6 Vital Business Continuity Best Practices

April 24, 2024

Every company strives to prepare for worst-case scenarios, but some disasters aren’t the result of poor planning or even human error. Natural disasters, pandemics and other unforeseeable events regularly disrupt businesses around the world.

According to the U.S. Federal Reserve, 10% of American small businesses suffered losses from natural disasters in 2021. Of those businesses, 20% could not recover any losses through insurance, loans or government programs. The larger the business, the greater the reported losses. Following business continuity best practices can help a company survive catastrophic scenarios such as data loss, power outages and natural disasters.

Why Are Business Continuity Best Practices Important?

business continuity best practices

A business continuity plan is a set of measures put in place to minimize losses and keep a company afloat in times of crisis. Prior planning and training are essential to business continuity success.

The Department of Energy estimates that power outages alone cost businesses over $150 billion per year. IBM reports that the average cost of a data breach in 2023 is $9.4 million. While preventing these scenarios should be a priority, all companies should also follow business continuity best practices to reduce losses that are outside of anyone’s control.

What Makes for an Effective Business Continuity Plan?

An effective business continuity is broader than an IT data recovery plan or a generalized natural disaster plan. The “four pillars” of business continuity can help owners and managers conceptualize a comprehensive plan:

  1. People
  2. Processes
  3. Premises
  4. Providers

People come first in continuity planning. Employees, customers and shareholders all require attention and communication in the aftermath of an unforeseen event. Effective plans also designate tasks to specific managers and executives so that a company has strong leadership in worst-case scenarios.

From there, arranging appropriate processes can mitigate losses and retain critical data. Multiple premises are important parts of a continuity plan, as a natural disaster may destroy one key location but leave another operational. Finally, reaching out to providers, business partners and other resources can speed the recovery process and help a business return to normal functioning.

What Are 6 Vital Business Continuity Plan Best Practices?

Use business continuity plan best practices to minimize risk.

A strong business continuity plan is the natural extension of effective risk management policies. Here are six best practices to strengthen your plan for smoother transitions in times of crisis.

1. Tailor Plans to the Company’s Unique Risks

Repurposing the assessment strategies used for security plans and certifications is an effective business continuity best practice. Each business has individual high-priority targets and its own most likely crisis scenarios. Plans tailored to these scenarios will perform better than generalized natural disaster plans.

Keep timing in mind when considering risk scenarios. After a disaster, there may be a limited time window to preserve the highest-value information or take the most effective loss-minimizing steps. Consider placing your business continuity plan on an hour-by-hour timeline for maximum specificity and effectiveness.

2. Keep Critical Data Backups in Separate Locations

The common IT principle of having multiple data backups also applies to enterprise-class businesses. Even if your business is connected to secure cloud servers, critical data should have physical backups in separate locations as well. However, putting all of a company’s data on both physical servers and cloud servers is often costly and inefficient, so a strong plan must correctly identify which data is key to business continuity.

3. Make Sure Each Employee Knows Their Role

Employees at all levels of an organization have unique roles to fulfill in crisis scenarios. Communicate these roles clearly and at regular intervals so that employees are prepared to enact the business continuity plan.

One common pitfall of business continuity best practices is neglecting the lowest-level and the highest-level employees, instead focusing only on those in the middle. High-level executives in particular must have specific instructions for crisis situations so that their instructions don’t contradict one other.

4. Inform Shareholders of the Plan and Solicit Their Opinions

All business continuity plan best practices must have sufficient buy-in from high-level decision-makers within the company. To achieve this, solicit shareholders’ help in forming a continuity plan. This reinforces the importance of the plan in the company culture.

5. Test and Refine the Plan Regularly

An untested business continuity plan is only marginally better than no plan at all. The easiest way to test a continuity plan is with a tabletop exercise. In this exercise, each employee reviews their role and understands, on a central “table,” how their specific responsibility contributes to the overall plan.

While tabletop exercises are useful, it’s also important to conduct more rigorous full-scale exercises. These require employees to physically perform their duties and interact with infrastructure like they would in an actual crisis situation. Often, a full-scale exercise will reveal weaknesses and oversights in a continuity plan.

Risk situations and priority targets change regularly within many organizations. Review and update a business continuity plan at least once a year and conduct new tests to reinforce changes.

6. Write Communications Beforehand

The fine details of written and spoken communications can slip through the cracks of business continuity plans. An effective plan must manage large moving parts such as infrastructure and key data, but it must also prepare specific communications strategies to minimize both financial losses and anxieties.

Writing out scripts, announcements and other communications in advance is an important business continuity best practice. Also, create a detailed plan to distribute these messages to employees and customers in the case of a crisis. Place specific communications professionals in charge of the plan. This allows a company to identify potential sources of confusion or miscommunication while safely outside a time-sensitive scenario.

How an Advanced Risk and Compliance Platform Can Help With Business Continuity Best Practices

Use security compliance support in helping business continuity be successful.

Strong and comprehensive risk management is synonymous with good business sense in an ever-changing world. Compyl’s automated compliance platforms allow businesses of all sizes to better assess risk factors and prepare for setbacks. The platform features easy-to-use continuous monitoring and data collection to help craft continuity plans that align with business continuity best practices.

Request a demo to see how Compyl can improve compliance and risk management within your organization.

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