Data is essential for all types of organizations today, so ensuring access to critical applications and data following a disaster is crucial. However, business continuity and disaster preparedness are about so much more than that.
In other words, you might have important apps up and running somewhere, but that doesn’t matter if your office is underwater and your employees are at home without power. You need to consider the business as a whole in order to satisfy your customers’ needs following a disaster event.
For example, if your data center is here in Florida, a hurricane is obviously a possible event; its likelihood is high (during hurricane season); and your business could be negatively impacted in a big way if downtime is significant. There are a wide variety of threats to any business ranging from natural disasters to security breaches to random accidents—a leaky pipe can have the same impact as a flood if it’s directly above a critical server. Once you have that stuff sorted, you can move on to crafting specific plans for risk mitigation, disaster response and continuity of operations.
4 Business Continuity Planning Essentials
1. Ensure Employee Well-Being. Communication during and following an emergency presents a variety of challenges. So, crafting an employee safety and communication plan that works is absolutely essential. The specifics will vary widely from company to company, but your emergency safety and communication plan must address the following:
– How the company will ensure employees are safe during a disaster event; and
– How it will communicate essential information to employees following the event.
2. Keep customers in the loop. Managing customer relationships is obviously critical to the ongoing success of your business. As such, it is important to craft a plan for distributing information to your customers during and following a disaster event. The scope of your customer communications plan will vary widely depending on the nature of your business. Obviously, not every glitch in operations will merit reaching out to your customers. However, if an event occurs that is likely to impact them, it is essential to communicate the details of the issue and explain the steps you are taking to mitigate it. This might mean direct communication to your customers, but it could also mean messaging via traditional and social media. Failure to do so can have a negative impact on the reputation of your organization.
3. Enable IT Up time. To understand the IT piece of disaster recovery and business continuity today, it helps to look at the not-so-distant past. It really wasn’t very long ago that backup meant daily incremental and weekly full backups to tape or a dedicated disk backup target. Duplicate tape copies were created and shipped offsite for disaster recovery— typically to a secondary site maintained by the business or to a tape vaulting facility (e.g. Iron Mountain). Advances in virtual server backup and cloud computing changed all of that. Today, users can run applications from image-based backups of virtual machines. This capability is commonly referred to as “recovery-in-place” or “instant recovery.” Recovery-in-place dramatically improves RTO (Recovery Time Objective – the amount of time it takes to get a system restored following a failure or disaster event) because operations can continue while primary servers are being restores.
4. Keep Business Moving. Many organizations today have limited tolerance for application downtime. If your employees or customers do not have access to essential applications and data, there will be a direct impact on productivity and revenue. While this sounds obvious, many organizations do not consider the actual costs of downtime for a business. Application downtime is, of course, just one factor that can impact your bottom line. Again, there are a broad spectrum of possible considerations depending on the size and type of your organization. However, there are a variety of examples that apply to many businesses:
– Insurance – It is essential to select the proper insurance coverage for your business’ specific needs. It is also critical to document al insurance information including plan numbers / login information, the process for filing claims, etc.
– Training – Every business will need to identify employees critical to the recovery process. It is also important to cross train staffers on essential tasks, in case a critical employee is unavailable following the event
– Facilities – It is critical to evaluate the facility or facilities in which your business operates. Considerations might include but are not limited to:
-Appropriate fire suppression systems
– Generators capable of powering essential equipment
– Surge protection systems
– Alarm / intercom systems to alert employees or emergencies
– Dependencies – It is important to consider dependencies within and especially outside of your organization. Your business continuity plan should offer solutions to mitigate issues such as identifying multiple suppliers or stockpiling large numbers of essential parts.
Disaster recovery and business continuity planning should be considered a critical aspect of running a business. However, many organizations disregard it completely. Others have some kind of plan in place, but fail to grasp how time consuming the recovery process can be and the associated cost of downtime. The good news is that today’s data protection technologies and services have greatly improved the IT piece of the business continuity puzzle. There is a wide array of options in the market today at different price points, which enables you to select a product or service tailored to your specific business needs.
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