A Harsh Reminder from Hurricane Harvey: 3 Key Considerations for your Business Continuity Plan

by Peter Bohjalian

Gartner research shows that 43 percent of enterprises that experience a substantial loss of business-related data, with no continuity plan on the books, never resume business operations again. Another 51 percent of those that do manage to re-open their doors after a major loss of data, close within the next two years after an incident.

The historic flooding seen in the Houston, TX area in late August serves as a stark reminder of the importance of having an effective business continuity plan (BCP) that can mitigate the types of consequences described above.

While most enterprises have at least a rudimentary plan in place, it can be difficult to determine how expansive the parameters of a BCP need to be.

Such an exercise requires business managers to consider exactly what ways a substantial disruption to their operations will impact them. Will it disrupt digital communications? Or impact other technology-based workflows like enrollments and application processing? What about on-site or near-site production facilities? Stakeholders must also determine how to protect electronic payment systems and other data-driven platforms in the event of a major disaster.

Putting together such a plan can be difficult for even the most experienced business leaders, but as we were all reminded with Harvey – it is a base that every business simply must have covered.

While daunting, there is no better time than the present to take the necessary steps to prevent your enterprise from losing irreplaceable data, processing incoming payments, producing outbound communications, and performing any number of other mission-critical, time-sensitive tasks during and after a major disruption – weather-related or not.

To help you narrow the scope, here are three concepts to consider and include in your BCP to ensure it encompasses the areas you’ll need to keep critical processes flowing during a disruption. These steps can help you resume operations after a flood, tornado, or other event that causes damage to your offices or facilities, or causes you to shut them temporarily.

     1) Off-Site Data Storage for Mission Critical Information

As an increasing amount of business processes became digitally based in the ‘90s and into the 2000s, many continuity plans featured models that relied on off-site data centers to back up data that was generated over time. But building a secondary data storage site internally can be quite costly, and ensuring consistent back up can be difficult, and involve manually collecting and sending data to an off-site data storage location.

Due to the cost and complexity involved in operating such a program, many businesses simply operated without a comprehensive BCP. But, cloud-based data storage has shifted this paradigm to a more user-friendly model.

Cloud-based business continuity solutions now allow service providers with the right internal capability and IT architecture to offer best-class continuity capability at an affordable rate. Other benefits of such an approach include:

  • Easier Access: With this type of solution, you’ll be able to access your password-protected files from any internet-connected computer – even if your office or other facilities are unreachable
  • Attractive Pricing Options: With no capital expense involved, contract-based subscription pricing keeps total cost of ownership affordable
  • Scalability: Traditional data centers can reach capacity. But with a cloud-based solution, increasing (or decreasing) the amount of data storage you require can be changed on-demand

     2) Access to Off-Site Operations & Production Centers

A best-class continuity solution will not only store your data in the event of a disruption, but it will allow you to continue leveraging said data during your recovery period – which as we have seen in Houston, may be quite lengthy.  Depending on the harshness of the event, moving certain operations and mission-critical processes to an alternate site may be required. One way to help avoid extended periods of downtime for other processes, such as customer or internal employee communications, is to leverage a Disaster Recovery as a Solution service that includes not only cloud-based data storage but access to such facilities as well.

With this type of solution included within your BCP, the benefits regarding comprehensive continuity for a myriad of mission-critical processes become apparent. If your data is stored in the cloud, and you have a process support partner retained who can not only store that information, but effectively manage it to create and send communications – multiple, critical processes can resume quickly. Even if your facilities are shuttered for a lengthy period, both your data and ability to communicate with customers and employees in their preferred manner, are backed-up.

     3) Cloud-Based Processing Support for On-Going Account Management

Effective business communication is a two-way street. This means you’ll need to include a way to continually process invoices, submitted applications, or enrollment forms as just a few examples, during a disruption.  

Cloud-based gateways to transact, collaborate, and manage these types of processes provide several obvious benefits, but these become even more pronounced in the event of a disaster. Operating a cloud-based platform to process these types of incoming documents not only provides a more secure, paperless manner to do so during normal operation – but delivers the sort of anywhere-access that business managers need when their office is unexpectedly closed due to an adverse event. If your payment platform resides in the cloud, you’ll be able to log in from a secure location, and from there, effectively send, receive, approve or refer invoices while your physical office location is affected.

If all of this sounds costly or overwhelming to create internally, that’s because a comprehensive BCP is something that will by nature include robust back-ups for business-critical processes. It can be wise to partner with someone who already has the cloud-based and physical infrastructure you’ll need to continue operations during an event that disrupts your business.