Let’s start with a bit of good news. Most companies have a business continuity plan. That’s good because a business continuity plan is potentially all that stands between your organization and a business-ending disaster.
Now for the bad news. Far too many business leaders don’t know everything their business continuity plan should include. As a result, they may have a plan, but the plan may not fully prepare them.
This article will address one specific element of business continuity we find is frequently missing: an alternate work site.
No matter what
Most of the time, paranoia doesn’t serve you in business. But when it comes to business continuity planning, paranoia is your friend.
The goal is to think through every reasonably possible negative scenario (fire, flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, cyberattacks, snowstorms . . .) and develop a plan of action that keeps your business up and running even in the very worst of situations.
“Business continuity (BC) refers to maintaining business functions or quickly resuming them in the event of a major disruption, whether caused by a fire, flood or malicious attack by cybercriminals.”
The ripple effect
Just one missing element in your business continuity plan will have a ripple effect that can be crippling.
What if your office is inaccessible? What if it burns to the ground? Or what if it’s flooded? If you literally have no plan to go to work, what other things will be affected?
If you’re using cloud solutions (we recommend them) and doing a good job of backing up your data, then the basic elements of your infrastructure will be safe. But where will your employees go? How will they access those systems?
If you don’t have a plan for where and how everyone will work if the office isn’t an option, you’ll be dead in the water.
The benefits of an alternate work site
In the scope of business continuity, planning for an alternate work site is one of the bigger challenges—which may be why so many SMB leaders leave it out of their plans.
But before you decide to roll the dice on this critical piece of the plan, consider the benefits you’ll miss out on if you don’t have an alternate work site lined up.
Work gets done
Imagine losing your office . . . and not skipping a beat. If you have an alternate work site, that’s possible. Your office could be destroyed, and you’ll still be able to be productive and even profitable.
Your employees stay calm
The human element is a big consideration, as well. In the middle of an emergency, you want your staff to feel equipped and calm. With a plan for an alternate work site, they will be.
Your customers don’t care
Ultimately, your customers care about the services they’re counting on you to deliver. Especially in an emergency, they’re not going to be invested in the address you’re operating from. But they will notice if you stop functioning altogether.
“Every organization should have such a plan in place to avoid losing money or halting operations.”
Alternate work site options
The need for an alternate work site plan is clear. But how do you tackle this challenge? It’s not like you have a spare business location just sitting around that you’re not using. How can you develop a plan that’s pragmatic, cost-effective and ready at a moment’s notice?
Consider these three options.
A whole other site
You can make plans for a fully-equipped temporary work site. In fact, there are businesses out there who specialize in this. They’ll bring temporary structures, computers, phones, generators—everything you need.
While this is incredibly convenient, it’s also the most costly option. Most SMBs won’t be able to afford it, so let’s look at two other possibilities.
Shift core operations to another office
If you have multiple locations, one easy solution is to just shift core operations to another location that’s unaffected by the disaster. That may require some cross-training among staff, and some of your employees may have to commute or travel to the other office, but this is a solid quick fix.
But there’s an obvious catch. What if you only have one location? In that case, we’d like to suggest one more option.
Everyone works from home
If you’re utilizing cloud solutions, you can just tell everyone to go remote in the face of an emergency. This option will only work if your employees are provided laptops or if they have their own computers they’re comfortable using for work in an emergency.
Either way, this is easily the most cost-effective plan if you can provide online access to key tools, systems and data. Even a small business can stay up and running in the short term with this plan.
A final word
Whichever option you choose, there is one more thing you need to be sure to do before you consider this part of your business continuity planning done—test your plan.
An untested plan may or may not work. You need to know your plan is solid. So, try shifting all core operations to another location for a day. Or have everyone work from home for a day. Find the kinks and flaws and address them.
And if you need help finalizing this or any other part of your business continuity plan, reach out to your managed IT services provider. After all, that’s what they’re there for.