7 Strategies to Maintain Business Continuity

Aaron Ricadela | Content Strategist | April 29, 2024

When a natural disaster, major IT outage, or other calamity knocks the systems employees use offline, companies need both disaster recovery technology and a sound business continuity strategy. A solid plan accounts for potential threats—including natural disasters, cyberattacks, and local and widespread outages—and lays out how the organization will respond to each.

Business continuity plans typically include instructions for keeping communication lines open, protecting data, and making sure employees are safe and as productive as possible. A sound plan will minimize downtime, financial losses, and reputational damage and maximize the speed with which normal operations are resumed.

What Is Business Continuity?

Business continuity refers to the plans, processes, and procedures an organization puts in place to ensure that essential functions continue during and after a disaster or unexpected event. Key components of a business continuity plan include risk assessments, emergency response procedures, communication plans, backup and recovery strategies, instructions on how to train staff on their responsibilities, and a schedule for updating and testing protocols.

Risk assessments should include disruptive events, such as natural disasters, wars, acts of terrorism, heat waves, and floods, as well as IT failures caused by software bugs, human errors, and cyberattacks—anything that could derail your normal business operations and lead to financial losses. A strategy for responding to and coping with these events starts with a business impact analysis that rates the likelihood of each potential threat and the possible resultant damage.

Seven Tips to Maintain Business Continuity

Successful business continuity plans depend on a mixture of technology investments, sound processes, and training that walks employees through crucial steps before disaster strikes. Here are some strategies for building the needed technology infrastructure, preparing staff, and keeping external stakeholders informed.

One key: Cloud technologies, including hybrid IT architectures, can lower the cost of the disaster recovery piece of business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) by helping departments restart systems faster.

1. Train team members.

Research has shown that business continuity plans benefit from having visible executive sponsors. Companies also need to update and train team members regularly on their responsibilities. Stakeholders can benefit from tabletop testing, where they verbally run through steps in a conference room or a physical walk-through of the actions they’d take during a disaster.

2. Embrace automation.

Automation can support business continuity by helping to put select processes on “autopilot,” reducing the potential for human error or information overload to cause an outage. As an example, consider automated data backups to the cloud, whereby important files are continuously saved and stored securely in multiple locations that are accessible from anywhere an employee has internet access. Another example is an automated monitoring system that can spot indications of an attempted data breach and stop it before data is lost.

3. Invest in IT.

IT teams that help their companies excel at business continuity design with resilience in mind. What that entails depends on the organization’s risk profile, but it generally involves building in redundancy in communications, staffing, data protection, and physical infrastructure. The cloud can help. For each essential service, ask: How can we provide continuous access both on-location and offsite with minimal interruption?

4. Move to the cloud.

A key aspect of business continuity is the ability to recover from outages that interrupt manufacturing, sales, transportation, and other operations. Cloud computing and newer application development approaches designed for the internet are changing how companies develop business continuity strategies. Instead of doubling or tripling IT budgets for redundant on-premises systems that need extra licenses, servers, storage, networking, and cooling, cloud services let businesses deploy crucial applications in multiple cloud data centers in different cloud regions. The apps can scale up resources in response to increased demand.

5. Prioritize reporting.

Business continuity planning relies on businesses providing timely updates that internal staff and external partners and regulators can depend on. Different communication styles and data could be necessary, depending on whether the recipients are executives, staff, customers, business partners, shareholders, or regulators.

6. Audit your business continuity plan.

It’s paramount that your plan aligns with your organization’s goals and with industry standards and key benchmarks, including state, national, and international requirements. Audits are particularly relevant for highly regulated industries, including financial services, healthcare, and utilities. Companies need to review their risk assessments, impact analyses, and recovery plans to make sure they meet the latest standards, for example, FEMA’s Federal Continuity Directive for federal organizations and the international ISO 22301 standard for business continuity management systems, and add testing and training where needed. Consider professional certifications in the field of business continuity and disaster recovery, such as those offered by Disaster Recovery Institute International (DRI).

7. Communicate clearly.

Even the best-laid plans are no help if the people who need to execute them aren’t informed and equipped with the right tools. Department leaders, business continuity teams, and human resources departments can help communicate the importance of knowing what to do until normal operations resume. Businesses may create communication plans for the whole company and for individual departments whose work would be affected by a disaster.

Minimize Downtime and Interrupted Services with Oracle

Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) can help organizations guard against disaster-related computing downtime. Oracle separates its global cloud regions, which serve different geographic areas, into isolated, fault-tolerant availability domains, each with its own power and cooling. That means a failure in one domain is highly unlikely to stop computing work happening in another. Oracle Cloud technologies let IT departments add server resources to applications remotely and deploy their critical applications to multiple cloud regions.

Business continuity is especially important as IT systems become increasingly interdependent and more transactions are done online. An outage at one company can have a ripple effect on others. Business leaders need to determine which of their processes and associated software are mission-critical, rank others in tiers, and budget for recovery plans accordingly.

A distributed cloud provides the flexibility to choose where and how services are delivered to meet your needs—including BCDR. See why Oracle has been named a Leader in the 2023 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Distributed Hybrid Infrastructure. Get the free report now.

Business Continuity FAQs

How do organizations manage business continuity?

Business leaders generally start their business continuity planning by deputizing key members of IT, operations, HR, and other departments to catalog potential disasters that could disrupt work. They prioritize processes that their organizations can’t afford to go without and draw up detailed plans and personnel assignments for actions during a calamity and recovery afterward. Companies that effectively manage business continuity ensure staff are trained and plans are rehearsed.

What are examples of business continuity?

Examples of business continuity are strategies that enable organizations to minimize disruptions and continue functioning even in the face of unexpected events. Business continuity strategies include having a crisis communication plan in place to keep stakeholders informed during an emergency and having remote work capabilities to ensure employees can work from anywhere.