Don’t put your business at risk: create a business continuity plan

22 Jun 2018

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) recently warned that UK small firms are ‘unprepared’ for disruption risks posed by both internal and external factors. Here, we consider some of the most significant risks to businesses, and outline some key steps to creating an effective business continuity plan.

We know that the day-to-day running of a business can be challenging enough, without factoring in additional risks of disruption. It is therefore essential that any risks to the operations of the firm are minimised and, if they do occur, that they are handled in an efficient and effective manner.

Protecting against disasters

A potential myriad of ‘disasters’ could happen to any business, at any time. From severe weather, to IT issues, the loss of key employees, or supply chain failure, business owners must ensure that they have the appropriate protection in place to safeguard their firm.

Having adequate insurance to protect against extreme events such as adverse weather conditions, fire, theft or accidents is crucial. As a business owner, you should have in place appropriate buildings and contents insurance, employers’ liability insurance and public liability insurance to help safeguard your firm against such hazards. Business owners may also wish to consider taking out key person insurance, to cover the essential members of your team, which might include yourself, any directors, and any other employees who are key to the successful running of the business.

In regard to IT systems, small firms are advised to consider the impact of a serious IT system failure on the business and its bottom line. In addition, in this technological age, falling victim to cybercrime and cyber-attacks can seriously debilitate a business – from phishing emails to malware, it is essential to protect your firm.

To help prevent major system failures and cyber-attacks, small business owners are urged to download and install all available software updates on company devices; invest in proven and reliable technology; use suitable anti-virus systems for your requirements; and, if seeking to use cloud technology, take the time to source the most appropriate provider for your business.

Putting an effective continuity plan in place

An effective continuity plan is one which considers the risks that a business faces, and plans not just for the here and now, but also for the business’s ongoing needs.

Within your own business plan, consider the major threats to your organisation. How would you deal with an IT system failure? Could your firm survive a devastating fire or flood? Have you considered the impact on your business if multiple employees were to fall ill? You may wish to assign responsibility to key members of your team, and create a ‘chain of command’. Appointing an emergency contact should be high on your priority list, and you may wish to create a checklist that can be followed in the event of an emergency.

A well-thought-out continuity plan should include details of a disaster recovery team and any tasks that must be performed in a crisis, such as activating any back-up generators you may have. Your disaster recovery team should have responsibility for overseeing the problem until normal service can be resumed.

Business owners are always encouraged to back up any vital data or systems that are essential to the running of the firm. Consider the impact of a cyber-attack or other disaster on any customer data you hold, and the legal implications of this falling into the wrong hands or getting destroyed. You might choose to make physical copies of any essential data and store these in a secure location away from your business premises, or back up your data to remote servers. Remember, however, to supply the relevant people with the necessary tools to access this backed up data.

Putting together an effective continuity plan is crucial for small businesses, and will help to minimise any disruption to the everyday running of your firm, and allow you to carry on trading in the aftermath of a disaster.

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