Business continuity planning: 7 reminders for the enterprise
If there’s a silver lining for businesses to be found in catastrophic events, it’s this: the forcible reminder that it’s critically important to have a current, vetted disaster recovery plan. And with hurricane season in full swing, now is a good time to review some elements of business continuity planning that are often overlooked by enterprise organizations.
Forward-thinking and vigilant is the way to be
A quick search for “business continuity planning” delivers a plethora of tips, templates and checklists with the standard recommendations to help businesses identify key personnel, prioritize applications and ensure redundancies so they’re prepared for unforeseen business interruptions or natural disasters. We’re not likely to forget these basics, but there are other aspects of business continuity plans that may not be as obvious or at the top of everyone’s list. Here are seven of them.
1. Look to the cloud
Shifting to a cloud-based infrastructure makes disaster recovery faster and more effective, because your entire IT infrastructure—including systems, applications and data—is duplicated, backed up and restored, in minutes. That means mission-critical services and functions will continue to operate, even after a disaster strikes, with current data accessible from anywhere with Internet service. So if you haven’t yet migrated some or all of your network to the cloud, this may be the perfect time to do so.
Is your network cloud-ready?
2. Harness technology
Solutions like Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) provide built-in redundancies and seamless systems for failover and failback—often for significantly less cost than on-site disaster recovery equipment. With UCaaS, team members can communicate and connect from wherever they are, with IP telephony features, meeting and messaging tools, and a voice network hosted in the cloud. Which means teams can continue to collaborate and stay connected to customers even during severe weather events or prolonged system outages.
Does your network enable this kind of continuous communication?
3. Stay current
Enterprise IT is constantly evolving as organizations deploy new applications, locations and devices to stay competitive. But the rapid pace of change in today’s business world can quickly outdate your continuity plan, putting critical data and operations at risk. Best practice is to update the plan annually and whenever you make changes. Every. Single. Time. It’s a constant job, and one that that can be handled expertly for you by a managed services partner, ensuring peace of mind and future-proof protection. Are rapidly changing network demands holding you back?
4. Use visuals
In an emergency situation, every second matters. Using key visuals communicates faster, enhances comprehension and can lead to greater recall. Include illustrations, photos, maps and diagrams in your plan to identify every aspect of your network, area of your recovery sites and directions to locations. And to make the written instructions easier to read, use bold subheads, short sentences and paragraphs, bullet points and plenty of white space.
5. Test often
Testing is the only way to know for sure that your recovery plan works. And it lets you practice your response, like a fire drill, which will help streamline the process in a real emergency. When you test on a regular basis—twice a year at least and whenever your network configuration changes—you can troubleshoot and fix parts that may not work as intended before it’s too late.
Concerned about disruption? There’s nothing to worry about if you plan to migrate to the cloud. Because a cloud-based network allows you to conduct tests without shutting down your entire system.
6. Manage and monitor
When IT professionals face everything from putting out daily fires to deploying new locations, it’s common for disaster recovery plan maintenance to slip. But to be effective, your infrastructure needs constant attention: updating, testing and 24/7/365 monitoring. The good news? This can be fully managed for you by a managed services partner. When you factor in the reduced drain on your IT resources, it’s hard to dispute the ROI.
Is your IT team able to keep up?
7. Follow the leaders
In what one might call a mixed blessing, organizations in hurricane-prone regions have had numerous recent opportunities to test and improve their business continuity plans. Look to them for best practices.
For example, after Hurricane Irma, Frontier began assessing damage immediately and deployed 630 service technicians into the field as soon as they got the all-clear. Other storm preparations included activating an Emergency Response Center; equipping fleet vehicles with extra fuel, fluids and lighting; double-checking safety equipment to make sure backup power supplies and generators were fully operational; providing supplies for plant and network restoration; placing emergency network supplies throughout company facilities and maintaining ongoing communications to ensure employee safety.
Frontier’s central office and remote office facilities remained online throughout the storm, either because electricity was available or because generator power kicked in. That broad, deep, tested level of DRBC planning paid off and made a difference for Frontier and its customers, because their Frontier network was resilient throughout and after the storm.
To see another example of Frontier’s disaster response, watch this video produced after Hurricane Harvey.