Having a disaster recovery plan is like an insurance policy for your business, helping you get back on your feet as quickly and cost effectively as possible. Whether natural or man-made, disasters of any magnitude can strike at any time. Severe weather, technological viruses and crashes, as well as fire, and flood can all strike occur without warning. While it may seem like a hassle up front, a good disaster recovery plan can save your business should you need to call up on it.
A great example of this is the recent BP oil spill. Had they had a plan in place they may have been able to recover much quicker, saving not only themselves large quantities of money, but the surrounding industries as well. With damages estimated in the tens of billions, not to mention the PR nightmare they’re now facing – we’re sure BP wishes they had thought ahead.
The First Steps
First, make sure top-level executives within your company are on board and involved in the process. Their support is vital to the creation of a good plan. Step two is the creation phase. This is a slow methodical process and requires that each department be broken down into its smallest units, separating the function of each and analyzing it for its importance to your business. If this sounds like something that might be too much for you to handle internally, fear not. Many companies choose to outsource this task to an expert who has the experience and perspective necessary to come up with a comprehensive plan for your company. If you choose to do it in house however, the first thing you’ll need is a Business Impact Analysis (BIA). A BIA collects all of the information relating to your business and ranks it in order of importance. Then each function should be assigned a process of continuity.
Next, you will want to design an emergency procedure. This should include contact information for all employees, vendors, and partners as well as a comprehensive list of all equipment for all departments. These lists should be kept up to date and reviewed often.
- Designate and prepare an alternate location that can be used as an alternate workspace should you need it.
- Set up all data back-up and recovery processes. These should be kept on hard disks and stored off-site or uploaded to a 3rd party server. All data should be backed up regularly. The frequency depends on your business – some choose to do this in real time, some weekly, and others monthly.
- Provisions should be added (if not included already) to the Service Level Agreements (SLC) with your suppliers, vendors, and other businesses you engage with. This reduces liability risk if you fail to deliver due to a crisis.
- Hold regular ‘disaster drills’ to check the viability of your plan and backup systems. It is crucial that you do this prior to experiencing a disaster. So many companies (roughly 76%) never test their systems. The very damaging downside to this is that when and if it comes time to use it, they find that their plan is inadequate and/or incomplete, resulting in huge financial losses and downtime.
Adapted from How Disaster Recovery Plans Work, Dave Roos posted here.