The start of a new year is normally a time of optimism and fresh starts, but this year most of the world is taking more of a wait-and-see approach. With a COVID-19 vaccination strategy taking shape for 2021, you might feel a little bit of the tension in your neck start to ease, and that’s good. But as the number of coronavirus infections hopefully begins to decrease over the next 12 months, cybersecurity experts are predicting a tricky year for enterprise cyberhealth.

Disasters come in many forms—some are preventable; some are not. But what they all have in common is the potential to knock out availability to business-critical applications and networks, resulting in potentially devastating loss of data, revenue, and productivity as well as causing irreparable damage to your organization’s reputation and customer confidence. 

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In 2020, we learned to expect the unexpected. As a result, we are all too aware that we must proactively address network and application vulnerabilities to prevent disaster. 

For enterprises, this means reviewing, revising, and future-proofing your business continuity plan to address COVID-19’s impact on the business, secure the growing remote workforce, and defend against new and evolving cyberattack tactics. If your business continuity plan is due for an update, read on for steps on how to make the most of it.

Step 1: Prepare for COVID-19 Fallout

At this same time last year, if you had asked any IT security manager to predict their biggest challenges for 2021, it’s pretty certain that “contending with a global pandemic” probably wouldn’t have made the list. Yet here we are. Many businesses were hit hard over the past several months, and your organization’s operations and business objectives may have shifted as a result. Bring your business continuity plan up to date with a thorough review and update of key elements and processes. 

Prioritize identifying mission-critical operations and business functions, reviewing and rewriting the business impact analysis, and fully testing your business continuity plan to ensure all systems, applications, and dependencies are accounted for.

The COVID-19 pandemic also drove home the reality that you never know who will be available to implement the business continuity plan if and when the time comes. Be sure to establish and document order of succession for key positions and practice executing the plan so everyone knows their role and how to do it. 

Step 2: Establish a Long-term Remote Work Strategy and Protocols

It’s possible employees will either be working from home or moving back and forth between remote work and in-office work for the foreseeable future. 

IT can make the process as painless as possible for everyone by proactively providing highly secure remote access, adequate equipment such as laptops and printers, and cloud-based communication and collaboration platforms to maintain productivity.

A high percentage of ransomware and other cyberattacks succeed because of human error or poor choices. Mitigate some of the risk by implementing an employee education program to raise awareness of company policies and protocol regarding safe surfing, email, video conferencing, mobile devices, and file storage and sharing.

Step 3: Update Cybersecurity and Data Protection Technology

Ransomware and other malicious programs are rapidly evolving, so your current cybersecurity and data protection solutions may no longer be sufficient. Older solutions won’t detect newer strains of ransomware, and legacy systems often have gaping security holes, leaving your organization vulnerable to any number of attacks,

Make updating cybersecurity and data protection technology a priority when modernizing the business continuity plan. Look for the latest technology that uses AI and machine learning to adapt to new and emerging threats. Many organizations traditionally use separate cyber protection and data protection tools, but to reduce IT complexity and minimize your attack surface, you should invest in a solution that does both.

Step 4: Embrace the Cloud

The pandemic jump-started digital transformation in many organizations, and the cloud played an integral role in keeping businesses moving forward. In fact, cloud-based services can help you accomplish steps one, two, and three of your business continuity plan update.

One of the big benefits of integrating the cloud into your business continuity plan is that cloud storage and backup keeps data and applications secure and accessible from any location, which is invaluable as many employees will be working from home indefinitely. Cloud solutions like data protection-as-a-service and disaster recovery-as-a-service keep sensitive company and personal data out of reach of ransomware operators, and recovery is fast.

It’s going to be a long road to recovery for many organizations, but armed with our lessons learned in 2020, enterprise IT teams can put a plan in place to keep the business moving forward during any future disruptions. Download Smart Strategies for Business Continuity to learn more ways to get operations back up and functioning quickly during and after a disaster or unplanned outage.

[Free eBook] Smart Strategies for Business Continuity: An IT Survival Guide. Download our free eBook to learn more >>