How to Save Your Business from Unplanned Downtime

We had a highly destructive hurricane season in the U.S. and it’s getting a lot of businesses to think harder about how prepared they are to weather the next storm. This is good as far as it goes, but we here at Neverfail have found that it’s all too easy for a business owner or manager to be lulled into a false sense of security based on this approach. The simple fact is that being ready for a hurricane doesn’t mean you’ve put a solid Business Continuity Plan in place. There are a lot of things that can go wrong that have nothing to do with wind and rain damage, but they can just as easily put you out of business. 

Any number of things can create unplanned – and expensive – downtime, including hardware failures, user errors, theft, electrical problems, and so on.

Let’s look at a simplistic example that doesn’t have to do with storms: A fire. If you think in terms of scenarios, you might well consider the impact a fire in your headquarters would have on your operations. As part of your prep, you might do something like buy a fireproof safe to protect key files and backups. This seems like a good idea until someone brings up the possibility of a chemical spill near your offices; what if you’re not allowed back into the building to get to that safe?

Above all, avoid focusing on only major disasters as potential causes of business-threatening outages. Any number of things can create unplanned – and expensive – downtime, including hardware failures, user errors, theft, electrical problems, and so on.

Building a Business Continuity Plan

A good way to approach this is to put together a list of all the databases, file systems, and applications required to keep your operation running. Then divide them into four categories:

  • Can never be down (what we call: Tier 0)
  • Can be down for a few hours (Tier 1)
  • Can be down for a day or two (Tier 2)
  • Can be down for several days or more. (Tier 3)

You’ll quickly see where you need to make the biggest investments to protect yourself. You can afford to be without some systems for a while, and others can kill your business if they’re down for too long, so plan – and invest your time and money – accordingly.

The big idea to keep in mind is that you should not think about Business Continuity planning in terms of scenarios like storms, earthquakes, or fires. Base your planning on how the loss or unavailability of key resources, regardless of the circumstances, will affect your business.

We’ve written a new eBook about Business Continuity that you should find helpful called “How to Save the Day — And Your Business”. In it, we point out how important it is to consider all the things that can go wrong, define the differences between Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery, and offer six steps to building a business continuity plan that will be right for you.

Make sure your Business Continuity Plan is constantly evolving to keep pace with the changes and growth that occur in your operations.

A final comment: Neverfail’s business is keeping thousands of businesses like yours up and running. As a result, we’ve learned a lot over the past 17 years. We find that our most successful customers follow this maxim: Make sure your Business Continuity Plan is constantly evolving to keep pace with the changes and growth that occur in your operations. In order to be effective when the time comes (and it will for any business), a BC plan must be reconsidered, updated, and tested regularly. Further, key staff members must understand the goals of the plan so they can make good decisions and utilize all the BC capabilities available to them when disaster strikes.

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