Business continuity is critical to any organization’s success over time. Succinctly stated, if a business organization’s website, application software, and any other components of its online presence go down, it runs the risk of losing sales and ultimately going out of business.
This statement has always been true to a large extent. However, in an age where almost everything has pivoted online, companies absolutely cannot afford to incur any downtime. Succinctly stated, the impact of this downtime is a 100% loss of sales for the business for the duration that the organization’s systems are down. Companies can mitigate these losses by scheduling planned outages for tasks such as website or application upgrades during slow use times.
The loss of customers and sales not only occurs as a direct result of an unplanned or unscheduled outage, but it also occurs as an indirect consequence of the unplanned outage.
Statistics reported by an Akamai study show that 9% of a website’s visitors never return to a site that is down when they first attempt to view the site or app. In other words, almost one in ten potential sales is lost. Therefore, when calculating the actual cost of the downtime, you need to include the permanent site abandonment metrics and the associated revenue loss.
Secondly, site outages can affect website rankings on the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Google search engine web crawlers continually crawl the web checking websites and content. If a web crawler finds a site down, it usually returns later and checks again.
What happens if this web crawler finds the site down for an extended time?
Succinctly stated, it affects the website’s SERP ranking. If the site is down for a day or two, Google won’t remove the website from its global index, but it will probably drop the site from the SERP. If the site does not come back up after a couple of days, it drops the site from its index, and you have to restart your SEO efforts.
Additionally, Shopping Cart Elite reports that a six-hour outage is enough to drop your website’s rankings by 30%.
Therefore, to prevent any extended and unscheduled outages, it is imperative to ensure that your company has a robust BCP and disaster recovery plan that can be implemented in the case of an unscheduled outage.
By way of expanding on this statement, let’s consider the following points.
What are business continuity and business continuity planning?
Techtarget.com defines business continuity as an “organization’s ability to maintain essential functions during and after a disaster has occurred.” Moreover, business continuity planning sets up risk management policies and procedures to prevent interruptions to mission-critical processes and re-establish full function to the organization as quickly as possible.
As a result, there is an urgent requirement to set up a business continuity plan (BCP) that documents the critical information that an organization requires to continue operating during a disaster or unscheduled outage. It must include the organization’s essential business functions, identify the vital systems and processes that must be maintained, and detail how to support them.
Note: Disasters can include cyberattacks, natural disasters, and human error.
The importance of business continuity planning
In summary, business continuity planning is a proactive business process. It helps the organization understand its potential weaknesses as well as organizational threats that could occur in times of crisis.
The result of creating a business continuity plan is so that the organization can react quickly to mitigate the adverse effects of a disruption to the company’s online presence. And the successful implementation of the BCP allows the company to continue providing a service to its customer base and target audience, minimizing the likelihood of customers moving to its competitors. It also decreases the system’s downtime and describes the steps to be taken to reduce the financial impact of the outage on the company’s financial viability.
Components of a business continuity plan
Paul Kirvan, a business continuity consultant, highlights the components required in a successful BCP.
- Initial data, including critical contact information
- Change management and revision management, describing the change management process and keeping track of the document’s revisions.
- Purpose and scope
- Guidelines on how to use the plan and under what circumstances it should be initiated
- Policy information
- Emergency response and management
- Step-by-step procedures
- Checklists and flow diagrams
- Glossary of terms used in the BCP
- Schedule for reviewing, testing, and updating this plan
Moreover, in her book titled “Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning for IT Professionals,” Susan Snedaker recommends asking the following questions when drawing up a BCP:
- What are the single points of failure?
- What are risk controls or risk management systems currently in place?
- What are the critical outsourced relationships and dependencies?
- What alternative procedures are there for crucial business processes?
- What are the essential skills, knowledge, and expertise required to recover?
- What critical security or operational controls are needed if the production systems are down?
Lastly, but equally importantly, the BCP creation process includes steps such as initiating the project, the information-gathering phase, including a business impact analysis and risk assessment, the writing up of the document, and the testing, maintenance, and updating cycle.
The business impact analysis and risk analysis provide the business continuity plan creators with the necessary data. The business impact analysis defines the critical functions that must continue in a crisis as well as the resources needed to maintain these functions.
For instance, if an eCommerce website suddenly and unexpectedly goes down, the BCP must detail what to do and what resources are required to get the site back up as soon as possible, if not immediately after the outage has occurred.
The risk analysis details the potential internal and external threats and risks that can occur and how to limit the damage from the event. Again, let’s consider our eCommerce site scenario. There are several different reasons why a site outage can occur, including hardware and software malfunctions, power outages, and cyber-attacks. The BCP must describe what to do in each of these events, detailing how to recover and mitigate the impact the outage can have on the organization.
What is IT disaster recovery?
Wikipedia.com defines disaster recovery as “a set of policies, tools, and procedures to enable the recovery or continuation of vital technology infrastructure and systems following a natural or human-induced disaster.”
It primarily focuses on the systems that support critical business functions, such as the unscheduled outage of an eCommerce website. Therefore, disaster recovery, including cloud-based disaster recovery, can and must be considered a subcategory of business continuity planning. Additionally, it assumes that the primary site is not recoverable; therefore, disaster recovery specialists must include a set of steps representing the process of restoring the data, software, and services to a secondary server (or virtual location) in the disaster recovery plan.
There are different types of disaster recovery options, including the DRaaS (Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service) and offered by organizations such as Accrets International.
To expand on this statement, the disaster recovery experts at Accrets International note that because IT infrastructure and solutions are a critical enabler for business organizations, implementing a robust disaster recovery plan is vital to organizational success. And in all aspects, adding a Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service program is categorically a good idea because it is one aspect of the business continuity process that the organization does not have to worry about. The specialist DRaaS experts will manage the end-to-end disaster recovery process, simplifying the process for the organization.
Business continuity and disaster recovery planning are an integral part of the modern digital organization. Companies process massive volumes of data during their core business functions. Moreover, critical data is stored on on-premises company servers (or in the cloud). Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that there is a BCP, including a robust disaster recovery plan, simplifying the recovery process should a disaster, natural or human-made, occur without significant outage time, incurring substantial losses both in customer numbers and sales.
As highlighted above, a DRaaS plan is possibly the simplest and most effective way of ensuring that your data is 100% safe. And should something happen to the IT infrastructure housing your website or web application and data, there is an effective and robust plan to quickly bring the system up again and restore the critical data.