Uncertain times call for a strategic approach to business continuity

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Today, technology is an integral part of most businesses and, consequently, IT departments are facing an increasing need to plan for continuity. This is essential in order to prepare for potential disruptions caused by unforeseen events, such as pandemics, power outages, and sudden economic downturns. These events can have a major impact on a company's operations, as demonstrated by the Covid pandemic and the shift to remote work. It can even lead to failure if not properly addressed. By ensuring your business has a robust business continuity plan in place you can minimize the risks and ensure the smooth continuation of IT operations during even the most challenging of times.

Putting a strategy in place initially involves identifying potential risks the company could face. Once potential risks are identified, it becomes possible to take steps to mitigate them and prepare for when they do occur. This includes creating a plan of action, involving key stakeholders, establishing a clear chain of command, communication protocols, and regularly updating and testing the plan. It might sound like overkill, but it is important to regularly update and test the continuity plan to ensure that it remains relevant and effective. This can be done through drills, tabletop exercises, and other types of testing that simulate different types of disruptions. In this way, the plan is a proactive measure that can help a company not only weather a crisis, but emerge stronger from it.

The key elements to include in your IT continuity plan

When it comes to incident management, it is important to consider all eventualities - this includes anything from natural disasters to cyber-attacks. Understanding how each incident would affect current operations and which IT assets and systems are most vulnerable should be a priority.

The next step would be to ensure support and restoration of systems. This should include assigning specific roles to team members and having proper procedures and protocols in place to get things up and running again smoothly and efficiently.

These elements provide the foundation from which you can build a more in-depth continuity strategy.

Jamie Wilson

Jamie Wilson is Chief Technology Officer at Novatech.

How to prepare for all eventualities

The pandemic forced whole workforces to work remotely, and this new way of working has really put IT departments under the microscope.

Many workplaces have continued with a hybrid or remote model and an effective IT solution can easily be achieved by providing employees with the necessary equipment and software to work from home, as well as appropriate training. Additionally, virtual meeting and collaboration tools should be integrated to enable seamless communication between remote and hybrid workers. Remote working does, however, come with its own set of challenges from an IT management point of view; think cybersecurity, compliance, and home network reliability which need to be planned for also.

Another factor to consider is data management. Are critical systems and data properly protected and able to be quickly restored in the event of a disruption? This can be achieved simply through the practice of regular backups and disaster recovery testing. IT managers should consider implementing cloud-based solutions, which can provide more flexibility and scalability in the event of a crisis. The cloud gives businesses the option to selectively prioritize their assets and maintain fuller control over data storage. It also enables staff to access data from any location, allowing for seamless operations if they need to switch location away from their normal place of work.

Power loss is a potential risk that IT departments should be prepared for – particularly given the current energy crisis taking place in Europe and further afield. Conversations may need to be had with reluctant purchasing directors about investing in backup power generators and uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) to ensure that key systems remain operational during any outages. And if not already doing so, businesses should enforce adherence to energy-efficient practices to keep power draw across the company as low as possible.

As we all know, economic downturns can have a significant impact on a company's operations. IT departments should consider cost-saving measures such as repurposing existing equipment through reuse, or where parts need replacing, remanufacture, as well as outsourcing some IT services. Consideration should also be given to automation and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to help reduce costs and improve efficiency. A strong relationship with an external IT service provider can provide additional resources and expertise, as well as providing access to new technologies and solutions that may be needed urgently.

How to embed good communication into your business continuity plan

Communication is hugely important, so factor into your strategy a clear guide as to who in the department is responsible for what and how to contact them during and outside normal office hours for use in an emergency. Discuss with key personnel and be clear on the delegation of ownership of appropriate roles and tasks within the plan itself. In times of crisis having a solid team around you is vital. This plan should be reviewed, updated, and tested regularly, to ensure that it is effective and that all staff are familiar with their responsibilities.

In summary, preparing a business continuity plan for unforeseen events of all kinds is crucial for any IT department head; and more so today than ever before. By identifying potential risks, implementing focused strategies to deal with them, as well as regularly testing and reviewing the strategy, IT leaders can be confident they are prepared to handle any crisis that may arise, regardless of its nature.

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Jamie Wilson is Chief Technology Officer at Novatech.