If the worst-case scenario happens, and there’s a risk your organisation has lost everything, you’ll be fine because you have a business continuity plan in place. Right?

The central role of IT in modern business means it would surely be incomprehensible not to have a business continuity plan. But do you know if your plan is suitable? More specifically, do you have one?

Take problems caused by the volcanic ash cloud in 2010. As much as 20 per cent of businesses reported major disruption, according to the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). Yet the research also shows that more than half of private sector organisations don’t have a business continuity plan in place.

There can be no doubting that such an oversight is a considerable concern. Almost three quarters of executives responding to the CMI research suggested that loss of IT would be the disruption that would have the most impact on their business.

So, while your organisation might think it is prepared for every eventuality, the reality – at least in terms of business continuity plans – is very different. This situation is particularly concerning when you consider the breadth of ever-growing threats, such as terrorism, natural disaster and subterfuge caused by individuals wounded by the economic downturn.

IT chiefs, then, must ensure that critical issues such as uptime guarantees, security and disaster recovery are addressed in business continuity contracts. Moving to the cloud should, in theory, help. On-demand users will be able to back-up information to multiple locations and retrieve as-required.

But just because an external provider is an expert in information management doesn’t mean they won’t experience outages, too. Take the high profile issues with Amazon’s EC2 data centres earlier this year, which caused problems for cloud customers dependent on accessing their information on-demand.

And although the combination of cloud provision and well-managed IT plans provides a key element of business continuity, it is by no means the only area of consideration. Executives must remember that the safe storage of business documents is a vital part of an organisation’s continuity plan.

What would happen if you lost all those files of paper in the corner of the office? The right document management and archiving system must be tightly integrated into your accounting and ERP systems, allowing inbound and outbound paper documents to be scanned and bar-coded.

Once in the electronic archive, stored documents can be retrieved by application or via a web browser. Such a set-up means that, even in the worst-case scenario, your documents are safe and your business can continue.