What is Business Continuity?

Business continuity planning is the process of creating a strategy to help a business survive a disaster that interrupts its daily operations. Good continuity plans focus on returning a business’ most vital processes as soon as possible so it can continue essential operations as much and as quickly as possible.

Continuity planning is sometimes referred to as disaster recovery planning. The two terms sometimes have slightly different connotations, with continuity planning involving all of a business’ key operations, and disaster recovery planning focusing on electronic data and operations. Continuity planning and disaster recovery planning can be used interchangeably, though.

What is the Difference Between Continuity Planning and Emergency Management?

Emergency management is the process of coordinating an immediate response to an emergency. A response involves making sure employees, and in some situation customers or clients, are safe, and then ensuring that all company property, equipment, supplies, and inventory are secure.

A continuity plan starts where an emergency response leaves off. Once everyone is safe and everything is secure, a continuity plan helps the business return to normal as quickly as possible. In essence, continuity planning bridges the gap from an emergency response to normal operations.

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What Businesses Should Have a Continuity Plan?

All businesses ought to have a continuity plan, as a disaster can strike any business. The more complex a business’ structure and operations are, the more complex its plan will be.

What Elements Should a Continuity Plan Include?

There are several key elements that a continuity plan should have. Plans often include:

  • The business’ location and contact numbers
  • A contact list or phone tree of employees
  • Strategies for recovering vital processes, including timeframes for recovering those processes
  • A list of available resources, including personnel, facilities, and specialized equipment
  • A plan to recover lost information, including both physical charts and electronic data
  • A list of contact information for critical vendors

Even small businesses that have a single owner who knows all of this information should still have a place where these details are written down. If the owner is ever impacted by a disaster, someone else may need to help the business recover.

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The above list is only a general list of what businesses may want to include in their plans. The exact items that a particular business should have in its plan will depend on the nature of the business, how large it is, and what types of disasters could affect it. A professional who specializes in business continuity planning can help businesses make sure their plans include everything that might be needed if a disaster strikes.

So What Does it All Mean?

When disasters strike businesses, they can have lasting effects on routine operations. A single disaster can disrupt a supply chain, shut down a facility, make order fulfillment impossible, render data inaccessible and causes many other problems. Business continuity planning helps businesses develop strategies for dealing with the interruptions that disasters can cause.

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