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What is business continuity planning?

Why it's crucial your business has the right contingency strategy in place

It’s not exactly the sexiest thing to tick off your to-do list but putting a thorough and regularly updated business continuity plan in place really could mean the difference between sinking and swimming should disaster strike.

The important thing to remember about a business continuity plan is it doesn’t just have to cover what to do if your premises burns to ground. Something as simple as a couple of days of transport disruptions can cause economic chaos, as London and the South East found out during 2009′s heavy snow storms.

If you’ve got a business continuity plan in place you should be able to get on with a normal service for your clients and customers as soon as possible. Not having access to the office for a couple of days isn’t such a big deal when all your vital company information is stored in the cloud, or you have procedures in place to divert phone calls.

Likewise, if a major crisis, like a fire, flood or even a terrorist attack strikes, if data is backed up, agreements for emergency replacement stock are already established and staff know what’s expected of them, your business can emerge scratched but not fatally injured.

When Tagish, a business supplying internet site development and CMS services suffered a fire in 2006, its disaster recovery plan was put into action. Customers, staff and press were kept informed throughout every step of the recovery process. Staff were each assigned specific tasks with some in charge of communications, while others focused on recovering data and hardware. Systems were up and running again within a few days.

Business continuity isn’t just about preparing for a physical emergency though. You also need to have procedures in place for the possibility of a key supplier or client going out of business, especially given the current economic client. High street music and DVD retailer Zavvi went into administration in 2008 after its main supplier, Woolworths’ unit Entertainment UK (EUK), went bust.

So when it comes to business continuity planning, the old Scout’s motto rings true.

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