A big part of running a business, regardless of whether it’s a big business or a small one, is keeping the lights on, no matter what. This doesn’t mean that you can’t take vacations or close up for the night, but what it does mean is that you need to be able to provide your services to customers when they need you.
Sometimes, though, bad things happen that make it hard to serve your customers. This could be anything from a cyberattack that wipes out your servers to a flood that knocks out infrastructure in your town.
The challenge is keeping things running smoothly for your customers during those moments. The good news, there’s a way to manage it. Business continuity planning is one way that you keep things rolling when everything else isn’t.
Business continuity planning in IT is the practice of preparing for the worst; being ready for those moments that could take your business down, and making sure that you have systems in place to prevent it from happening. These plans include details like backups, stronger security measures, and plans to get your employees working from wherever they happen to be.
It’s not fun to be thinking about all the ways that your business could theoretically be knocked offline, but if you’re not prepared, then you risk losing everything.
When thinking about things that could affect your business, you’re not just thinking about the obvious stuff, like your network crashing or hackers. You have to plan for all types of events, like cyberattacks, natural disasters, theft, technical failure, fires, and even human error.
Business continuity plans exist to help you recover from anything that could happen, however unlikely it may seem at the time of planning.
The big, clear answer to this question is that business continuity is important because it very easily could be the thing that prevents your business from failing when things go wrong.
That might sound like hyperbole but think about this. Downtime costs businesses thousands of dollars a minute. By some estimates, that number reaches $100,000 per hour. Added to that, at least 25% of businesses never reopen following a disaster mostly because 75% of businesses don’t have plans in place to deal with it.
Without a business continuity plan, the odds are stacked against you. But, closure isn’t the only thing that can happen following an incident (which increases the importance of strong business continuity efforts).
We focus a lot on the financial aspects of business continuity, but you can’t ignore the impact these incidents have on your customers. When something happens, like a cybercrime incident, customers get worried about their data and, if you’re in a sector like financial services or health care, being able to access your services during a time when they need it.
Next to the financial hit, the loss of trust businesses experience during these incidents can have a huge impact on whether your business can survive. Business continuity planning can help with that. Because a big part of business continuity is making sure that data is safe, including using enhanced security features and backups, you can quickly reassure your customers that their data is secure, even if you’re experiencing a ransomware attack. And, with a robust backup solution, you can minimize downtime and be back in business as soon as you’re able to restore from backup.
We’ve already highlighted the cost of downtime and the impact that it can have on your business. Continuity plans can help you reduce these losses by giving you the tools you need to manage the problems and solutions that help you get back up and running as far as possible.
At the heart of this is having a strong system of backups in place that reduces the impact of downtime. Making frequent backups helps because it allows you to essentially restart your business with all the data that you had before the incident. Ideally, you’ll only lose a few hours’ worth of data at most, meaning you’re able to pick up from where you left off. A part of this means that backups should be stored in a secure location offsite so that they’re not affected by the same incident that caused problems to begin with.
For some industries, business continuity isn’t just a good idea, it’s required. Having plans to manage critical situations in ways that protect valuable customer data, your financial information, and business secrets (or proprietary data) shows regulators that you take things seriously.
This is particularly important for industries like healthcare where ransomware attacks have become annoyingly common. You’d think that simply paying the ransom and moving on with business would be the fastest way to deal with the problem, but that’s increasingly not possible. In fact, it’s currently illegal to pay these ransoms. What this means is that you have plans in place to effectively wipe your system clean and start again. That’s where backups come in. Added to this, strong security that uses access control (which limits users’ access to the system) can further reduce the impact of these incidents.
We’ve touched on how downtime and cyberattacks can impact your relationship with your current customers, but think about what it can mean for potential customers? How many brands can you think of off the top of your head that you don’t currently use, but probably wouldn’t trust because they had a very public cyberattack or data breach recently? If you really think about it, it doesn’t even have to have happened recently. Our level of concern about information like credit card data or social security numbers is so high, most of us won’t trust a company that had a breach a decade ago.
The more you can do in advance to mitigate the impact, the more likely you are to be able to preserve your image for future customers. For a lot of people, it’s more of a matter of when than it is if with a data breach. Being able to tell customers that you did have an attack, but no customer data was compromised would be a breath of fresh air.
Not only does business continuity help protect your image with customers, but it also helps strengthen your brand with 3rd party partners. If you’re the weakest link in a security chain that suffers major breaches all the time, you’re not going to look great to other companies who may want to partner with you for business endeavors. Think of a company like Solar Winds. They suffered a huge, well-publicized breach that led to their customer’s data being stolen over a period of months. This kind of thing is going to make other companies think twice before trying to start a partnership with them in the future.
Remember up above when we mentioned that 75% of businesses don’t have business continuity plans? That means that any time something happens, they’re largely unprepared and spend more time trying to figure out how to respond than they should when things go wrong.
By having a plan in place, you immediately stand out not only by being able to reduce downtime and protect customer data but also because you can claim that you’re not just taking money and hoping for the best, you’re prepared for the worst. In fact, you’re more prepared than 75% of the competition. Even if that stat has improved, you’re still going to be more ahead.
Business continuity planning gives you a concrete way to show that you’re taking their personal data, payment information, and whatever else you may have seriously and that you’re doing everything that you can to keep it safe. Along with that, you’re demonstrating that you’re ready for just about anything that comes your way and will be able to serve your customers, even in the face of natural disasters.
This kind of peace of mind can be especially important for healthcare providers, financial institutions, and insurance providers, the kinds of businesses people turn to first during emergencies.
Business continuity really should be a no-brainer for businesses of all sizes. It doesn’t matter if you’re a solopreneur in your basement or a large enterprise, downtime and disaster affect us all.
If you’d like to learn more about what you can do to implement business continuity plans that give you an edge over the competition (and keep your customers safe and happy), let’s talk. Our experts are always ready to help.
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