The effects of a hurricane like Sandy should be a reminder to all businesses of the importance of disaster recovery planning. When these storms threaten there is no shortage of images of sandbags and plywood being used to prevent harm to companies' bricks and mortar. However, rarely do we see steps businesses should be taking to protect their information and technology assets from natural disasters. Information and technology assets are essential to the success of most organizations, making appropriate preparations critical.
There are many aspects to comprehensive disaster recovery planning. Below are just a few of the key steps a company should take concerning its information and technology assets:
- Have a clear purpose and avoid internal silos. Companies should be clear about what they are setting out to do and involve the appropriate segments of their organizations. Disasters do not just affect IT departments, they also affect the sales force, human resources, legal, finance, and top management. Leadership from these and other business segments need to be at the table to ensure, among other things, appropriate coordination among the segments and an awareness of all available company resources. Excluding critical segments from the process will make it difficult to carry out the next critical step - assessing the risks.
- Assess risks. Before a company can develop a disaster recovery plan, it must first identify the information and technology assets it needs to protect, their locations, their role to the success of the business, their associated costs and the overall and specific risks that apply to those assets. Different disasters pose different risks and require different safeguards. It also is important to analyze how the businesses' operations would be affected upon the loss of vital components and assets, including identifying what information and technology systems are needed to safely keep the doors open.
- Employee safety. Information and technology assets are critically important, but not at the expense of human life. Employees need to be reminded that their safety comes first.
Develop your plan. Having involved key personnel and assessed the risks, the business is in a position to develop an enterprise-wide disaster recovery plan. Such a plan might include the following specific steps:
- Establish redundancies. If a data center in lower Manhattan is underwater, being able to switch to another in California, Texas or another part of New York State will be essential to business continuity. The same is true for voice and electronic communications systems.
- Regular backups. Frequent and regular backups are critical to ensuring the preservation of important company data, as well as the data it may maintain for others. Companies also have to consider the integrity and accessibility of that data, which easily can be compromised by certain disasters.
- Train employees. No one likes fire drills, but they serve a valuable purpose. Companies should not wait for a disaster in order for employees to learn about the company's disaster recovery program.
- Update plan. As the business changes, grows, and adds locations and new people, the disaster recovery plan also may need to change to address those changes. A regular review of the plan is critical.
So, as you clean up from Sandy, think about whether your disaster recovery plan worked the way you expected. If it did not, make appropriate changes. If you think your company could have benefited from such a plan, there is no time like the present to begin developing one.