Between the increase of cyber security breaches, the rise in natural disasters, and the current public health threat with COVID-19, it’s more important than ever for businesses to create and implement business continuity plans that mitigate the impact of disasters and enable core business functions to continue.
What is a business continuity plan?
A business continuity plan (BCP) is a blueprint companies use in the event of a disaster or other unplanned disruption to restore business operations quickly and reduce downtime. A BCP outlines instructions for handling a variety of items including restoring business processes, recovering assets, and managing business partner communications.
A BCP is inclusive of a disaster recovery plan which contains procedures for restoring technology and systems following a natural disaster, public health event, or human-induced disaster such as a cyber security incident. The plan establishes how to restore enterprise software, how to mobilize employees, and manual workarounds until systems are up-and-running.
Why is business continuity planning important?
Depending on the scope of a disaster, business downtime can persist for several hours or indefinitely. A survey by IHS, Inc. found that in total, information and communication technology downtime costs North American organizations $700 billion per year. Downtime not only results in revenue loss, but can also impact brand reputation and relationships with partners.
While BCPs are essential across industries, the benefits of a plan are especially pronounced for title & escrow businesses. When systems are down, real estate transactions are suspended and homebuyers and sellers are paralyzed from finalizing their home purchases.
And for title & escrow businesses in certain regions, business continuity plans are a matter of law and not an option. For example, Washington state law requires all title insurers to have a business continuity plan in place.
How to create a business continuity plan
ALTA has several resources to help companies create and implement a business continuity plan. ALTA lists Ready.gov as a key resource to get started.
Ready.gov lists the following 4 steps to develop a plan:
- Conduct a business impact analysis to identify time-sensitive or critical business functions
- Identify recovery strategies and determine the necessary resources to implement them
- Organize a business continuity team and create written plans for relocation, IT and infrastructural recovery, and manual workaround procedures
- Conduct training for the continuity team. Test and evaluate recovery strategies
On top of this, we recommend that businesses evaluate their technology stack to identify gaps that limit data accessibility in the event of a disaster.
Business continuity in action: Tennessee Title mobilizes after tornados
Earlier this month, Middle Tennessee suffered a tornado that passed through the state, causing downed power lines and impassable roadways. Josh Terry, owner of Tennessee Title Services, was able to quickly mobilize his team thanks to a pre-drafted plan.
According to Terry, his team “didn’t miss a beat” after the disaster struck. The impacted office was able to work remotely thanks to a business continuity plan that had driven the business to invest in proactive technology measures.
“Our old software was onsite which meant we needed to download special programs on our computers to access data,” Terry noted. “We eventually figured out a way to move that software to an offsite server in the cloud; however, this system was still clunky and inefficient because you needed a VPN to dial-in and access remotely. It was unfortunately not a true ‘web-based’ way of operating.”
Tennessee Title made the switch to Qualia’s web-based system a few years ago to enable greater employee flexibility. This technology would ultimately enable the remote work contingencies included in Tennessee Title’s disaster recovery plan. Terry prepped his staff with technology and tools that would allow them to maintain business as usual from their homes. This toolkit included:
- A laptop + extra monitor if needed
- Internet access
- Scanner and optional printer (Tennessee Title had moved to a paperless system about 2 years prior)
- Vonage phone plan that eliminates the need for desktop office phones through an app that redirects calls to personal cell phones
- Video conferencing system (Zoom)
Qualia’s web-based system also allowed Tennessee Title staff to work securely from their homes after the tornado caused dangerous commute conditions. Employees could access files, continue workflows, and maintain communication within the platform and via the additional communication tools provided by Tennessee Title’s leadership team.
The importance of cloud technology for business continuity
In the event of a natural disaster or public health threat that limits accessibility to public transportation and roadways, it’s critical that important business functions are accessible outside of the physical walls of an office. Cloud-based technology offers businesses a cost-effective solution for secure data access from anywhere.
Below are a few key areas where web-based cloud solutions enable the recovery and/or continuation of key business functions through data accessibility:
- Data backup: Cloud-based systems automatically ensure data backup by copying or archiving documents and files.
- Data redundancy: In the event of a natural disaster at the location of the data warehouse, many cloud-based providers offer data redundancy which securely stores data in multiple warehouses to ensure critical files are always available.
- Data availability: When teams are deployed to work remotely, data availability ensures that everyone can quickly and easily access data from the cloud, even when disruptions occur.
Data is one of the most important aspects of business operations—cloud-based systems ensure your core business workflows can continue without a hitch.
Additionally, web-based technology offers operational consistency when employees must work remotely. With web-based systems, employees can work from anywhere in the same way they would in a company’s physical office, eliminating the need to navigate technical, manual workarounds such as dialing in to a VPN to access their core workflow software.
To learn more about how Tennessee Title created a business continuity plan with Qualia’s platform, click below to read the case study.