Where would your business be if disaster struck tomorrow? If the physical servers are destroyed in a fire or other disaster, how would you get your network back up and running? To protect your business in a worst-case scenario, you should have a Business Continuity Plan, or BCP for short. A BCP will make sure that you are prepared to reassemble your network and get things running again when other businesses would be crippled by a major disaster.
A BCP is likely to come up in one of two situations. The first is in the case of a major natural disaster. Earthquakes, blackouts, hurricanes, and other issues can cause power surges and physical damage capable of crippling servers and erasing important data. The second is in the case of a particularly malicious attack fr om hackers, viruses, or other information-corrupting problems. Many companies come up with a BCP as a way to protect their physical resources, but backing up the data that makes up your network is just as important if not more so. Your goal in developing a BCP is to make sure that even in the case of a total network failure you will be able to carry on and return to normal quickly.
The first step in developing a good BCP to protect your network is to document all the resources you have available. This will include not only the resources that you use on a day to day basis but also backups in case the primary resource is not available. For example, if you have your server listed, you also need to include the location and format for any backup data you have saved. If you find an item on your list that doesn’t have a backup, then you need to look into getting that resource backed up. Your documentation should include all critical equipment and its location. While going through this list, make sure that you have off-site backups in case a disaster makes your primary site unreachable.
If your office building was completely destroyed by a fire, what would you do? The best BCPs tend to have a way for employees to reach their crucial data while off-site. If you don’t have a virtual network set up, you might want to look into one if only for the purpose of having an emergency backup gateway. Setting up a remote access connection to an off-site server will allow you to keep the essential parts of your business running smoothly while you work to get your primary resources back up and running. When you have a contingency gateway set up, identify which of your employees can work off-site, how long they can do their job effectively fr om a remote location, and what their emergency tasks are.
In the case that your primary office becomes unusable for an extended period of time, you will need to decide where your business will operate fr om. In terms of physical meeting spaces, hotels and conference centers often have extensive and affordable business options. In terms of where you will store your physical files, you may have a bit more trouble reaching a decision. You can’t just put servers in an employee’s home, since that represents an unsecured place. One option to consider is renting storage space. Many storage facilities allow you to use your own locks and come with heating and air conditioning to keep any electronic equipment in good shape.
Don’t just write up a BCP and then put it away somewh ere under the assumption that it will work perfectly when the time comes. Send the plan around to other employees and supervisors to ensure that you don’t have any items missing. Once you are satisfied that the BCP is as complete as it’s going to be, pick a time wh ere you can put the plan into action. Take a day wh ere access to your office building is completely restricted. This will mean that some employees may get a day off if they aren’t part of the BCP. Act as though the emergency is 100% real and take notes on what needs to change. Whenever you make a change to the BCP, make sure to take another day within a few months to run the tests again.
Just like buildings run fire drills, you should occasionally test out your BCP to make sure it is in good working order. Taking one day a year to update and test your BCP will make sure that even in the case of a total disaster, your network will not be lost.