Paul Sullivan has seen it all. A 25-year veteran of disaster recovery and business continuity management, Sullivan witnessed the growth of continuity planning among the Fortune 1000 in the 1980s. He watched, first hand, the successes and failures of business continuity plans following the events of September 11, 2001 and in 2005 throughout the most active hurricane season in recorded history. Today, Sullivan is helping small and medium-sized companies plan for and recover after significant business interruptions.
“Continuity planning has always been associated with big business,” said Sullivan, Vice President and General Manager, Agility Recovery Solutions. “We’re using the same knowledge, strategies and tactics we developed with the Fortune 1000 and implementing them among small and medium-sized businesses across North America.”
Agility Recovery Solutions, a former division of General Electric, focuses planning and recovery efforts on small and medium-sized businesses, though the company continues to do work with giants such as IBM and HP.
Why Business Continuity? Why now?
According to Sullivan, business of all sizes and industries need to think about continuity planning. Beyond the business as a whole, owners and managers should take into account the future of their employees, clients or customers, stakeholders and beyond.
But, the majority of small business owners have numerous responsibilities and continuity planning usually falls off the radar, according to Sullivan.
“An organization’s leadership team typically doesn’t know where to start in planning for business interruptions, so they decide to put it off. Or, there are more visible issues that require immediate attention, allowing disaster planning to fall to the wayside,” said Sullivan. “The initial planning process is an excellent opportunity to bring the leadership team together to discuss your business, your needs and objectives.”
Misconceptions About Continuity Planning
Many business leaders hold misconceptions about continuity planning. In response to lack of knowledge and planning, Sullivan compiled a list of the top-ten misconceptions:
1. “We can get by with what we have” – Business leaders do not make an accurate assessment of what is necessary for recovery planning and response. Many think working from home is a suitable recovery tactic. This may be acceptable for a day or two, but there are reasons why a business has an office, including the need to collaborate and have a central point of operations.
2. “We can get by without an operating front office” – Accounts receivable, customer service and beyond must be running full-force at every type of company for business and service to continue. It takes an operating front office to make money and keep clients happy.
3. “We have multiple locations and don’t need a recovery plan” – An office for 10 people will not accommodate 40 employees easily. The strategy behind opening multiple offices is there for a reason and if one or more go down, it creates a kink (or kinks) in the entire system.
4. “As an executive, we can solve problems as they happen” – If they haven’t planned in advance to recover their business, they don’t take all aspects and results into reasonable consideration. During a crisis it is easy to move too fast and miss important steps along the way, such as identifying the best interests of employees, the need for basic technology and activating the most critical functions of the business. A well thought-out plan is the best solution for ensuring the fastest, smartest and most economical recovery.
5. “Data backup is plenty” – Leaders forget that they will need technology to access the backed-up information, the people to recover the data, as well as a place to use the technology. Something as simple as a pipe burst can wipe out servers, computers, printers, fax machines and more, not to mention the office space itself. A recovery plan identifies all aspects of getting the business back up-and-running in a timely fashion.
6. “A disaster or significant interruption will never happen to us” – It’s actually the little things that can create chaos. A fire, a storm, an electrical outage. Business interruptions can’t be predicted, but you can prepare for them. According to Rough Notes, an insurance trade publication, businesses are more likely to experience a significant interruption due to power outages and technology failure than due to weather-related events.
7. “We don’t need to have a plan in place because we’re hundreds of miles from a hurricane-prone area” – A disaster is any type of event that can interrupt a business, including something as common as a power outage, fire or failed server to something as large as a hurricane, tornado or terrorism.
8. “Our insurance company will cover everything” – The insurance company will make sure you have the money to get up-and-running in weeks or months after the interruption occurrence, but what happens to your business in the meantime? Unless you’re up-and-running, your customers or clients will take their business elsewhere.
9. “We created a backup/recovery plan years ago. We’re fine” – Continuity planning is an evolving process. Part of the process is to test the current plan and to ensure it is up-to-date and executable. Without testing, there’s no assurance the plan will work.
10. “The planning process is time consuming and wasteful” – Continuity planning can be completed in segments, over time, with a group of people. There’s no set timeframe for the planning process and it can be as flexible as you need it to be. Resources like those available on Ready.org make establishing a plan simple and painless.