Lack of investment in business continuity
In Part Four of our series about the most common IT oversights, we looked at how many law firms see IT as a necessary evil rather than a useful tool that could help improve work efficiency and profits. In Part Five, we will look at how investing time and resources in a robust business continuity plan will save time and money and possibly the future of your firm in the event of a disaster.
Differences between backing up and business continuity
Like all firms, you will make regular backups of your IT system in case something happens. But keeping your backed-up data in a safe place is only part of disaster recovery – it is vital that you also have an effective business continuity plan if you are going to stand a chance of getting your firm up and running with minimal disruption.
What is a disaster?
When we use the word ‘disaster’, it sounds as though we are only referring to apocalyptic events. But, in terms of business continuity, a disaster could be as seemingly innocuous as a short power cut. It is what happens in the aftermath of the event that counts.
This applies to any firm regardless of size or sector. In 2017, British Airways found this out to its cost when its system crashed, probably due to a short power cut. Without an adequate continuity plan in place, the airline lost its data resulting in major bank holiday chaos. It cost the company an estimated £170m, not to mention the massive damage to its reputation. If BA had invested the time and money in a business continuity plan, it is unlikely that any passengers would have been aware of the problem, let alone been so inconvenienced by it.
How does a business continuity plan help your firm recover from a disaster?
Recently, a faulty air conditioning unit caused a fire in one of our neighbouring businesses, which gave us pause for thought about business continuity. We do not know what contingency plans that business had in place, but hopefully it was a robust one which meant it would not have had a long, and potentially fatal, break in business. A good business continuity plan would include:
Alternative premises for staff to work at, whether they are home-based or there is an arrangement in place making it quick and easy to move straight into serviced office space
Provision for the right technology to be available, even if it means asking staff to use their personal laptops and phones for a while
Swift access to company data. If your firm keeps all its data on the Cloud, that should not be a problem. If you need to work from backup files, you must prioritise the order in which they are restored, giving your team access to the most important data first; restoring backups is a hugely time-consuming process which could severely delay the recommencement of business.
Many SME legal firms still do not see the need to invest in a business continuity plan, preferring to keep their IT budget as low as possible just to keep the lights on. But if you take the trouble to understand what the risks to your business are and plan out what to do after a number of different disaster scenarios, you will understand the importance of investing in a business continuity plan.
Remember that your business continuity plan also needs to take data compliance into consideration. If you lose your data, it is considered to be a data breach which comes under GDPR rules. So, in addition to the challenge of getting your business up and running again, you will also need to contact the Information Commissioner’s Office to report a possible breach.
While a robust plan is a great thing to have in place, you must also test it regularly to ensure it is fit for purpose, and to give your staff the confidence to implement it if needed. We will cover testing in the final part of our short series about common IT oversights made by the legal industry.