3 Factors IT Leaders Need To Include In A Business Continuity Plan That Goes Beyond Just Disaster Recovery
By Kirk Waddell, EVP of Technology, One Source
Never could we have ever imagined the impact that COVID has had on business. Even if we knew more or planned more, multiple things could go wrong; every incident of disaster is unique and unfolds in unexpected ways. The best we can do is have a plan in place. As COVID-19 continues to propel our world towards an ever-changing business environment without an end in sight, achieving business continuity becomes more prevalent than ever.
So let’s state the obvious. This pandemic has uncovered many holes in our current workplace continuity structure. We’ve learned the hard way that for organizations to be successful, employees need to have the ability to operate from anywhere and require the right mix of technology to enable this achievement. Therefore, it is prudent for IT leaders to think beyond the creation of a disaster recovery plan and incorporate procedures to support the continuity of the organization at large.
If I have a Disaster Recovery Plan, Why Do I Need a Business Continuity Plan?
Business continuity refers to maintaining business functions to prevent disruption in revenue or quickly resuming them in the event of a major disruption, such as the abrupt shift in business operations due to the global pandemic. Business continuity planning is a strategy. The plan outlines procedures and instructions an organization must follow in the face of disaster; it covers business processes, assets, human resources, partners, and more. Many people think a Disaster Recovery (DR) plan is the same as a Business Continuity (BC) Plan. However, a DR plan mainly focuses on restoring IT infrastructure and operations after a crisis. In short, the DR is simply a subset of the BC plan. To have a complete BC plan, IT leaders and business continuity teams must think beyond data recovery and start thinking about what exactly technology’s role is in preventing downtime and keeping remote employees productive. The overarching business goals and objectives must be at the forefront of strategy.
So, it has become critical for IT leaders to focus on accelerating digital transformation initiatives to support and protect remote working, further supporting business objectives. With IT being a major role in continuity plans as leadership teams reevaluate current procedures, IT leaders need to be prepared with what needs to be incorporated into the plan moving forward in 2021. Below are 3 factors IT leaders need to include in a business continuity plan that goes beyond just disaster recovery:
- Connectivity – Companies had to abruptly shift to a remote workforce whether they were ready for it or not, causing connectivity to be one of the biggest issues IT and business leaders are still facing in the midst of COVID-19. Previously, companies have enabled employees to work remotely by using an internet connection from their home to log in to the corporate network via a secure VPN. However, the majority of businesses have not provided this capability at a scale to securely enable VPN access to their entire workforce. Corporate networks, as well as home networks, must now be upgraded to securely deliver the network connectivity needed to keep employees productive and businesses operational. To combat these issues, many providers are offering business-class internet that is delivered to the home. This solution enables businesses to deliver consistent, stable connectivity to help employees maintain performance. Business-class internet provides a separate network connection to take employees off of their personal internet, allowing for business continuity between remote workers and the office. Employees will experience faster speeds and better support when compared to a traditional home internet plan. Wait times and mean-time-to-repair (MTR) are far lower on business class plans, so a company’s IT department can avoid getting bogged down with support issues as the provider is a reliable support option. Additionally, business accounts offer features like static IP addresses which is important in enabling scalable VPN and optimizing VoIP for teleconferencing.
- IT Infrastructure – IT infrastructure plays a key role in enabling business continuity as a whole. Businesses today are dependent on connectivity and technology availability, so strong provisions for IT infrastructure in BC planning builds resilience against downtime in ways that people, processes and non-IT infrastructure simply cannot do. Many companies didn’t have the infrastructure in place that sufficiently supported the abrupt shift to a remote workforce in 2020. The ambition to adjust as quickly as possible tempted some businesses to use lesser applications. If sufficient research isn’t done when implementing these applications that enable remote work, such as remote desktops, virtualization, and cloud-hosted solutions to name a few, the technology could end up backfiring. Many applications can allow for visibility and connectivity back into the work environment but come with limitations such as issues with file access, security problems, and poor user experience that compromises employee productivity. It’s important to research these infrastructure upgrades before implementation. Meraki by Cisco, for example, is a plug-and-play solution that provides VPN security as well as quality, optimized connectivity offering a solid user experience so employees can be productive and connected.
- Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) – Traditionally, many organizations have overlooked desktops when coming up with a business continuity plan. But this changed dramatically in 2020 when desktops became the lifeline between the office and the employee. Desktops are vulnerable endpoints that need to be accounted for in any business continuity plan. This can be solved with cloud desktops. Cloud desktops can be accessed anywhere, anytime, from any device with an internet connection. This allows IT organizations to deliver a corporate endpoint experience on relatively inexpensive hardware while maintaining strict IT standards that protect the environment. VDI improves endpoint security while boosting workforce agility and simplifying network access. While many solutions usually include on-premise servers, storage, and network components, cloud deployment is becoming more popular in light of the events of 2020. VDI allows IT leaders to have visibility into the connectivity of employees and ensures secure remote access on both ends into the organization’s environment.
Businesses rely on IT leaders now more than ever to keep organizations operational and employees connected even when they are not able to be in the office. The impact of the IT side of the BC plan ultimately affects the performance of the business continuity plan as a whole. These 3 factors listed above seep into the holistic, comprehensive strategy of the BC plan, building a foundation to stand on, and ensures your business can keep making money long term during a prolonged “disaster”. It’s important to make sure you’re creating a plan that is custom-tailored to your organization. As you create your plan, consider interviewing key personnel in organizations or on teams who have gone through a disaster successfully. People generally like to share “war stories” and the steps and techniques (or clever ideas) that saved the day. Their insights could prove incredibly valuable in helping you to craft a solid plan.
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