In the majority of developed economies the likelihood of a major event causing your business to cease functioning is low. For example, backup generators in the UK are rarely called into action because the power supply, provided by the National Grid and supported by utility companies, is reasonably reliable. However, you might be surprised by the actual number and frequency of power outages that occur, particularly in town centres, even in the UK and USA. One major city centre close to YorPower’s headquarters has suffered more than four major power black-outs every year for several years and OFGEM warns that the situation is likely to get worse.
The situation in many developing economies is even more extreme and infrastructure fragility means that even where a supply network exists it is likely to be very unreliable with frequent and long lasting periods of no supply. In many countries in Central America and Africa in particular the infrastructure is so unreliable that any business must be prepared to supply its own inputs.
The purpose of a Business Disaster Recovery Plan (or Continuity Plan) is to make sure your business is ready in the event of the unavailability of main services (for example: electricity supply) and to restore services to the widest extent possible in a minimum timeframe.
Once your Plan has been finalised it is essential that preventative measures are implemented to minimise operational disruptions and to recover as quickly as possible when an incident occurs.
This process is challenging enough for a large business but can be even more difficult for smaller organisations with fewer staff and resources but, as ever, proper planning can mean the difference between the survival or demise of your business.
The scope of your Plan will depend to a large extent on your business processes. The simpler the business, the simpler the Recovery Plan. So your first step should be to list your business processes. Then, next to each process, list all the systems that each process depends on. For example, if you manufacture an item using a machine you may depend on electricity to power the machine, a computer to control it, a delivery system to provide raw materials and a packaging system to prepare the finished item for despatch and, of course, the operators you depend on. You will notice that, even in this simple system two other systems are mentioned – each will have its own dependencies.
When you have your list of systems and the inputs they depend on you can decide how important each process is to your business. You should consider what effect the stopping of each process would have on your business. If it is critical then your plan needs to include the actions you will take to replace the input in the event of the failure of your current supply.
For example, if one or more of your critical business processes depends on the constant supply of electricity then you need a plan to provide that electricity when the main supply is cut off. One overriding critical process for most businesses these days is the business server and associated computers. We all know the frustration of a computer crash causing loss of unsaved work. Imagine the damage caused when your whole computer system shuts down – not just loss of data but also loss of control systems, loss of communications and staff unable to do any work. In such circumstances your Recovery Plan could well include an Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) to provide instant power for the few minutes it will take for a backup generator to come up to power.
Your Plan should also consider the length of time it could take to implement replacement and whether the input is so critical that you would not be able to wait for replacement. Remember, some of the conditions that could lead to the loss of a critical input could easily affect other businesses too. In that case there could be a lot of competition for replacements. For example, if a water failure caused by a pipeline defect effects your whole area then all your neighbours will be trying to obtain water via tankers at the same time.
You should consider either setting up a contract for the priority supply of an alternative input or have that input in place and on permanent standby.
For example – if your business would come to a halt without electrical power (and remember that means servers, computers, lights and heating systems – not just machinery and equipment) then you could be well advised to add a backup generator to your asset list as soon as possible. The capital cost is unlikely to be anything like the cost of losing even half a day’s business.
However, it must be remembered when specifying a diesel generator that many electrical devices, including most machines, require more power to start than they do while running. Any backup generator must be capable of handling the start-up load, not just the normal running load, of all your devices – assuming you will start them all at the same time. A phased start will mitigate this need but will have to be carefully planned to avoid overload. For free advice on the size of generator your business needs contact YorPower on +44 (0)1977 688 155 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.