No matter your business size, you likely have routines and procedures to keep things running smoothly. Systems are in place that keep information readily available, and you can manage the day-to-day operations with relative ease.
But when disaster strikes, can you keep the doors open, or do you have to shut them down indefinitely? Does one hiccup through the whole operation into a tailspin? Can you keep things flowing as smoothly as possible if things go sideways? That’s something every business owner needs to ask themselves and decide what they need to do to maintain business continuity.
What is business continuity?
Business continuity is the ability to maintain essential functions during and after a disaster has occurred. This includes employees being able to make it into work and having backups of data and ways to take payment if your computer systems go down.
Knowing how to keep things running smoothly is another aspect of business continuity. If your main webmaster goes on vacation, can you update your website during that time? Do enough people have the knowledge to fix an issue that comes up, or is everyone in the dark about these operations?
If you have to close because an employee gets sick, your debit/credit machine goes down, or your systems have been hacked, and no one can log in to their computers, you do not have business continuity.
What disrupts business continuity?
Your business can be disrupted in many ways, and they’re only sometimes obvious. Here are a few things that interrupt the day-to-day flow of your business.
This one is still fresh in a lot of people’s minds. As we all saw a few years ago, something as seemingly minor as a virus can shut everything down. Having to remain at home and limit contact with others made working from home the new normal. Organizations had to scramble to accommodate nearly their entire workforce relatively quickly.
The unforeseen circumstances forced many businesses to look at their continuity and served as a wake-up call for many of them.
With the way the climate is shifting, what used to be considered extreme weather is becoming a lot more common. Ice storms, heat domes, atmospheric rivers, and other natural phenomena can wreak havoc on communities through fires and floods and damage infrastructure like power and water lines. Roads can become impassable and travel unsafe for anyone not in an emergency response vehicle.
These events can all prevent employees from coming to work, and if no one can physically get to work, then no work gets done. And because natural disasters are getting more intense, returning to the office can take longer.
Loss of knowledge
Business continuity has to do with technology, which isn’t surprising today. Plenty of businesses have that one person who has been around forever and knows the system inside and out. But what happens when that person suddenly decides to move on to another company or retires? The company has to scramble to replace that person, but losing that wealth of knowledge is hard, and things will run better when they’re gone.
That’s why contingency plans are needed for that very situation. That knowledge must be shared if only to keep the continuity.
Whether your business is large or small, you likely use technology somewhere, be it in the form of a server, a POS system, or your basic computer programs. These systems work well, at least until something disrupts them, and they don’t. It can be something as basic as a power outage or as extreme as a cybersecurity attack.
Despite what movies and TV tell us, technology can fail us and is susceptible to breakdowns that throw the whole workday out of whack. Humans that use technology are not foolproof either, and human error is another major cause of IT issues. Even just opening what appears to be an innocuous email link can completely paralyze your system if it’s malware or other computer viruses.
Everyone has bad days, but sometimes people let that get the better of them and they say something they probably shouldn’t have. Sometimes it rolls off the company’s back, but sometimes word gets out, and the backlash is substantial.
While most businesses can’t control what their employees post online, most folks will call out a company if they are doing something questionable online. Boycotts, review bombing, or discouraging others from going to or using your business can seriously impact your daily operations. Frantically trying to do damage control, making phone calls to vendors, and deciding what to do about the employee all take you away from running your business.
What does business continuity include?
A plan for any contingency is part of maintaining business continuity. While some things are hard to predict—like when the power goes out—you can still plan for what to do when it happens. For example, having a backup generator to keep the lights on and the computers running is part of a good business continuity plan.
A business or organization must take a good, hard look at itself and determine the weak spots in the systems used. Being proactive in a disaster instead of reactive will enable the organization to weather the literal or figurative storm.
Having policies, processes, and procedures in place might seem overkill, but you’ll be grateful for them when disaster strikes. Knowing what everyone should be doing—and training them appropriately—means any disruption should be minimal.
Does a small business need a plan?
It doesn’t matter your business size; disasters will strike indiscriminately. Small businesses mostly have to worry about natural disasters and employee retention more than anything else, but there’s far more to it than that.
Virtually every business, no matter the size, has a computer system for taking payments, tracking work, and managing payroll and accounts receivable. No matter what the small business uses technology for, that tech can be vulnerable to cyberattacks.
Many think cyberattacks only happen to large corporations or government entities, but small businesses are just as susceptible, if not more so, than corporations. Odds are the small business doesn’t have an entire IT department on staff to keep an eye on the company systems and watch for signs of malware or phishing scams. All it takes is clicking a link in a suspicious email, your data is lost, and your systems are rendered useless.
Hackers are increasingly targeting small businesses these days, which means the need for a business continuity plan is more vital than ever.
Maintaining intellectual capital
We talk about computer systems, cyberattacks and other technical issues, but losing critical team members is one of the most significant disruptors of business continuity. And we’re talking about more than having enough staff to cover a shift.
Most companies have someone that is the expert at what they do. They have the knowledge and experience to keep things running smoothly and know when things are due and when updates are needed. They are vital to your organization.
However, employees are not robots, and they don’t last forever. Some might need to leave their job for health reasons, for retirement, because they’re moving, or they found a new job that pays more or provides a good work/life balance. Whatever the reason, when they leave, they take that intellectual capital with them, leaving you with a significant experience gap.
The departure of a significant team member will become an even bigger issue than it is now that the Baby Boomer generation is in the retirement phase of their lives. There are lifetimes worth of experience that will be leaving the workforce, and unless they’re training their successors, business continuity will be disrupted.
Part of a good business continuity plan is knowing what happens when that person leaves. Whether it’s training a replacement or dividing up the tasks they did and spreading them among several employees, keeping continuity is important for
Need help building your plan?
We at Carpathia IT can help you set up the technology side of your business continuity plan. We will set you up with the right system for your business needs and help ensure you can weather any disruptions that may be looming on the horizon. Having your services managed by a firm like ours can keep your business continuity when others are floundering, giving you an incredible advantage over competitors.
If you’re in the market for a quality IT service, call Carpathia IT at 236-361-9074, and we’ll do everything we can to help.