Guest Blog – Business Continuity: What is it? Why does it matter?

By Don McNally

Don is Founder and President of NetAccess Systems Inc., the area’s first Internet Service Provider in 1993. Don loves the innovation, community, and collaboration of the growing Hamilton area IT ecosystem.


Business Continuity is much what it sounds like – plans or activities intended to ensure that an organization’s critical business functions will continue to operate despite a serious incident or disaster. It is much more comprehensive than simple data backup and recovery. A proper Business Continuity Plan includes not just data and applications, but also the business processes and systems required for a business to operate, such as access to required staff, special equipment, communications systems, workspace and inventory.

iStock_000024086772LargeA recent study for SMBs (small to mid-sized businesses) determined that the average loss per hour for a disruption of business operations costs $12,550 US per hour. Another study found that 83% of SMBs (10-250 employees) had a major IT failure in the last two years. Of this 83% only 8% were able to recover within an hour. Over 21% of the SMBs surveyed required 8 to 24 hours to recover basic business operations, and another 23% would require more than one day to recover. From these statistics, it is clear that business IT failure is a common and costly reality.

But it gets even worse. A recent Gartner Group study found that 70% of companies that suffer a major IT disaster without a valid recovery plan in place fail within the next year.  Despite these sobering statistics, very few SMBs have any form of comprehensive Business Continuity plan in place. A study by Symantec found that 57% of SMBs had no disaster recovery plan, and close to 90% did not have any form of Business Continuity plan in place. These companies are a business disaster waiting to happen.

Thankfully, this unfortunate situation doesn’t need to exist. Removing IT and business operation exposure can be managed in a comprehensive and cost effective manner, in large part thanks to modern cloud-based solutions. Compared to the cost of actual downtime of even one hour, these solutions are some of the best investments an IT manager or business owner can make. The basic components for such a plan are covered in five basic steps:

1. Do a full review of your business operations, including an assessment of vulnerabilities and potential points of failure. This review should be done on an annual basis, and will help you determine which systems and applications are absolutely essential to your business, and which you can do without for a few hours or day.

2. Create a plan. Take the information in the above impact analysis and map out how your business will mitigate all anticipated risks and resume normal operations under various business disruption scenarios.

3. Put in place a backup solution that will automatically back up data as it is created. These backups should be easily available from anywhere. Further, resiliency can be achieved by having backups create standby virtual servers.

4. Conduct periodic drills to confirm that your plan works and make sure all staff is familiar with the procedures.

5. Review your plan regularly. Business and technology are dynamic and constantly changing.  A plan that may have been right for your company last year may be seriously out of date this year. Whatever plan you have in place requires regular review and modification.

In summary: business downtime can be very costly. It can also bring your business to an abrupt and unpleasant end. This exposure can be minimized by implanting a Business Continuity plan that is right for your venture.  Just as no business is too big to fail; so no business is too small to avoid the serious impacts of business disruption.  Even startups in their early stages can be derailed for lack of a proper Business Continuity Plan.




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