IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Building a Business Continuity Plan

How do you get your clients back up and running after a major disaster? This is your guide to business continuity and disaster recovery. By James E. Gaskin

How do you get your clients back up and running after a major disaster? This is your guide.

Beyond backup and disaster recovery lies business continuity. A business continuity plan includes not only how you will help your customers get their data back after a loss, but how they will run their business after a disaster. It’s a big job, but the good news is you may be doing much of this for your customers already.

To get started, look closely at each client’s business. Smaller companies commonly ignore the need for a BC plan, which leaves them vulnerable in the wake of disaster. Many larger companies, on the other hand, are demanding their suppliers provide a business continuity plan. The more critical the parts or service a company provides, the more detailed the plan must be.

“The majority of Fortune 1000 companies now ask suppliers for some level of BC planning,” says Doug Kavanagh, lead consultant for SunGard Availability Services, headquartered in Wayne, Pa. “They’re demanding this as they renew contracts.” This requirement is actually a good thing, since without that push, smaller businesses tend to investigate BC after a loss, not before.

“First, they have to identify and mitigate the risk,” says Kavanagh. “[Then] identify the processes needed to keep the business alive. Figure it will take 30 days to recover back to normal without a plan.”

Risk identification and mitigation may be as simple as knowing someone can break in and steal your servers. Improved building and server security lowers that risk considerably. For each step in a business process, identify the risk and determine how to diminish it.

Identifying key processes, such as sales, manufacturing, packaging, shipping, and invoicing will take time and effort. For each, list which employees do the work, what technology they use, what nontech tools they use, and the space they need to function. Each of those items must be defined in the BC plan, along with details on how those processes will continue after a disaster.

“Ask the customer about their business goals and objectives,” says Ryan Barrett, president of Oram Corporate Advisors, a small network integrator in the Boston area. “Accountants may not need to be back up and running for 18 hours, but a trading floor at a financial services company may need to be back up in three minutes.”

Solutions are so customized that Barrett asks customers for a price point, then tries to align that with their recovery goals. “Costs may range from $50 per month to $5,000 per month,” says Barrett. When the decision maker hears a high number, he or she often rethinks the company’s needs. Customers regularly change their minds about which services are critical and must be restored instantly when they see the cost of those immediate restorations.

“CEOs think anything can be recovered at any time,” says Barrett. “But this isn’t an episode of CSI.”

BC Tools in Common Use
The key to BC is off-site backup. “One hundred percent of my customers do off-site backup,” says Jeremy Nelson, president of Friendly Computer Services Inc., a managed services company with 21 employees in Tampa, Fla. “We won’t do managed services for them unless they do.”

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