Business Continuity Planning Best Practices

 

We’ve talked previously on our blog about the difference between credit union disaster recovery and business continuity planning. A business continuity plan (BCP) is a series of protocols created to make sure an organization can keep operating during a disaster, and a disaster recovery plan is often a subset of the BCP that specifically plans for recovering lost data and restoring failed infrastructure. But no one could have guessed when we wrote that article in the fall of 2019 that we would have such an unprecedented year in 2020.

Here are some business continuity planning best practices for your credit union.

The Evolution of Business Continuity Planning

Originally, business continuity planning was created to focus on how businesses could plan ahead for natural disasters and similar events – fire, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. – but it quickly evolved to include cyber events – hackers, file corruption, system bugs, and the like.

Today, business continuity planning is more about assessing threats and risks and creating comprehensive protocols for increasingly complex businesses.

It’s become more about gap analysis and protecting your business than creating a step-by-step plan to merely react to issues that come up.

Document Core Functions – Focus on Details

This may seem like a no-brainer, but one of the first steps to creating a workable and comprehensive business continuity plan is to document the core functions of your credit union. These are the services that are central to your business’s success and that will have the greatest impact on that business, should something happen to your facilities, staff, equipment, or networks.

It’s also important to document the resources that will be required to fill these business functions and roles. The more detailed you can make your plans, the more prepared you will be in the event of a business interruption.

Mature Your Business Continuity Plan

Maturing your business continuity plan is just as important as creating it. Think of it like this: you have to have fire extinguishers inspected and replaced when they expire, right? The same is true for your BCP.

In this digital age, technology changes and upgrades so swiftly that it’s easy to become fatigued trying to keep up. But with business continuity planning, having an outdated plan is just as bad – if not worse – than having no plan at all.

Be sure to review and test your BCP on a regular basis. This means testing and working through all facets of the plan, not just a few items. Practice makes perfect, and spending quality time ensuring your plan is still effective can save you a lot of headaches later.

Develop a Communication Strategy

This goes hand in hand with the last point. Your plan is only as good as the people executing it, so frequent testing and practice drills are great ways to develop helpful and effective communication strategies before you need them.

Taking the time to educate your staff about business continuity planning is a great way to instill these ideas in the company culture, and to smooth out communication issues early on.

Have Offsite, Cloud-Based Backups

We know how important it is to safeguard your member data, especially when disaster strikes. Having cloud-based backups housed offsite is a great way to ensure the integrity of your files without having to worry about the what-ifs.

IMS has virtual private cloud services and solutions like core hosting, virtual desktop, disaster recovery, and more for your credit union. Contact us today for more information.


Protect Your Credit Union From Disasters

 

Though many people like to think spring is the time for most natural disasters like floods and tornadoes, many forget that the warm summer temperatures and dryness of fall can create perfect conditions for tornadoes, fires, and severe thunderstorms in the US. And if this year has taught us anything, it’s that you can never be too prepared.

“Recent events have highlighted the importance for credit unions to perform ongoing reviews of their plans for disaster preparedness and response,” says the National Credit Union Administration’s Chairman JoAnn Johnson. Disaster recovery and disaster planning are important all the time, but the best time to protect yourself and your credit union from them is before that first disaster or close call.

Eliminate Downtime

It’s the worst feeling in the world to be face-to-face or on the phone with a member and you have to tell them, “I’m sorry, our network/system just went down.” The uncertainty and confusion that downtime creates can negatively affect your business, your employees, and your customers.

Any good disaster recovery provider should be able to tell you exactly how they will deal with and minimize downtime in the event of a disaster. Their – and your – top priority should be to minimize downtime and restore business operations promptly.

Offer Real-Time Solutions

Having a disaster recovery system in place prior to “disaster-heavy seasons” (fall and spring) means your data is constantly being backed up and protected, so when disaster strikes, you can begin the recovery process automatically and with little to no data loss.

Serving community members means that losing their data could result in losing their patronage. Any disaster recovery solution you choose should have real-time solutions that are running in the background at all times, giving you constant peace of mind.

Data Center Routing

Disasters don’t just mean a tornado or fire wipes out some or all of your credit union’s physical location. Sometimes, it’s just a quick power outage or a single server crash. Disaster recovery can also include having a data center take the load and carry it while you repair and recover the crashed server. IMS can route anything from a single location to multiple branches of your credit union. Sometimes, disasters are small and isolated, other times they are all-encompassing, and you need solutions in place for issues of any size.

Re-Evaluate and Customize

Putting a disaster recovery plan in place is a great way to protect your credit union, but as 2020 has shown us, something can come out of the blue and create brand new, unheard-of issues. One of the biggest mistakes credit unions make is implementation without re-evaluation.

Putting a fire extinguisher in the office is great – but not testing it for 5 years is not. The same is true with your disaster recovery protocols. Every year, you should evaluate your plans. Does your recovery provider have new or updated solutions that could improve your own strategies? Have you talked to them about customization for your branches in the southeast regions versus those located in “Tornado Alley”? It’s worth your time to think about it.

Protect Your Credit Union Now

IMS offers private cloud services and offsite data storage. It is important for you to safeguard your member data at all times, but especially when your credit union is affected by a disaster.

Contact us to find out how you can protect your credit union and its members with our disaster recovery tools.


Preparing for Hurricane Season

 

The official start of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season starts on June 1 and runs until November 30, but there’s already a tropical storm developing off the coast of Florida. That means it’s time to take another look at your disaster recovery and backup systems to make sure you’re prepared for any storms.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information, the U.S. South, Central and Southeast regions experience a higher frequency of billion-dollar disaster events than any other region in the country. Severe storms like hurricanes and tornadoes lead to extensive power and telecommunications outages, mail service disruption, facility damage and transportation restrictions that impact how people access their money. Credit unions are no exception and may have to shut down or move operations for safety. In these moments it’s crucial your members can rely on you to continue serving the community.

Our client Louisiana Federal Credit Union has experienced many storms over the years, including Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Isaac. During the aftermath of every storm, their community has relied heavily on Louisiana FCU to provide full financial services. Knowing they are located in a hot zone for natural disasters, the credit union decided to move their core system to a safer region in the Northwest. By upgrading their core system, they now have peace of mind during hurricane season knowing that their services will be available to its members in their time of need.

business people planning at meetingMajor storms can disrupt a financial institution’s operations, sometimes lasting a significant period of time. While some interruptions can be anticipated, others cannot. That’s why it’s critical to have a business continuity plan in place. This is how the DuGood Federal Credit Union was able to effectively begin its backup plan when their data center was in the direct path of a large-scale hurricane.

The credit union knew they needed to act fast for the safety of the business and their staff. Members would be evacuating soon and it was important they could access their funds. After contacting our team, we worked together in coordinating a graceful shutdown of their systems and implemented a remote backup solution. It took less than three hours to back up systems, recover servers and bring up third-party vendor services like the ATM and internet banking. Ultimately, we were able to help with other technical operations as the team evacuated to another office.

With a continuity plan in place, your credit union will be able to jump into action if there’s any disruptive event. Test your disaster recovery service and reassess how well your institution is prepared for threats across all levels. When working with our team, you can count on no-cost annual testing to verify the integrity of your data.

We cannot predict the severity of all disasters, especially when it comes to natural disasters, but there is practice and preparation. Know where to go, identify what critical functions are needed and develop planned responses. 

Don’t wait until a storm is on the horizon to start making plans for your credit union. Contact our team to talk about the disaster recovery solution your credit union has in place. When disaster strikes, you’ll want to focus more on your members, staff and service than on complex logistics.


Mastering the Challenge of Disaster Recovery

 

Credit unions are no stranger to the physics of Murphy’s law. If something can go wrong, it will. In an age where cybercrime is hotly discussed and natural disasters crop up when they are least expected, it’s crucial to understand the potential risks of losing data as a credit union.

Risks can be natural or manmade, across a wide spectrum—from wildfires to hackers, a comprehensive disaster recovery solution should cover a range of potential disasters. However, that solution does not need to be extremely specific. The most common errors include natural disasters, cybercrime, and human error. The specific risk you’ll need to prevent is never certain—that’s why disaster recovery functions as such an important form of insurance. 

A disaster recovery solution shouldn’t be bulky and expensive. 

The most common solution(s) for disaster recovery purposes are typically physical locations. However, physical data storage drives up costs in the form of equipment,  connections, and employees that are in charge of managing those hefty physical elements. In addition, when a physical approach is taken, multiple physical locations are used, further driving up costs.

Your customers expect excellence when they access your services through digital channels and share their valuable information with you. Those requirements translate to the safety of their data. You don’t want to lose customers since you failed to implement a solution that protected their information.

These expectations stem from our everyday conveniences—how did you feel the last time your internet went down? Customers expect the same fluidity. When you develop a disaster recovery solution, the effectiveness of the solution should mean that customers don’t experience hiccups in their digital experience. 

While you can’t prepare for a specific disaster, you can prepare for the worst.

The disaster recovery challenge is characterized by the way one responds to the breach. If a breach or disaster does occur, learn how to respond and recover from cybersecurity incidents

If you haven’t made disaster recovery a priority for your credit union this year, you may want to consider its role in your business: financial institutions are often the target of cybercrime and natural disasters are never predictable. Plus, there are many advantages to prioritizing disaster recovery.

With disaster recovery come the following benefits:

  • Minimized downtime and rapid business restoration
  • Near-zero data loss with on-site backups and real-time replication
  • Our secure branch communications allow immediate connections

Disaster recovery shouldn’t be a difficult term to hear, because it is more about planning than it is about the actual scenario. When the need for your disaster recovery solution to kick into place arises, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve implemented the best possible planning beforehand.

Essentially, disaster recovery plans are a form of insurance. We help to ensure that the challenges you face can be remedied smoothly and efficiently—the IMS Crash Response team is ready 24/7 to respond to any disasters. Find out more about how you can optimize your disaster recovery response.