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Disasters are something that businesses and governments rarely plan for, and when they do occur, they may be expensive. Failures are problematic since each one is distinct and demands careful planning and handling skills. As a result, when preparing for such events, business continuity planning becomes imperative. As a result, an organization should have a current, tested, and amended business continuity strategy in place to give it the greatest chance possible of successfully preparing for and addressing an emergency. The lack of a proper and unique business continuity plan, in every situation, can lead to longer time and effort and copious amounts of capital spent in recovering lost data or documents (Lewis Jr, Watson, & Pickren, 2003). Corporate continuity plan practices can be overstated and engage in time away from normal operations of a business; they are a necessary part of the establishment of policies and procedures. An emergency or natural disaster will cause damage, and a sound Business Continuity Plan will ensure the successful transition to an alternate location (Lewis Jr et al., 2003). With this in cognizance, the essence of the following paper is to provide an evaluation of what a business continuity plan contains within any given business. Further, the writing will furnish a simulation of necessary strategies and protocols to follow when handling different threats within a company.
Introduction: Business Continuity Plan
Business continuity, primarily, means the ability of a business to maintain functions and operability fast to resume to ordinary events during a significant disruption. Significant disruptions within a company can be categorized as natural (earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes) and human-made disasters such as fire, flood, malicious attack through cybercriminals (terrorism) and general loss of data due to poor record keeping. Several studies determined that 53% of global companies possessed a business continuity plan. Nonetheless, the majority of the businesses, according to the survey indicated that there was lack of training and testing of the business continuity plan. For example, the study stated that close to 40% of the businesses that possessed a business continuity plan failed to carry out testing and business impact analysis. The conclusions of the survey indicated that maintaining a business continuity plan was mandatory but, no longer matter whether there is one but, when to implement one (Cerullo and Cerulloa, 2004).
The matter at hand, however, is that business due to competition and cost-efficiency in handling business data have alternated into automated systems and networks. The loss of information, therefore, has become catastrophic impacting the firm’s integrity and credibility in the long run (Cerullo & Cerullo, 2004). According to literature, natural disasters have come second to human-made disasters such as terrorism and cyber-attacks due to the conversion of Information Technology expertise. The impact of not possessing a good business continuity plan is that close to 75% of the businesses globally were unable to comprehend the unexpected eventualities with disasters (Cerullo and Cerullo, 2004).
Merits and Importance of Implementing a Business Continuity Plan
The corporate continuity plan only outlines the processes as well as the instructions to be followed when disaster strikes (Arduini & Morabito, 2010). They include business processes, assets, human resources, as well as business partners and stakeholders. Therefore, the merits that come with a business continuity plan is to avoid risks as well as mitigate the risks to reduce the impression of the catastrophe. The business continuity plan moreover, restores a business back to its normal operations in no time.
A good business continuity plan, ought to possess at least three traits to be successful. They include it should be able to identify all the significant risks of business interruptions. The plan also can develop a strategy to mitigate the risks as well as identify the risks (Streufert, 2010). Finally, the program should possess a continuum in training and testing of the plan such as involving the employees in the process of planning. Concurrently, the dependence that the business continuity plan offers is that it provides a critical in addition to essential functions required in delivering required services and maintaining the safety and well-being of stakeholders and sustain economic basis. There is need to note, however, that a disaster recovery plan is not the same as a business continuity plan. A tragedy recovery plan emphases on the refurbishment of an information technology organization as well as operations after the crisis. The disaster recovery plan is a portion of the business steadiness plan (Streufert, 2010).
The Business Continuity plan is crucial because it ensures the maintenance of economic movement of inhabitants in tragedy areas. The necessity of this is to provide that financial services, for example, continue to run even during disasters such as natural disasters. Additionally, the importance of business continuity plan prevents the widespread payment plus settlement disorder or the prevention of systematic risks (Virgona, 2011). For this to take place, the business continuity plan ensures that financial institutions and international businesses can execute their functions in areas bound by risks. Finally, another importance of business continuity plan is to reduce the management of risks, for instance, preventive the problems for businesses such as banks to take profit chances or lower customer status during risks bound events. Other companies include safety providing entities such as those that distribute medicines and care packages (Whitworth, 2006).
Components of a Business Continuity Plan
There are three mechanisms of a good business continuity plan. They comprise business impression analysis (BIA), tragedy contingency retrieval plan and working out and testing modules.
a. Business Impact Analysis (BIA)
The BIA’s primary function is to recognize the critical features of a business such as operations performed on a day-to-day basis. The BIA also provides for the identification of the risks associated with the company that includes the probability of the risks occurring and its impact. The third function of a BIA is to provide a mitigation process, absorption of risks process as well as identification in ways to mitigate and avoid risks in the short and long-term situations. In the current business environment, identification of business risks has become a prominent factor (Tijan, Kos, & Ogrizović, 2009).
For instance, within the banking and financial institutions sectors, massive alterations in handling consumers has generated the need to alternate to information technology at the retail level. Such businesses may have differential risks compared to healthy companies such as those involved in supply chain management and global markets. In general, business (whether global or local) ought to possess a business continuity plan to safeguard their operations with their customers plus comply with the international and domestic set regulatory reforms. The adoption of strategic business impact analysis is a prominent agenda in most businesses in the assessment of the risks that companies can be associated. It includes the adoption of a framework, database such as community port systems (Tijan et al., 2009).
b. Disaster Contingency Recovery Plan (DCRP)
A DCRP is a documented process used in the recovery as well as the protection of a business’s information technology infrastructure. The plan is generally in written form, but due to advancement in technology, there are soft copied or digital copies of the same. The DCRP is an inclusive statement of a decisive action to be taken before, after and during the tragedy. The process of the development of a DCRP includes the identification of primary as well as other team members. There is also the identification of particular duties to be undertaken by the members such as executive management roles and notification procedures. More so, the DCRP includes the workaround process to keep in the functioning of operations while the damaged portions are being handled. The DCRP can also contain the contact list of personnel as well as the functions they are qualified to do to perform both internally and externally (Pinta, 2011).
c. Training and Testing
The processes include the evaluation of the methodology that risk mitigation ought to go through. They include the simulation of testing, preparation of the disaster recovery team in addition to the other staff members. The process is followed by the recap of the Business Continuity Plan and another simulation of the testing and training. Testing is considered the central portion of a business continuity plan to determine whether the program works (Mills, 2010). The trial, moreover, ensures that the disaster recovery team -both primary and tertiary- know what to do, know their roles and who to contact during a disaster. Testing, further, requires that the executive is indulgent with the business’ processes in business continuity planning.
The reason for this is because a large percentage of the executive believes that business continuity planning takes up a lot of capital with little initial investment return. The business continuity planning, and more so, on the continued rehearsals and training of employees (disaster recovery team) provides a more strategic plan on how to recover business assets during a disaster. Hopefully, in time the executive may improve the adaptability towards the business continuity plan (Delia, Gabriel, Bogdana, & Adrian, 2009).
Operational Planning for Natural Disasters: Federal Regulations
Despite there being business continuity plans within a business, the question is whether if business possess the right infrastructure, process, and testing and training for the preparedness of a disaster. On one end, government agencies are tasked with the handling of more massive natural disasters such as acts of terrorism and bomb threats which can also affect business. Businesses, in this case, cannot handle such emergencies. Agencies, therefore, ought to possess the right disaster and business continuity planning to cater for essential businesses such as financial institutions (McCreight & Leece, 2016).
Agencies can provide businesses with the right operational plans which include document strategies, processes, and sustenance to provide for the sustained performance of necessary functions under any condition. In the United States of America for instance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, agencies ought to possess operational plans to maintain high levels of preparedness in case of risks. For example, the right executive plan under the adoption of business continuity plan can be functional in 12 hours and supportable within 30 days. Therefore, such planning may provide business with the ultimate business continuity planning they require in ensuring that the company operated efficiently during a disaster (Mills, 2010).
According to the Federal regulation, an operational plan ought to possess entree to information systems besides dynamic data, provision for designation of specialist of succession, and dispersal of processes across geographical sites with substitute sites. Nonetheless, the operational planning also provides the businesses with the opportunity to handle disasters through creating structures in place that will aid in recovery processes. For example, in an event where the natural disaster strikes, the staff members can carry out first aid, secure shelters, support emergency response and assistance in recovery efforts (Tijan et al., 2009). Moreover, through the opertional plans, businesses are encouraged to have a recovery team whose main agenda is to secure and allocate responsibilities to the staff members during a natural disaster outbreak. For example, in the event of a hurricane, the workers are equipped with the necessary survival and response skills which are essential in communication, providing engineering support, mass care, provision of transport where necessary as well as manage mobilized areas from the disaster epicenter (Streufert, 2010).
Business Operational Plans: Good Storage Practices
When it comes to individual businesses and type of operations, there are different requirements for handling products and services. To the companies whose primary activities are in product handling, business continuity planning ought to encompass the storage processes. For instance, pharmaceutical companies notice the importance of proper management of storage and transportation of products. The business continuity plan in such scenario includes the mitigation of risks even before they happen. The type of storage equipment and status is mandatory to ensure the products do not lose value while in transit or while disaster strikes (Tijan et al., 2009).
The imagination that a clinical sample of a hazardous nature was handled poorly during transport can lead to more havoc than the catastrophe. The necessity of a business continuity plan for such companies is to ensure that the community and the company’s integrity has been maintained throughout. There are numerous ways to provide this which include the establishment of standard operating procedures which are implemented by all personnel. The difference between the handling of products for such companies compared to a clothing company is that mitigation of risks is handled before any presumed hazard occurring (Virgona, 2011).
The standard operation protocols ought to be incorporated in training and testing processes within a business continuity plan and program. The methods in training include the ability to secure facilities as well as possess redundant measure to ensure products (such as specimens) are kept in complaint conditions at all times. Further, the designated expert staff ought to be trained in sample storage, how to handle samples or products during a disaster and transportation of the same. Finally, the storage technologies in play in such industries and companies possess the characteristic of being monitored for temperatures of samples all the time through audit trails (Whitworth, 2006).
Business Continuity Plan: Information Technology
Businesses have integrated information systems into their daily operations. The networking that such an infrastructure brings is unmatched to the conventional methods of operations. SO, the benefits that come with the integration of information systems within a business are seconded by the numerous benefits companies accrue. For instance, ability to handle shipping and logistics globally through a network of integrated information systems. The infrastructure proves to be costly regardless of the type of company and which industry the firm belongs. The worse consequence, however, is that for a group that has not adopted a business continuity plan for its information database and data (Virgona, 2011).
One of the critical issues to handle within a business continuity plan is to ensure that information technology weaknesses and threats are identified. To do so requires the building of an information technology flow model. It allows for the comprehension of the relevant documentation of a business which includes how business processes handle documentation. The model will consist of the designing of the roadmap for primary internal functions of the company, operational flow, management control as well as understanding the threats to the information technology infrastructure (Lewis Jr et al., 2003).
As such, the primary protocols in ensuring threats such as cyberterrorism, hacking, phishing and general loss of data is handled, is through the incorporation of three-step processes. They include the protection, detection, and reaction. Within the business continuity plan, there is the provision of welfare comprises investing in security systems that are up to date, easy to operate and can handle any hazard both seen and unseen (Arduini & Morabito, 2010).
Protection also means that the information technology there is critical maintaining of the anticipated levels of obtainability for an association. The services include the threat from the environment letdowns, hardware fiascos as well as malicious attack and operational shortcomings. The business impact analysis ought to envision that any offense can befall any business regardless of its operations whether small or large. The second step requires the detection of the threats. Exposure at the earliest time can lead to the minimization of the influence to services which lessen the retrieval of the efforts and the preservation of the quality of service (Cerullo & Cerullo, 2004).
The final stage is in the reacting phase which requires that an incident is handled in the right and appropriate manner to enable the efficient recovery as well as keeping the downtime to a minimum. The expert team that will be allocated in the process require an understanding that reacting poorly to any situation can effect in a minor occurrence intensifying into a more severe significant event. As such, within the training and testing of any personnel, there ought to be the introduction of recovery and resuming protocols and how to do it. The recommendation in the business continuity plan is that recovery services for any information technology infrastructure are based on the services to be achieved in a measured and programmed manner. It requires the identification of the implementing of the appropriate recovery strategy which will ensure that the timely recommencement of facilities and maintaining of information is compiled with (Whitworth, 2006).
The paper has provided a simulation and integrative comprehension of what a business continuity plan is and how it is structured. About the essay, the business continuity plan possesses a series of components that are universal to any agency or business which include BIA, testing and training and disaster recovery program. It is in line with the current trends in the industry. However, there are significant shifts in the information technology platforms which complicate the business continuity plans. But, with the right indenture such as improved security, possessing an infrastructural model and actual implementation of a business continuity model, businesses may be able to respond and recover from hazards within a given time frame. Hence, the importance of possessing a business continuity is mandatory to plan for the unforeseen or unprecedented risks associated with running a business.
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