Business Contingency & Continuity Planning

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Business contingency and continuity plans involve establishing procedures that will be implemented in the event of an emergency or disaster, such as a fire, flood, widespread flu or theft. The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks provide an example of a major disaster that can paralyze unprepared businesses. Contingency plans also should anticipate different business scenarios, like an employee strike or server attack.

Basics

A business should evaluate what it needs to have in place to resume operations in the event of different types of disasters. Therefore, a business should develop a different plan for a fire than for a flood. Continuity and contingency plans are vital so that the business does not remain at a standstill as a result of the theft. A key aspect is to store backups of important documents adequately. For instance, a medical office should consider scanning files or keeping inactive files at an offsite facility to minimize any comprise of patient records. Also, prepare an employee contact list and emergency notification method. Ask employees to identify if they want to be contacted by email, text or phone if the business will close for a day due to a fire. Make copies of bank account information, tax returns and legal documents and either store off-site or on an unique hard drive.

Variables

Contingency plans will vary because of multiple factors, such as the business nature (e.g., manufacturing vs. service), number of employees (e.g., five vs. 500) and size (e.g., home-based vs. locations in five different cities). For example, an information technology business that primarily operates online and employees telecommute should focus on what would happen if a fire destroyed information contained within an office. A IT firm also should anticipate employees losing or being victims of theft, which could impact data stored on their computers. A business that relies on proprietary software or trade secrets should develop an alternative way to access the information. One example would arise when a bakery makes cupcakes that use a special, secret recipe. The bakery's contingency plan should describe how to access the recipes if its main place of business was destroyed.

Updates

Contingency and continuity plans must not remain static. As a business expands, such as when it adds new locations or employees, then all plans should be updated accordingly. Businesses should determine if any deviations are needed based on the circumstances. For example, when a business builds an additional office building, a different logistical plan might be needed to restore data or remove client files. If management significantly changes, then update plans to reflect the new employees. Also, make sure that multiple people know how to access the contingency plan. The plans will become useless if no one remembers that they exist.

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