodically to make sure it’s still relevant, accurate and valid.

Produced in Partnership with VMWare

Keep reading: Business continuity: A crash course

How the 3-2-1 backup strategy could save your business next time it floods

Spring 2019 is one for the record books. Unfortunately, the records being set are not the kind anyone wants.

Earlier in the year, experts predicted that flooding throughout the Midwest could easily be the worst since 1993—and that’s saying something. Already, we’ve seen severe storms, tornadoes and epic flooding. The damage has been extensive, and the area affected spans multiple states.

If your home or business has suffered damage, our hearts go out to you.

“This spring has been a season of record-breaking floods across the Midwest, submerging farms, businesses and houses.” – The New York Times

What you can do to better prepare

Everyone in the ISG family is invested in our community, and we hate to see so many scrambling to prepare at the last minute. That concern has prompted us to ask ourselves what we can do to help.

There are pragmatic, real-world things we’re doing—like making our resources available on standby and working with businesses to try to protect their digital assets before the rising flood waters damage their servers. But we know we can do something more, as well. We can offer some of our insight to help everyone prepare for the next time we face damaging weather like this.

The best way we know to prep for emergencies is with a thorough backup plan. In our industry, there’s even a rule: the 3-2-1 rule. We’re going to cover it in this article and give you some pointers for applying it to your business.

Our goal is simple. We want to help as many local businesses as possible get ready for the next time we face the threat of floods, tornadoes or other major storm events.

RELATED: How to build a disaster management plan

3-2-1 backup

3-2-1 backup is all about protecting one of your company’s most valuable assets—your data. Most of your physical assets can be replaced, but your data is unique. If you lose it, you may not be able to get it back.

The 3-2-1 rule is a solid way to ensure your data is safe, no matter what. Here’s what it means. You should have 3 copies of your data, 2 of those copies should be local and stored on different devices, and one should be offsite.

3 copies

Why 3 copies? Because the nature (and value) of a backup strategy is paranoia. The goal is to make sure you never lose all your data at once. Keeping 3 copies of it makes it highly unlikely that you’ll lose it all in one fell swoop.

But really, the magic of the 3-2-1 backup strategy is as much about where your data is stored as how many copies of it you keep.

2 on-site copies

Most likely, one of your two on-site copies is the copy you work with every day. This is the data on your desktop, laptop or shared drive. These are the documents and spreadsheets you turn to when you’re working on your computer.

The second on-site copy should be the local backup of your production data. That way, if something happens to your computer, for example, you’ve got a full backup right there, ready to go.

But there’s a potential problem with this plan. Think about the flooding we’re dealing with right now. What if your entire office is overrun with water? There’s a good chance you’ll lose both of those local copies.

What then?

RELATED: What to cover in your business continuity plan

1 off-site copy

That’s why a third, off-site backup is so important.

Your off-site backup is your failsafe. No matter what happens to your local copies, your off-site should be unaffected. The only downside of this third copy is that off-site backups typically take quite a bit more time to restore than on-site backups.

And that’s why you want both on-site and off-site backups. If the on-site backup is good, you can restore your data from it quickly. But if the on-site backup is destroyed, you still have your data, even if it takes a bit longer to restore it.

You never know

Backup matters because we simply never know when something is going to go sideways on us. Even with predictions earlier this year, there was no way to know for sure whether the floods we’re seeing now would actually happen.

And now that they are happening, the companies that were prepared have one less thing to worry about during this tense, stressful time.

Backup your data. Use the 3-2-1 rule. If you need help, reach out to a backup expert. Just don’t leave yourself exposed to the possibility of total data loss.

KEEP READING: The complete DIY disaster recovery guide for SMBs