Business continuity: make Christmas spending a boom not bust
Brenton Smith outlines the steps businesses need to take to ensure they're well prepared for business interruption during the Christmas period and therefore make the most from it.
Last month’s jump in core retail spending has many media and industry bodies predicting the strongest Christmas trading period in years. The latest data from Statistics New Zealand shows Kiwis spent $5.95 billion, $358 million more in October than in the same month last year – nearly a two percent rise. So business continuity in the weeks leading up to Christmas is critical and can mark the difference between a good year and a bad year for retailers around the country.
On 12 November more than 200,000 customers around the North Island experienced a 90-minute outage. Businesses clamoured to get back online and running and the costs are still being calculated. The incident serves as a timely reminder for businesses to review, update and test their business continuity plans – not just in readiness for short term power outages, but against the possibility of IT system failures, cybercrime and natural disasters. Downtime and system outages affect not just revenue, but also employee productivity and brand reputation.
Holiday shopping is one of the major annual revenue drivers for the economy. But IT system outages in retail, ecommerce and other industries can wreak havoc on the best laid plans. A system failure or breach can lead to credit card and IP theft, loss of client and customer information, and public embarrassment.
With more data travelling across networks, and being stored and analysed in real time thanks to a plethora of new devices and technologies, organisations must be more vigilant than ever in making their infrastructure, applications and critical data more resilient and highly available, especially during the make-or-break months of the year.
To avoid the dramatic costs and implications of downtime, and to ensure seamless and reliable business continuity (BC), here are four basic tips businesses can follow:
Automate every aspect of your BC plan
Your business continuity strategy cannot rely upon manual, human-centric processes to recover from outages to restore access to data and applications. Automate to minimise downtime – prioritise planning and tools that automate processes to ensure faster recovery. You cannot rely on employees getting to remote facilities to begin failover and recovery steps in the event of an emergency.
Planning for BC is important, but not nearly as important as testing
While few would debate its importance, far from all organisations take the time to test their BC plans. Research from Symantec indicates that 22 percent of companies never test their business continuity plan, or do so only after an emergency takes place. Another 22 percent say they only test once a year. While frequency of testing is important, it may be even more important to test the full software stack to ensure that you can immediately enable the availability of mission-critical applications.
Prioritise your BC functions to avoid overspending
Prioritise which applications need to be available immediately, which ones can be offline for a few hours, and which ones can wait. For instance, a marketing automation application that includes email list management and production of the company newsletter can be restored well after you’ve immediately restored customer service and e-commerce applications.
Integrate mobility as a core element in your BC plan
The-bring-your-own-device trend is changing the way organisations work. Business continuity planning must account for new types of devices and processes that allow people to do business as long as they can find power and an internet connection.
To ensure you make the most out of the predicted Christmas spending boom, review, automate and test your existing business continuity plan. Remember, hackers or earthquakes can render a business offline just the same – can you afford not to be prepared?
Article by Brenton Smith, vice president and managing director, Pacific region, Symantec.
November 27, 2013