More and more, the expectation is that enterprises will provide services at any time. Internet banking and e-commerce are prime examples. Customers can hop onto the web at three in the morning if they choose, and check their accounts, transfer money or buy almost anything they want. However, that means a ‘non-stop’ infrastructure needs to be in place for the provider to offer 24-hour, round the clock service. This is where dangerous confusion can creep in. It’s confusion that clear business continuity thinking needs to eradicate, if interruptions and accidents are to be avoided.

The problem is that in an increasingly digital world, largely supported by machines, we forget that human beings are not machines. IT servers may be permanently on in data centres, networks may be up and running without breaks, and even diesel engines in Arctic regions are left running non-stop to prevent them from freezing up. Human beings on the other hand typically need significant downtime, either in the form of sleep, rests or simply a change of activity. People who insist on pushing themselves beyond normal limits can expose themselves to greater chances of making mistakes and doing more harm to their organisation than good.

The issue is further exacerbated by a business culture that insists that things must keep running, even if maintenance or repair must be done at the same time. In some cases, it is possible to design infrastructures to do this. Smart electrical circuit design for instance can allow some circuits to be shut down for maintenance, while others continue to supply power for an organisation to function normally. Unfortunately, these design considerations and safety in general often get pushed to the back of people’s minds, and accidents are then not far behind. A sensible, well thought-out non-stop operation can work, but a blind rush towards non-stop working can produce the very effect it was supposed to avoid: bringing an entire business to a halt.