Planning for disaster recovery

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Courtesy of IMSM Ltd

Q: When is a business disaster not a complete disaster?
A: When you have a disaster recovery system in place, of course.

The dictionary defines disaster as “an occurrence that causes great distress or destruction”. Any business can be affected by natural disasters, like recent weather patterns, contrived disasters such as the credit crunch, or even physical disasters like the loss of your computer server, or a major fire at your premises.

What is common at the very least is loss of revenue, working time, and increased costs, as well as distraction from growing your business. You may lose skilled staff and find it hard to replace them. Sometimes customers will be flexible, but they also have their own businesses to keep afloat, and will seek alternative suppliers. If you are part of a mission-critical supply chain, your reputation can be damaged, and all that is remembered is the disaster, not the good work you carried out for years previously.

Running a business is all about taking and managing risks, so putting in place systems to firstly prevent any foreseeable disasters, then to anticipate and recover from them quickly and fully, is an essential management function. One such system is the BS 25999 Business Continuity Management Standard, developed to minimize the risks of disruptions in the event of a disaster.

“Reliable supplier”

A business continuity plan provides peace of mind, not just for your business, but also your customers and suppliers. Having such a plan in place is increasingly part of the tender and “reliable supplier” selection process. It is vital, whether you are supplying physical goods, or providing a service which includes managing data, one of the most vulnerable of your assets.

Achieving BS25999 shows customers, suppliers and staff that you have identified areas of concern, and put plans in place to manage any disaster, so that you can restore your ability to supply critical products and services, to an agreed level, within an agreed timeframe.

Smart businesses have such plans written down, and ensure everybody in the organization knows how to play their part, through training and even rehearsals. This is not simply a paper exercise, but needs to become part of the culture of the organization. Management input, together with regular review and updating, demonstrates that the business is taking its responsibilities in ensuring continuous supply seriously.

When putting a disaster recovery plan into place, it can be helpful to use an external resource, not only to save time, but also to view the processes objectively, ask relevant questions, and document in detail the recovery plans. With more than 10 years’ experience in international standards, IMSM provides a team of IRCA qualified assessors, with plastics industry experience, who can help identify the critical issues, and prioritize actions to protect the assets that are most at risk, and hardest to replace.

Businesses need to strike a balance between the level of business risk they can tolerate, and the cost of perfect supply and total lack of downtime. It's unlikely that all processes are equally mission-critical and all systems are equally vital. But the time to find out is now, not when disaster strikes.

For more information on how BS25999 can help your business, please call IMSM on 01666 826065

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