Business continuity planning and managing one’s business are definitely top of mind for a lot of business owners and managers. This is especially true in the tricky waters of South Africa, where infrastructure is no longer guaranteed.
We have Eskom unable to ensure or guarantee that they have enough power to enable us to continue with our economy at current levels, let alone to grow. We have Telkom who in areas of some towns no longer replaces stolen cables, meaning businesses lose their communications capabilities. We have municipalities in our country that are no longer able to run basic services.
This all means that you as a business owner or business manager must ensure that you have effective business continuity plans in place to deal with ongoing disruptions and to be able to continue to run and grow your businesses.
Here are five must-haves to include in your business continuity plan:
1. Required contacts and key staff
The effective execution of your business continuity plan will rely on people. These could be staff members, key people at specific suppliers or contact details of organisations you need to contact.
Your business continuity plan should include storing these contact details in an accessible form off-site – preferably in the cloud – where a number of key staff members can access these.
You need contact names and information for at least the following:
Your CEO/managing director All managers All key suppliers of essential services Your insurance policies and details All staff numbers and addresses
2. Contingency or alternate working location
Any business continuity plan must deal with loss of offices or premises. This can happen through fire, flood or due to other kinds of complications. In the case of a company we know, they secured new premises and on the day they were to move in the premises were unavailable due to not being correctly zoned and a neighbour complaining.
Planning your alternate location should be done before any disaster, as there are many factors in having to suddenly move to a new location. These include the number of seats required, rerouting of telephony and internet connectivity as well as having an alternate location that staff can get to.
3. Data backup and data disaster plan
A business continuity plan without a critical business data recovery plan is like driving a car down a highway at 160km an hour with no brakes. One in five (20%) of our customers will lose and need to restore some data at least once per year. We have monitored this and this statistic is verified by the data restores our technicians assist our customers with.
Backing up your data to a cloud-based service is 100% critical to the ongoing success of your business in the event of a data disaster.
4. Redundant power supply
Even a small business needs to have a contingency for power supply. Eskom has stated that they will no longer be keeping the electricity running at all costs. This has cost too much in terms of running down and not maintaining existing generation capacity. In fact, Eskom is generating 10% less electricity than it was a year ago and the Medupe power station is simply going to replace generation capacity that they had but had to stage for maintenance. We will have a constrained power network for at least the next 5 to 10 years.
Wire your offices to enable you to switch over to a generator easily. Your offices mostly operate during the day time, so consider a grid-tied solar system. Not only will this give you power to run your business, but you can also feed back into the grid and reduce your Eskom bill.
We have very smug looks on our faces here at IronTree when the power goes down and we carry on working due to having planned for power outages.
5. Equipment geared to your business continuity plan
As a business one constantly buys equipment to keep your business up to date with technology and to enable you to grow the business. We have a couple of policies in our IT and communications purchasing that enable business continuity planning.
Our server room is secure. All of our servers, routers and switches are connected to an 8 hour battery pack. Our switches are POE switches (power over Ethernet). We use VOIP phones and because we have POE switches the instruments do not need a power supply.
All of our desk-bound staff work on laptops connected to an external monitor and keyboard. This enables two things to happen. Firstly, when we have a power cut, everybody carries on working and secondly, at the end of each day all laptops are put into a safe in our offices, so thieves would first have to crack open the safe in order to access our computers.
We use line of sight, wireless connectivity to run our VOIP services. We have #G and Telkom failover.
We also run our Internet using air to fibre connectivity, with a failover to ADSL.
All staff run laptops, phones are on a POE switch. Our server room has an eight-hour battery pack and we can switch it all over to generator power as and when necessary.
As you can see, our philosophy is to ensure that we can carry on running no matter what happens externally to our business.