If you take on Mount Everest and hope to reach its 29,032-foot summit, you can expect to encounter cold weather – as low as -76 F degrees – and hurricane-force winds. So, you prepare. You bring essentials like goose-down-filled, triple-layered garments; double-plastic climbing boots with altitude liners; an ice axe with a leash, and so on. It’s a long list of essential items to ensure you can continue to operate in the extreme situations that you foresee.
It's all about anticipation, and it’s the same mentality businesses should have when creating a continuity plan to safeguard their business and ensure it can continue to operate in the case of a cyberattack or natural disaster. If you’ve anticipated and planned for the worst, while hoping for the best, then your chances of success are greatly increased.
The purpose of a business continuity plan
A business continuity plan is an organization's system of procedures to maintain or restore critical business functions in the event of an unplanned disaster. It often focuses on maintaining a company’s computer network. Whether that computer network was destroyed by a natural disaster like a tornado or compromised by a cyberattack, a business’s ability to continue operating depends on key employees who have been trained and prepared to keep their business’s operations intact and operational.
When not properly prepared, experiencing a cyberattack or a natural disaster can result in your businesses’ reputation damage, loss of revenue, or other financial loss. As your business grows and becomes more complex, the risk is compounded.
As your financial partner, we take important steps not only to protect your data and accounts, but also to prepare for these types of incidents and prevent them from negatively affecting your business operations. However, partnering with other businesses and institutions who take these precautions is just part of the equation. It is important that you also take stock of your internal systems and follow these steps below to establish a comprehensive business continuity plan.
The components of a business continuity plan
- Create a business impact analysis.
- Identify key employees and assign roles.
- Implement safeguards and mitigation procedures.
- Conduct recovery exercises and regularly review your plan.
Business impact analysis
There are several key elements needed for a business continuity plan, and the first is always a business impact analysis. Your business needs to have an answer to the question: “What happens if a cyberattack takes my business operations down?” Measuring the impact of a natural disaster or a cyberattack and identifying the critical business functions and processes that must be maintained in the event of a disruption is the first step. Your business should assess the potential impact of a disruption on those functions and processes, including the financial impact, the impact on customers and stakeholders, and the impact on the organization's reputation.
Identifying the resources required to maintain critical functions and processes include determining key employees who will lead those efforts. They will be responsible for assessing the damage and getting the business back up and running as soon as possible. They’ll direct employees on where to go and make decisions on the next steps, including which critical IT services need to be available.
Safeguards and mitigation procedures
Those key employees will be the ones who develop a plan to mitigate the impact of disruptions and are tasked with maintaining business continuity, as well as identifying alternative resources and procedures for restoring critical functions and processes by asking questions like:
- What are the critical components that the business must maintain or get up and running first?
- What types of computer software is necessary to complete essential functions?
- What manual workarounds for key processes can we establish if a key system or software is unavailable for days or even weeks?
- What are the job roles that are essential to operating, serving customers, and remaining open for business?
This includes creating backups of your data. A cloud backup provider is one option to consider. Cloud backups, also known as online backups or remote backups, involve sending a copy of a physical or virtual file or database to a secondary, off-site location where it can be stored and later accessed in the case of a cyberattack or computer failure. The cloud backups are usually hosted by a third-party service provider and should routinely copy, compress, and encrypt your company’s vital information and then store it at a secure offsite data center. This way, all your electronic records and invoices will be safe and available even if your system is destroyed or hijacked by a cybercriminal.
Exercises and reviews
Another key piece to the business continuity plan is regular reviews and updates to the business impact analysis to ensure that it remains current, and that the business is prepared to respond to disruptions. Once you have your team in place, they can confirm that the business’s firewalls and anti-malware systems are working properly by conducting tests, such as:
- Regularly checking the system for any suspicious activity or blocked attempts to access the network.
- Performing regular vulnerability scans to identify any weaknesses in the system.
- Keeping the firewall and anti-malware software current with the latest security patches and updates.
- Conduct regular security audits to ensure that the systems are configured correctly and that all procedures are being followed.
All about layered controls
Business continuity plans are an important tool for organizations of all sizes because they help protect your business from cyber risks and ensure that the business is prepared to respond to disruptions and minimize the impact on its operations, customers, and stakeholders. With these layered controls, they ultimately protect the business’s financial stability and the business’s employees by providing them with the resources they need to stay in business.