Business continuity planning is growing, but not fast enough

Greater access to broadband internet connections is helping drive a surge in business continuity planning, says business continuity firm Onyx.

Greater access to broadband internet connections is helping drive a surge in business continuity planning, says business continuity firm Onyx.

"More businesses are putting plans in place than previous years," said Hugh Gillen, managing director for infrastructure at Onyx.

But he said there is still a long way to go, with many businesses still viewing business continuity as an unnecessary financial burden: "They see it as an additional insurance cost, but fail to take into account the consequences of not having a plan in place."

Every business should use one of the many impact calculators available to see what the real cost of downtime would be before dismissing the need for a business continuity plan, he said.

The cost of lost business is often greater than expected, but loss of customers and reputation, although difficult to measure, can be far more damaging, said Gillen. "Once customers are lost they may not return, preferring instead suppliers which are able to carry on with business through adverse conditions."

Research by the Business Continuity Institute shows that businesses which deal with crises successfully typically see their share value increase, while the opposite is true for those that do not.

It can also be a question of survival, with research by the London Chamber of Commerce showing that 80% of companies without business continuity plans do not survive major disruptions to business.

Disruptions are not only caused by events such as flooding and fire, which many companies say are unlikely to affect them, but they are often caused by computer viruses, denial of service attacks and power failures, that can hit any company at any time, said Gillen.

"By planning for these common business disruptions, businesses will ensure they are also in a better position to deal with rarer big disasters," he said.

But Gillen points out that an increasing number of UK businesses are invoking their business continuity plans because of adverse weather conditions such as heavy rain or snow.

More than a quarter (29%) of UK businesses were affected by adverse weather conditions in 2009, according to the Chartered Management Institute.

Instead of viewing business continuity as a financial burden, Gillen said businesses should consider it necessary to maintaining a competitive edge, retaining customers and surviving extreme weather conditions.

"Having a business continuity plan in place can be a differentiator. It says 'this is a good organisation to work with' because it is able to mitigate risk," he said.

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