Step 1 – Building Your Business Continuity Plan

Defining Your Points of Failure

So, you have been tasked with building your Business Continuity Plan.  You have a blank piece of paper in front of you and you have no idea how to start.  And, your environment has been pretty stable so, in the end, management is likely not going to sign off on your project anyway.  However, there are endless stories of organizations just like yours that did not have a plan and the outcome of a service outage has yet to be fully defined.

In order to nudge you forward on your project, it is first important to identify there are three primary points of failure impacting your business.  Of course, there are several elements for each of these areas that could impact the efficiency of your organization.

  1. Local Telecommunications Services – For some reason, your building has lost contact with the rest of the world for voice, data and/or Internet services. Everything is working fine internally (or at least you expect), but callers get a busy signal, Internet is not being delivered or you cannot interconnect with remote offices.  What can you do?
    • Do you have a current inventory of your telecom services?
    • If you need to open a carrier trouble ticket, do you know how to do that?
    • Are there escalation points to expedite repair?
  2. Hardware Failure – A server dies, your telephone system blows up, or a critical switch/router does not work. Your original thought is to reset the equipment, but what happens if that does not work?
    • Do you have manufacturer maintenance on critical equipment?
    • Are there local support resources available?
    • Do you have configuration back-ups?
  3. Physical Catastrophe – Maybe there is a flood or a huge snowstorm minimizing access to your primary site. Or, it could be something eliminating the location long term such as a fire.  Do you have a plan to support your customers and vendors short and/or long term?
    • Do you have offsite back-ups available?
    • Can users work from home or another site?
    • Are you able to reroute incoming calls and/or other communications?

Of the three areas, a physical catastrophic failure is the most difficult for which to prepare.  However, depending on your current BC plans, this can also be the most traumatic where many organizations never fully recover.

As a subset of this initial step of identifying points of failure, we find value in also calculating downtime cost for your organization.  This may require the engagement of upper level management, but knowing what it may cost your organization to be down for a day might offset the potential costs of implementing your Business Continuity Plan.  Please note there are also long term impacts of a service outage such as lost on-going business that can be very difficult to calculate, but should be considered.

In future posts, we will be identifying some common solutions organizations have considered that can be cost effective especially relative to the lost revenue of service outages.