Creating an information technology (IT) business continuity plan requires knowing the key personnel, equipment and processes of a business' IT department, then securely documenting all of that information. It also involves making sure that any critical data stored digitally is backed up to ensure a minimal loss of information if any type of disaster occurs, whether it is a natural disaster, some type of event that causes a loss of power, a disruption in communications systems or even a malicious attack from hackers or computer viruses. Working in conjunction with an overall disaster recovery plan, an IT business continuity plan helps a company to continue doing business and provide service to customers even in a time of crisis.
First, determine which IT staff members are of primary importance. These are the key players who are needed to get the business' computer system, communications system or other necessary technology operating again after any type of disaster. Record their names and titles, then detail all the ways of communicating with them, such as phone numbers, email addresses and street addresses. Remember, in a disaster situation, normal means of communication might not be in service.
Second, make another list of associates outside the company that might be critical to the business' IT systems. This might include suppliers, utility companies, service technicians, consultants and even customers. The IT business continuity plan should be created as an easy reference for those within the affected firm who need to communicate with partners crucial to IT systems of the business.
Third, figure out what equipment is essential to the operation. Determine how many computers, fax machines, copiers and other devices are necessary. Don't forget about logistics. If trucking is part of the business activity, consider the ramifications of a disaster in which the fleet was out of commission. Identify backup suppliers, and then document that information and compile it with the other two lists.
Fourth, be sure that computers and all important documents, including the IT business continuity plan, are frequently backed up on physical storage devices as well as off-site. This might involve regularly saving information on discs or external hard drives as well as transmitting data to another location for storage. One copy of the data should be as far away geographically as possible, because natural disasters can affect not just one office building but entire neighborhoods or cities. Printouts of important information or documents should be made and kept in a safe location in case computer access to documents is knocked out for a period of time.
Fifth, write an instruction manual for what should happen in case of emergency. In a time of crisis, it's easy to forget what exactly to do to get a business back on its feet. It should detail who in the company is responsible for which aspects of the IT systems and the steps necessary for restoring them to normal operation — or at least restoring them to a state that will allow the company to conduct business again.
Finally, discuss the IT business continuity plan with staff members. Be sure they know the protocol to be followed in any type of emergency, no matter what it is. Reviewing the plan on a periodic basis helps ingrain the procedures as well.