More than just a buzzword, business continuity is a crucial part of running a modern business. Larger in scope than data backup and more comprehensive than disaster recovery, business continuity also deals with compliance, industry standards, and other important crisis management issues.
To be effective, a business continuity plan must meet all possible contingencies. This is especially important if you’re subject to strict standards and regulations. While the primary purpose of a business continuity plan is to reduce downtime and minimize losses, any comprehensive plan also needs to support immediate and long-term compliance.
From valuable data and business processes to assets and human resources, business continuity requires the seamless transition and application of business services and resources after a disruptive event. Here’s how to get started.
What is a business continuity plan?
A business continuity plan is a specific set of steps and procedures to keep a business operational after a major disruption. Whether it’s a natural disaster, an employee accident, or a cyberattack, a continuity plan is the best way to ensure full recovery and consistent service during and after a disruption.
According to US Government statistics, 446.5 million records were exposed in 2018 alone as the result of cybercrime, underlying the critical importance of having a plan for dealing with the unexpected.
Depending on the specific plan, measures may be outlined to identify ongoing threats, minimize data losses, ensure containment, enable the transition of services, and inform employees and customers. Along with these critical internal issues, business continuity also needs to demonstrate ongoing compliance with local laws, industry regulations, and cybersecurity standards.
Why is a continuity plan important?
Developing a business continuity plan has become an important part of running a modern business. Whether you’re a large multinational corporation or a one-man operation, data and process integrity are more important than ever before. According to a study by Dr. Michael McGuire, the world of cybercrime is making a “decisive shift towards a platform model, much as the rest of the world.”
A continuity plan enables you to safeguard valuable information on-site and in the cloud, protect business resources, and ensure the operation of critical systems before disruptions lead to serious ongoing issues. Downtime is expensive, data loss is unacceptable, and stakeholders expect more than ever before.
The business continuity process
Every successful business continuity plan is based on a business impact analysis. After a detailed evaluation of existing systems and potential threats, the plan helps to identify any data and services that are susceptible to disruption and mitigate the negative impact. While data backup can be used to safeguard critical information, it’s important to note that continuity is also about maintaining a level of consistent services and standards across an organization.
In order to promote containment, separate prevention, response, and recovery strategies need to be developed. In addition to the protection of key data and services, business continuity is also concerned with compliance, communication, and maintenance. So your plan must include elements to address each of these critical items for a thorough and effective response, a timely recovery and a successful outcome for everyone depending on your business.
Business continuity, cybersecurity, and compliance
Modern businesses have to deal with a more demanding security and compliance environment than ever before. Rather than ignoring or isolating compliance issues, businesses should include them as an important element of each comprehensive continuity plan. Compliance with cybersecurity standards is an important part of the continuity process, especially for businesses that deal with personal and sensitive data and organizations prone to security attacks.
For example, ISO standards created by the International Organization for Standardization need to be followed during and after a disruption event, as do the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and industry-specific regulations like HIPAA.
As an important aspect of continuity, it’s essential to identify standards, recognize related security gaps, and make changes to ensure compliance coverage in the case of a major disruption.