IT business continuity plans: A comprehensive guide

IT business continuity plan

System downtime is an Australian organisation’s biggest downfall. According to a recent report, businesses can lose up to $760,000 from a major service disruption. Such damages are enough to cripple any small- and medium-sized operation, which is why a business continuity plan (BCP) is crucial.

A BCP is a document that ensures your organisation remains operational before, during, and after a crisis incident. These incidents can range from fires and floods to ransomware attacks and stolen equipment. This article highlights the most common dangers to Australian businesses and the actions you need to take to address them.

Fires and floods

1. The preparation

For starters, make an emergency contact list that includes local authorities, IT technicians, and managers. This way, you and your staff will be able to reach the right people and services quickly in a crisis. Secondly, contact state emergency services to find out if you are in a disaster-prone area. Asking about flood maps and bushfire levels will help you determine what disaster recovery solutions you need.

If there’s a high probability that fires or floods will render your main office inoperable, for example, consider setting up a secondary facility that houses backup servers, networks, and workstations. This is particularly vital for organisations that need to recover instantly after a disaster. Another solution is to move documents and apps to remote cloud servers that can be accessed via the internet. Not only are these solutions more cost-efficient, but they also guarantee faster recovery times and are maintained by a team of experts.

However, no matter what plan you have, test it regularly with simulations and role-playing exercises. It can make the difference between a full recovery and your business closing its doors for good.

2. The response

When disaster strikes, call local authorities and your IT technician about your situation. Staff members, business partners, and customers must also be informed to prevent widespread panic and ensure everyone knows what to do next.

Afterwards, have employees turn off all electronics and evacuate the building in a quick yet orderly fashion. If you have a secondary facility, make sure everyone knows how to get there and what’s expected of them once they’ve arrived. Otherwise, you can let staff work remotely in the cloud, assuming they’re in a safe location.

3. The recovery

Until your headquarters has been fully restored and deemed safe by professionals, your business will need to operate in a temporary work site. Contact your managed services provider to restore any lost documents and repair faulty software and equipment. You’ll also need to record what was lost for insurance purposes, including the serial numbers of electronics. Finally, it’s important to reassess your plans with key decision-makers to improve your disaster recovery process.

Power outages

1. The preparation

Power outages are a common occurrence in Australia, especially during a heatwave. As such, you need to prepare well ahead of time. This involves setting up an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to give everyone enough time to safely shut down their systems. If you can’t risk having a single minute of downtime, it may be worth investing in a backup generator that kicks in when the main power fails.    

More importantly, you must regularly back up your critical documents in a cloud-based system like Office 365. Keeping business documents, contact lists, and other critical information in the cloud enables employees to work remotely as long as they have an internet connection.  

2. The response

In the event of a blackout, save your work and turn off any equipment before the UPS runs out. If there are any urgent tasks that require web access, enable personal wireless hotspots. Also, make sure to unplug all devices because they are prone to short-circuiting when the power comes back on.

Then, call your utility’s designated line to report the outage, when it occurred, and whether there are any damaged lines or other hazards. It pays to check power outage updates and nearby offices to see the extent of the problem. Once you’ve assessed the situation, notify key stakeholders about the service disruption and give them constant updates about what you’re doing to remedy the issue.

3. The recovery

When the power comes back, have a technician check for faulty wiring and reset the circuit breaker before turning on devices and network routers. This will minimise potential hazards and prevent further damage to your systems. Next, use your PC’s system file checker function to repair any missing or corrupted local data. Of course, you can always restore your files using cloud backups if this doesn’t work.

Data breaches

1. The preparation

Preparing for breaches — whether they’re caused by malicious actors or negligent employees — requires several steps. First, install advanced threat prevention and email filtering software to detect and mitigate malware, network-based attacks, and online scams. Then, back up your files in a separate location outside your company network to keep them safe from attacks.

If your company employs remote workers, register the devices they use for work into a mobile device management system. This allows you to set access restrictions on sensitive files and remotely wipe devices in case they’re lost or stolen.

Employees must be trained to recognise and report breaches as soon as they occur so you can quickly respond to the situation. It’s also a good idea to appoint a security expert to coordinate the response and recovery, like Empower IT Solutions.  

2. The response

If you detect a breach, the best response is to contain the threat. This means disabling your network, running anti-malware software, and applying the latest patches to limit the spread of cyberattacks. On the other hand, if data was leaked intentionally or accidentally by an employee, modify access privileges and reset passwords to minimise further damage.

When waiting for experts to confirm the breach has been secured, everyone should use backup workstations and devices. Administrators should also keep activity logs from the time of the breach for forensic analysis.

3. The recovery

To recover from a data breach, perform a last-minute scan for any remaining traces of malicious programs with anti-malware software. When you’re certain that your device is clean, restore clean copies of your data with cloud backups.

Data breaches must be reported to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) and affected parties. As such, send an email to all customers and stakeholders that explains what data was compromised, how it occurred, and what actions you’ve taken to fix the issue to effectively manage expectations.

Last but not least, review how well your company handled the incident and discuss what you’ve learned from the breach. You may find that retraining your employees and upgrading your security software could reduce your exposure to future threats.

The most important element of BCP

Each crisis requires a different business continuity strategy, but the most important aspect of keeping a business operational hinges on the effectiveness of data backups. Merely keeping one set of backups on-premises is a recipe for failure. Instead, businesses should have multiple backups, preferably one stored onsite, one in an external hard drive, and another in the cloud. This way, if your onsite backups fail, there are other copies in the cloud you can fall back on. In fact, top-notch cloud providers go to great lengths to guarantee your data’s survival no matter the incident.

Data backups are so crucial to business continuity that we recommend you test them and your recovery procedures as often as possible. Because if your backup protocols fail on the day you need them, your business might never recover.

Here at Empower IT Solutions, we have the enterprise-grade solutions and services to keep your operations running. Just talk to one of our many IT professionals today, and we’ll customise a BCP that meets your needs and budget. Call us now.

Download: IT Business Continuity Plan guide