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Does Your Home Based Business Have a Business Continuity Plan?

written by: Ann Gordon•edited by: John Garger•updated: 2/10/2010

Like major companies and corporations, your home based business needs a plan should disaster strike and cease operations. Follow these suggestions to create a Business Continuity Plan for your home office so that you can keep working if you experience a disruption in your computer system or network.

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    What is the Definition of Business Continuity?

    Basically, Business Continuity (BC) is defined as the activities required to keep critical functions of a business running despite a disaster, including a period of extended disruption.

    A Business Continuity Plan (BCP) outlines the procedures business owners / managers need to follow to keep the business functioning, even at a lower production level, in the event of an emergency or disruption. If you have an office in your home, you should develop a plan that would allow your work to continue in the event of IT disruption, including power, Internet, telephone, or computer network failure. A Business Continuity Plan is the least expensive insurance a small company can have.

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    Why do you need a Business Continuity Plan?

    Most home offices depend heavily on IT. In fact, some home-based businesses couldn’t survive through an extended downtime. A BCP should provide a plan of action you could follow right away if you experienced an event like any of these in your home office:

    * Computer equipment failure

    * Hard disk crash

    * Vital application failure

    * Malicious software (virus, worm, Trojan horse) attack

    * Power and energy disruptions

    * Internet connection failure

    * Home office damage by flood or fire

    Business Continuity Plans are proactive; they are designed to not only cope with a problem or failure, but to help ensure success.

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    Analyze your Business

    The first step in creating your BCP is to identify your most critical services or products. Ask yourself, What must I continue doing or providing in order to retain my clients? Then, develop a BCP for continuing to provide these services as soon as possible after an unexpected event.

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    IT Redundancy

    For many home-based businesses and home offices, computer network redundancy can mean the difference between success and failure. A good plan for providing undisrupted work can mean the difference between keeping your status as a telecommuter or losing it.

    * Computer redundancy: I have been able to assure clients 1500 miles away that computer equipment failure will never cause me to miss one of their deadlines, even though I live in a remote area. Clients seem to relax when I explain that I maintain a duplicate system (including applications). As part of my Business Continuity Plan, I keep this duplicate computer in another part of the house. This “extra” computer did not require an additional purchase for me, either. Instead of selling my older computer when I bought I new one, I kept it for my backup.

    * Daily Data Backup: Unless you have a remote server connected to your home office network, you should have an external hard drive that will easily run on either your main computer or your backup. Then, if your main computer crashes, breaks or is stolen, you can plug your external drive into your backup computer and keep working.

    * Software application redundancy: Many software companies allow you to install their applications on your desktop computer and your laptop, providing you don’t run both copies of the application at the same time. Just remember to run your backup computer occasionally to download and install OS and application upgrades.

    * Cables: Unless you live real close to a computer store, you should keep extra cables on hand. Occasionally computer and network cables go bad, and it is worth the small expense to keep replacements in a cabinet or closet. That extra cable can mean the difference between meeting a deadline … or not.

    * Peripherals: Have at least one extra mouse and keyboard on hand. I also keep an extra printer. Since my clients often want hard copies, I need to have a working printer at all times.

    * Internet connectivity: Know the places in your area (i.e. library, 'Net Cafe) where you could use a public computer to occasionally check your email until your Internet connection is restored.

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    Backup and Recovery

    What IT Business Continuity Plan would be complete without a plan for disaster recovery of data? Ten years ago many of us used Zip disks for storing and archiving data; today we burn CDs and DVDs. To make data recovery possible in the event of a natural disaster, burn copies of your websites, programming, graphics, manuscripts, databases – whatever you create – place the disks in a locked disk box, and then store the box at your parents’ house or your accountant’s or a friend’s. How often you should replace these archive disks varies with the business. Most disaster recovery guidelines suggest replacing them every week, which may be a bit extreme for some businesses. For many people, once a month or even once a quarter may be sufficient.

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    BC Plan Review

    At least once a year review your BCP to verify your methodology. Depending on your business, you may need to change some of your procedures as your company grows.

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    Resources

    For more information on Business Continuity, check out these websites:

    Business Continuity Institute, http://www.thebci.org/

    Disaster Recovery World, http://www.disasterrecoveryworld.com/

    Business Continuity Planning, http://www.yourwindow.to/business-continuity/