Iceberg, dead ahead!

Andrew Dancy
Posted by Andrew Dancy
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Andrew Dancy by Andrew Dancy

You never know when a disaster can strike. One moment your business can be happily sailing along, then the ship of fate can suddenly hit the iceberg of destiny, and it's only by good planning that you'll avoid disaster (and dreadful metaphors).

Every business needs to consider business continuity and it's smaller cousin disaster recovery. It's not something many entrepreneurs like to think about, feeling that their energies are better channeled into pushing their business forward. So, here are a few top tips. Do bear in mind this is only a summary - most business continuity plans will be considerably longer:

1. Identify the risks

In what areas is your business vulnerable? The first part of any business continuity strategy is to identify the risks to your business. This can include obvious ones such as fire, theft, etc, but should also include risks that may be specific to your business such as loss of key contracts, intellectual property issues or cashflow issues.

2. Make a plan

Once you've got a list of potential vulnerabilities, think about how you can mitigate each particular issue or put in place contingencies in case the risk materialises. Some common plan elements might be as follows:

a. Loss of premises - ensure alternative premises are available

b. Loss of equipment - Spare equipment stored offsite, regular backups taken and tested on spare equipment

c. Loss of people - deputies assigned for all key staff and trained to ensure they know everything their boss does

d. A customer contracts bubonic plague from your new widget and sues you - Ensure public liability insurance is in place with appropriate cover

3. Test your plan

This is where things start getting tricky. Having a plan is all very well and good, but how many businesses actually test their plan? It's only by carrying out a dry run that you can expose flaws in the plan.

4. Update the plan

Another area where many businesses come unstuck. Every business develops and changes - does your plan change with the business? If disaster strikes will you be relying on an outdated plan that still talks about restoring your PDP-10 mainframes or ensuring suitable off-site reserves of quill pens.

5. Get some help

Doing all this is a lot of work. It's all very well and good if you're a large business with lots of spare resource that can be allocated to this work, but what if you're a small business or even a one man band? That's when you need to call in the professionals. We can help you identify the risks to your business, draw up the plan and arrange testing for key elements of the plan.

Oh, and if you haven't seen the film then the ship does sink, he dies and she survives. And not a yellow rubber ducky in sight.

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