Between the increase of cyber security breaches, the rise in natural disasters, and the current public health threat with COVID-19, it quickly became a necessity in March that businesses implement business continuity plans that mitigate the impact of disasters and enable core business functions to continue. Given the shift to fully or partially remote work most companies made during statewide stay at home orders, it can be a good time to evaluate how your switch has gone and find ways to improve it for your current and future needs.
What is a business continuity plan?
A business continuity plan (BCP) is a blueprint companies document and train their staff on 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. Most importantly, it eliminates the need to think about these important items in the heat of the moment.
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, even before the stay at home orders that began in March, 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.
With the current impact of COVID-19, Bob Treuber, Executive Vice-president of the New York State Land Title Association said that most businesses have shifted their operations to maintain continuity as much as possible. Those with technology and plans in place to work remotely have come out ahead, “Many closings have been impacted greatly, especially with small residential law firms that are not accustomed to working remotely and doing closings by mail,” he noted.
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. For New York, the American Land Title Association (ALTA) requires a BCP as part of their best practices requirements. The NYSDFS has a similar cybersecurity requirement.
How to create a business continuity plan
ALTA has several resources to help companies create and implement a business continuity plan. Underwriters and IT professionals are also great resources for guidance when building out a BCP. 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.
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.
Andrew Zankel, the President at Core Title Services, LLC said “businesses who utilized technology prior to COVID-19 are having a much easier time with the transition [to working remotely].”
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.
Zankel explained a good working remote toolkit for his team included items like a cloud-based software system, a cloud-based phone system, and ensuring his team had the physical technology items like laptops, scanners, and copiers in their remote work locations.
During these unprecedented times, Zankel remains confident that his business and the state of New York will move forward stronger. “The title and real estate industry in New York is resilient,” he said. “We know the economic impact of what we do and how it will affect the economy if [our operations] shut down. We will figure out ways to get deals closed while remaining compliant.”