What would happen if all of your business data suddenly vanished? Or your building burned down? A flu epidemic kept three quarters of your key staff at home? A hurricane flooded the entire city, and beyond? Would you be able to keep your business operating?
In the movies, when the death rays begin firing and buildings begin to explode, the usual reaction from the (surviving) civilians is to scream and run around in circles. The reality is a little more pedestrian, if not much less grim. As someone responsible for the continuity of a company’s operations during and after a disaster — natural or intergalactic — your job is to actually do something effective.
Well, maybe not. According to a survey by DataQuest, Inc., only 53% of companies have a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) or business continuity plan in place and, of those, only 57% of them actually test them. Worse, a study by business information experts Symantec Inc., the survival rate for companies without a DRP in place is less than 10%.
What Constitutes a Disaster?
A disaster can be defined as any event or circumstance that interrupts normal business operations. Marauding aliens aside, this could be anything from damage to or loss of data or access to servers, physical damage to your place of operations (which may extend beyond your own building, into the surrounding city or area) or loss/absence of key personnel, such as in an influenza pandemic. It doesn’t even have to happen to your home location: If your key suppliers have their operations disrupted, for example, it affects your company just as much as if it directly happened to you.
Planning For a Really Bad Day
Business Continuity Planning is simply good sense: It is a reasoned business practice of putting into place a series of steps to be taken to keep a company running in the event of some interruption in normal operations. A DRP is actually a series of plans, outlining actions to be taken in the event of an interruption caused by specific events. To even begin to develop a DRP, company leaders need to identify the key areas that are vital to keeping the company running: personnel, equipment, data, communications, suppliers, raw materials and inventory.
The level of detail is overwhelming. Fortunately, there are templates which exist that can provide a starting point to begin to construct a DRP (for examples, see www.disasterrecover.org). A template will only go so far, however: Only you and the senior leaders of the company know the operations of your particular company well enough to know where the fragile spots are in your company are located; where, if broken, the entire operation would come to a halt. Each DRP is tailored to the operations, needs and desired outcomes of a specific company.
Developing a DRP is something of a dark art. It involves looking, in detail, into the worst business nightmares, understanding your company’s weak spots and considering a very large number of nasty scenarios. This is, in fact, why a number of corporations hire “black hats” who try to plan on how to attack the very company they work for — without actually following through, of course. For companies with shallower pockets, however, there is the alternative: Linking up with a disaster recovery partner.
Finding a Partner
For obvious reasons, it’s virtually impossible to implement a DRP yourself when you’re in the middle of a disaster. After all, you’re too busy dodging death ray beams (well, slogging knee-deep through floodwater, anyway) to do more than pick up the phone and put the plan into action. It takes someone who is off-site and unaffected by your particular drama to begin to take the necessary steps. Norton with its internet security and online backup services has solved the problem of a physical disaster in servers and complicated computers systems. Updated Norton discount codes have also played a significant role on that, too.
This is why a good DRP involves an outside partner, usually a professional business continuity/disaster expert. A number of them exist and finding them isn’t difficult — if you belong to an industry or business organization, your colleagues can point you in the right direction. Whichever companies you decide to contact, there will be some basic tasks that they should be willing and able to implement:
- DRP review
- data backup and storage
- locating off-site locations
- locating and hiring temporary personnel
- working with existing vendors or locating alternate vendors
- notification/communication with clients/customers
- establishing and operating temporary communications, including websites
- relocation of key personnel
There may be other tasks specific to your company, but this gives you a starting point.
If you find one or more likely potential disaster recover partners, research and interview them thoroughly. Choosing the right partner, like Norton, is one of the most important business decisions you may make because, if it comes to the time when you need them, it is probable that the very survival of your company will be in their hands.
Putting It Into Action
Once you have a DRP and a disaster recovery partner, you have to resist the temptation to relax. You have to review the DRP on a regular basis, update it as you add new locations, equipment and processes, as well as new key personnel, key customers and key suppliers. You also need to test it, just as often as you practice a fire drill in your office.
As with any insurance policy, you hope you won’t need to implement your DRP or call on your disaster partner’s services, but if you do, you’ll be glad you have them.