Opinion: How to achieve a solid business continuity strategy

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Over the last 12 months, the UK has seen floods and fires upend businesses of all sorts – from hospitals, to factories, to recycling centres. Commuters faced their own significant set of challenges, with incidents such as the closure of the Forth Road Bridge and the Heathrow Airport power cut, which diverted more than 130 flights. Meanwhile, the Met Office has plenty of opportunities to test the new convention of naming storms, with the likes of Katie, Abigail and Desmond wreaking havoc on the nation.

These are a few of the findings of new research from managed services provider IT Specialists (ITS). Inspired by the Business Continuity Institute’s Business Continuity Awareness Week (BCAW) 2016, from May 16 to 20, ITS looked at incidents that caused significant issues for UK businesses. With the theme of BCAW being return on investment (ROI), ITS examined the ROI of having a business continuity plan – particularly one containing a disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) solution – in the aftermath of incidents like the ones covered in the research.

ITS discovered that regardless of whether the incident was a cataclysmic tropical storm or a seemingly mundane burst pipe, disasters have the ability to cause billions of pounds in damage. Flooding is the most expensive and prevalent issue to affect the UK. Accountancy firm KPMG has estimated that the total cost to the UK’s insurance sector, businesses, individuals, communities and government as a result of winter 2015-16 flooding will top out at £5.8 billion.

Natural disasters don’t discriminate based on business size – so SMBs shouldn’t write off business continuity as just something large enterprises do

However, at least some of these costs can be avoided by businesses with a solid business continuity strategy. Without a proper plan in place, there is a risk of negative consequences such as lost inventory, reduced productivity due to employees being unable to work remotely, property damage, and the all-important revenue loss.

Disasters such as these don’t discriminate based on business size, so SMBs shouldn’t write off business continuity planning as something large enterprises do. Likewise, large organisations shouldn’t assume insurance coverage is a sufficient business continuity plan. After all, no insurance policy will help employees continue working if they don’t have access to business-critical applications. To gain the most ROI from business continuity, businesses need to form a cloud-based data backup strategy, give employees network access, set guidelines for personal device use, provision a telephony solution, have a plan for Internet outages, and set up an alternate workspace.

A poster child for business continuity is an accountancy firm which was affected by the fire in Holborn in spring 2015. The event forced 5,000 people to evacuate and cut off gas and electric supplies from thousands of properties. The firm itself had to evacuate 70 staff, but it has already moved its servers to the cloud, so employees were able to keep on working from another office or their homes using a remote login system.

Investing in forward planning can save valuable time, protect the organisation’s revenue, and preserve its customer base. Businesses need to formulate a business continuity programme to identify inefficient processes that cost the organisation money on a daily basis and can prove a barrier to disaster recovery.

Read more: Top 10 UK business disasters revealed: Is your business ready for the worst?

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