Disaster Recovery Preparedness – Part II

In part 1, I talked about why you might not have a Business Continuity (BC) plan. In this installment, I want to talk about some of the things you need to look at when doing your BC plan.

Getting Started

Where Do You Start?

Putting together a BC plan can seem like a daunting task, when you start thinking about all the things that can go wrong and what it would take to recover from them. However, like the old riddle: how do you eat an elephant? (Answer: One bite at a time) if you break down the areas of concern into separate tasks, it all becomes easier. While you will need to plan for a Worse-Case-Scenario you don’t have start there; you can work your way up to it.
Start with one area of concern. Investigate a few things. How likely is it to happen? What is the business impact if it does? Who is your go-to person for this area? Once the first area is finished, select another area and repeat the process. After you have done all the areas you can think of, ask colleagues: “How would you be affected if…” (Insert all the possible scenarios you can imagine). You might be surprised by how serious certain losses might be. Now you can sit down and rank the areas of concern by how severely each affects your ongoing business operations.
Think of your various service providers: for your phones, your internet access, your electrical service, etc. For each of those, think about how important that service is to your business and about the consequences of losing that service for a few hours, days, or weeks. Do this for each service. When this is done, rank these as you did above, by how severely each type of service loss would impact your business.

Did You Look at Data Loss?

Now that you have looked at the operational side of your business, you now need to look at BC issues that relate to your data. You might say, “There is no problem here; we back up our data.” Okay, you back it up; I just have a few questions for you. How are you doing the backup? Does someone have to manually do something, such as change a tape, connect a new external hard drive, actually start it running? Have they ever been sick, on vacation, swamped with their other duties? Where do you store the backups? Is it on site, at someone’s house, in the cloud, or maybe “I know we store them somewhere”?
Let’s say you do the backup and safely store them. When is the last time you actually tried to restore data? Not the occasional lost file, but the entire accounting system, HR, customer data, or order entry for example. Frankly, if you have not tried to do a full restore you really have not backed up your data.

How does this relate to a BC plan? Not all data is created equal. For BC purposes, you also need to determine what needs to be restored ASAP, what can wait a little while, and what can wait until you are fully back up and running. These are also important things to keep in mind when doing your plan. Chances are your recovery process will be a staged one, where different thing come back online at different times.

Put the Pieces Together

.While losing any one of the things above is probably not truly a disaster, combine two or more together and they can be. So while addressing each one individually, you are building the components of a true BC plan, one step at a time.
Once you have the parts, you need to think about what would happen if you lost all of them. What will your people do and how can they help get things going again? They can help with this by using both their job skills and other skills, which, while not part of their job description, would help your business to recover.

Your Team

Your staff is not only your biggest expense; it is also your biggest resource in case of disaster. You will need to assign a primary, and if possible, a secondary team leader for each area of responsibility. After all, the main person in charge of a segment of your plan might not be available. They may be on vacation, sick, etc. These team leaders also need to meet occasionally and make sure everything is covered and that each team has its specific areas of responsibility. Everyone should know who is responsible for what. If you have more than a couple of employees, set up a call tree with built in redundancy, so that everyone can be notified in a timely manner.

A Real Disaster Occurs

What If You Lost Access to Your Office?

We have covered the general idea of losing various parts of your business operation. What if you lost everything, not because services went down, but because you lost access to your building? It could be something short term, like the building access being blocked temporarily for some reason, or it could be something serious, like a building fire. If it’s the former, do you have a fallback plan in place, based on service disruptions?
If it’s the latter, where are your financial, HR, client, etc. records? Are they backed up offsite? Can they be easily retrieved? Do you know which ones are most critical and need to be restored soonest? Is it client contact information, account receivable, regulatory procedures or maybe something else? It does not matter what it is, so long as you know which data is most crucial and have procedures in place to get the information back.
Tip: all critical papers you have in your filing cabinets should be scanned. Don’t rely on a “fireproof” filing cabinet, as they only last so long in a major fire. You could end up with some nicely preserved ash. Look in that back room. If it is wall to wall paper documents and records, you have a real issue that needs to be addressed.

Where and how will they Work?

Do you have a designated off site location to act as the recovery center where everyone can meet and set up a temporary office, or do you have a system in place where people can work from home? What about your customers? Do you have some way to assure them that everything is under control and that their needs will still be met? Where is that customer/client contact list and who is responsible for it?
In a SMB, cash is king. Do you know who owes you money and when it is due? Do you know who has an order that needs to go out ASAP or else you may lose a client? What suppliers will extend you credit while you get going again and which still want their money NOW? These issues can only be addressed when your employees have the ability to work in some type of suitable, temporary environment.

Now Get to the Planning

Whether you do the work using your own resources, or hire a managed service provider such as Clear Focus IT, whose specialty it is to make your BC planning easier, you really need to get a plan in place. If you have the available manpower, there are resources on the internet to help you do your plan. Otherwise, you need to get someone to come in and help you. Making sure you have a solid business recovery plan can ensure you are able to survive and thrive when the inevitable crisis occurs. When that time comes, you will be glad you made the effort to put a well-thought out plan in place.