Is Your Company Ready for a Real Disaster?

Just to be clear, a hurricane, tornado, flood, fire or other disaster in no way compares to a highly paid adult playing a kid’s game switching teams. It is in no way an apples-to-apples comparison.

The point is simply that the Miami Heat should be ready to immediately begin executing a plan covering what to do now that LeBron James has left their team. When it comes to your business and a real disaster scenario, are you prepared?

This post addresses disaster recovery and outlines steps in a business continuity plan. Hopefully you find it informative and useful.

BUSINESS CONTINUITY

Within a business continuity plan exists a few steps:

Business Impact Analysis (BIA)
This involves determining the operational and financial impact of a potential disaster or disruption, including loss of sales, credibility, compliance fines, legal fees, PR management, etc.

It also includes measuring the amount of financial/operational damage depending on the time of the year. A risk assessment should be conducted as part of the BIA to determine what kind of assets are actually at risk – including people, property, critical infrastructure, IT systems, etc.; as well as the probability and significance of possible hazards – including natural disasters, fires, mechanical problems, supply failure, cyber attacks; etc.

Mapping out your business model and determining where the interdependencies lie between the different departments and vendors within your company is also part of the BIA. The larger the organization, the more challenging it will be to develop a successful business continuity and disaster recovery plan. Sometimes organizational restructuring and business process or workflow realignment is necessary not only to create a business continuity/disaster recovery plan, but also to maximize and drive operational efficiency.

Ready.gov/business has a BIA worksheet available (PDF) to help you document and calculate the operational and financial impact of a potential disaster by matching the timing and duration of an interruption with the loss of sales/income, as well as on a per department, service and process basis.

Recovery Strategies
Analyzing your company’s most valuable data, that is data that directly leads to revenue, is key when determining what you need to backup and restore as part of your information technology (IT) disaster recovery plan.

Create an inventory of documents, databases and systems that are used on a day-to-day basis to generate revenue, and then quantify and match income with those processes as part of your recovery strategy/business impact analysis.

Aside from IT, a recovery strategy also involves personnel, equipment, facilities, a communication strategy and more in order to effectively recover and restore business operations.

Plan Development
Using information derived from the business impact analysis in conjunction with the recovery strategies, establish a plan framework. Documenting an IT disaster recovery plan is part of this stage.

As can be seen from the multiple steps within business continuity planning, disaster recovery is a subset within a larger overarching plan to keep a business running. It involves restoring and recovering IT infrastructure, including servers, networks, devices, data and connectivity.

A data backup plan involves choosing the right hardware and software backup procedures for your company, scheduling and implementing backups as well as checking/testing for accuracy.

Testing & Exercises
Develop a testing process to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of your plans, as well as how often to conduct tests. Part of this step involves establishing a training program and conducting training for your company/business continuity team.

Testing allows you to clearly define roles and responsibilities and improve communication within the team, as well as identify any weaknesses in the plans that require attention. This allows you to allocate resources as needed to fill the gaps and build up a stronger, more resilient plan.

DISASTER RECOVERY

As an integral part of business continuity plan development, creating an IT disaster recovery plan is essential to keep businesses running as they increasingly rely on IT infrastructure (networks, servers, systems, databases, devices, connectivity, power, etc.) to collect, process and store mission-critical data.

A disaster recovery plan is designed to restore IT operations at an alternate site after a major system disruption with long-term effects. After successfully transferring systems, the goal is to restore, recover, test affected systems and put them back in operation.

Your IT infrastructure is, in most cases, the lifeblood of your organization. When websites are down or patient data is unavailable due to hacking, natural disasters, hardware failure or human error, businesses cannot survive. More info

According to FEMA, a recovery strategy should be developed for each component:

Physical environment in which data/servers are stored – data centers equipped with climate control, fire suppression systems, alarm systems, authorization and access security, etc.

Hardware – Networks, servers, devices and peripherals.

Connectivity – Fiber, cable, wireless, etc.

Software applications – Email, data exchange, project management, electronic healthcare record systems, etc.

Data and restoration
Identify the critical software applications and data, as well as the hardware required to run them. Additionally, determining your company’s custom recovery point and time objectives can prepare you for recovery success by creating guidelines around when data must be recovered.

RECOVERY POINT AND TIME OBJECTIVES

Recovery Point Objective (RPO)
A recovery point objective (RPO) specifies a point in time that data must be recovered and backed up in order for business operations to resume. The RPO determines the minimum frequency at which interval backups need to occur, from every hour to every 5 minutes.

Recovery Time Objective (RTO)
The recovery time objective (RTO) refers to the maximum length of time a system (or computer, network or application) can be down after a failure or disaster before the company is negatively impacted by the downtime. Determining the amount of lost revenue per amount of lost time can help determine which applications and systems are critical to business sustainability.

For example, if your email server was down for only an hour, yet a large portion of your database was wiped out and you lost 12 hours’ worth of email, how would that impact your business?

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