Business continuity plan

Business Continuity Planning for Small Agencies

November 22, 2017

Business continuity planning (BCP) is an important step toward disaster recovery in case an emergency arises. A BCP strategy allows a small insurance agency to prepare for the worst threats and risks that can befall a company.

The difference between a BCP and a disaster recovery plan is the BCP takes employees, equipment, customers, and the continuation of business into account. The BCP, once created, needs to be tested and maintained to be sure all elements of the plan are up to date.

Strategies to Consider

The business continuity plan is not a one size fits all type of strategic operation. However, a strong BCP can cover different forms of disasters. Scenarios may include tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, power outages, and even pandemics. These can be broken down into simpler categories in the form of what is affected by the disaster. For example:

  • Personnel – This is where a pandemic or other personnel debilitating effect causes an immediate loss to many or all employees in a small amount of time.
  •  Destruction of Assets – In this case, assets means hardware and/or building destruction. A strategic BCP would be necessary for most natural disasters that destroy all or part of your business space.
  • Power Outage – This pertains to a long-term loss of power. This is also one of the easiest disasters to overcome. While this may require relocation efforts, like the other two categories, if a solid disaster recovery plan is already in place with your cloud provider, then this will take minimal effort to recover from.

Business Continuity Plan Scope

The scope of the BCP is to determine the effectiveness of the plan once it is initiated. Overall you want your company to have the ability to bounce back from an emergency situation, but you also need to consider your reputation, your clients, and your business in the process. The major objectives of the BCP are as follows:

  • Get your insurance agency up and running in a timely manner
  • Protect your employees and customers
  • Minimize data loss
  • Reduce the decision-making process when in an emergency situation
  • Protect your reputation
  • Reduce the loss of customers or revenue

These are all equally important, and all avenues need to be considered. Nearly 40 percent of small insurance companies do not recover after a natural disaster. Out of those, it is predicted that 90 percent could have if the businesses had a solid disaster recovery plan or BCP in place.

Recovery Strategies and Services

This can be a bit difficult depending on the size of your agency, but the plan should be as detailed as possible. The first thing to do is to determine who the Business Continuity Team Leader is. This person will be responsible for gathering all required information from the IT department and support team. Each department should have their own part to play in the creation of the BCP documentation. FEMA has a basic BCP you can review here.

Some of the areas you want to consider are:

  • Business functionality should be prioritized in order of importance.
  • Communication during a crisis is a must, and studies have shown that social media is the best way to convey up to date information quickly. Have a Twitter or Facebook page dedicated to just the employees, so you can send information to them without the rest of the world finding out things you may not be ready to share yet.
  • Contact vendors and find out what they can offer your agency in case of an emergency.
  • Determine travel arrangements if needed. These are not arrangements for all your employees, but for the one or two persons in management who has to initiate the BCP. These individuals need to be located wherever the BCP has allocated as a backup office area: a hotel, secondary business park, etc.

All avenues of consideration are equally important, but another thing to consider is the recovery of all your files. Buy the book ‘Easy Prey: How to Protect Your Business From Data Breach, Cybercrime and Employee Fraud’

Disaster Recovery

One part of the BCP is disaster recovery of your files. Important documentation should be stored in the cloud. After a disaster strikes it is important to have the ability to retrieve all documents, but high priority documentation should be considered first. This can include:

  • Legal documents like contracts, warranty information, and leases
  • Insurance riders, policies and addendums
  • Financials
  • Recovery plans

It is important to consider storing your backup data on more than one server. If you currently have everything stored in-house, then you have to ask yourself what you are going to do if a power failure or natural disaster strikes and stops you from accessing anything. The cloud can store your information on a regular basis, and if you request it, the data can be stored away from your current location so if a city-wide disaster occurs you can still access all your files via a mobile device. Larger insurance agencies have taken to deploying more than one cloud service provider, so the data can be accessed from two different locations if a disaster strikes. Download the white paper: Managed IT Services For Small Businesses.

When shopping around for the right cloud service provider you want to make sure the provider can meet all the needs of your business continuity plan. Look for a provider that has experience with insurance agencies, and that has had the longevity you need to allow your business to continue to grow. Get a free assessment and see how TOSS can help you today to plan for tomorrow.

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