Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity plans

Blog / Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity plans

What do you do in the event of a fire in office? Not a small one mind you, a big one. What about a flood? Have you considered an earthquake? What do you do (as a business) when things go horribly, terribly, massively, wrong? You turn to your Disaster Recovery(DR) and/or Business Continuity(BC) plans.

These sorts of contingency plans have long been a staple recommendation for any organization. I mean you can’t guarantee that something won’t go wrong and your primary business location might need to shut it’s doors for a long time. In which case, how do you continue to do business? Well if you try to figure that out on the fly… chances are you’re going to fail. This is why DR/BC plans exist. They’re plans made ahead of time so that in the event something goes horribly wrong, there’s a plan to put it all back together.

There are three crucial elements you should consider as you develop your plans:

  1. Identify important aspects of your business

    It may be necessary that certain departments get up and running faster than others to coordinate things. Make sure you know which departments need what resources to get up and running again as soon as possible.

  2. Identify critical systems that are vital to your organization

    Once you know the most important aspects to carrying on your business, you should also identify the critical systems they’ll need and possibly invest in additional day-to-day protection for those resources.

  3. Identify key individuals

    Certain people/positions will be vital in coordinating the efforts to get things running smoothly again. Knowing who those people are ahead of time makes for a lot less pain and suffering during an actual crisis.

So what sort of things should you plan for?

This is a very good question and a lot of the answer depends on the sort of business you are running and where. That will determine the types of crises that could interrupt your business or take down your offices.

Take natural disasters as a simple example. Earthquakes can easily disrupt your business and may even bring down your building, but Alberta is nowhere near any sort of fault lines; an earthquake big enough to knock out your Alberta offices was probably big enough to destroy a sizable amount of Canada which means you’ve got bigger problems to worry about. And so, we don’t recommend Alberta businesses make an Earthquake DR plan. It’s a waste of time.

Tornados, on the other hand; those are a reasonably frequent across the prairies. Even just high winds can cause damage to structures as well as things like lamp posts, trees, and power poles. It’s not unrealistic to think a tree could fall on your building, or that power/phone and internet lines get torn down. Alberta records approximately ten tornados every year, and even though most of them are puny F0/F1 class (wind speeds less than 170 kph), I’d like to remind you about 1987 when an F4 class tornado with wind speeds between 300 and 400 kph hit the Edmonton area and killed 27 people. Given this perspective, it’s pretty critical that your Alberta business have a DR plan for tornados or extreme weather.

What about fires or floods? Alberta’s pretty flat so spring melts can result in a lot of water going all over the place. It also causes a lot of repeated freezing and thawing which can cause all kinds of wonderful issues as well, so sudden flooding isn’t an impossibility. Alberta also just entered wildfire season. Could that cause problems with your business? A fire, wild or otherwise, could easily burn the whole place down, so that’s something to think about.

The reason to make a disaster recovery and business continuity plans is to identify some realistic worst case scenarios and then come up with similarly realistic plans to recover from them. Along they way you’ll get a much deeper understanding of your organization as a whole since you’ll identify key pieces of infrastructure and personnel. Having a plan also goes a long way towards reducing everyone’s stress during what is going to be a very stressful situation.

This brings up the last point I wanted to make in today’s newsletter. When you make a plan for a disaster it’s easy to identify the things that need to be fixed in order to get your business back up and running. Unfortunately what often gets forgotten are the people. How is this situation going to impact them? Imagine a fire big enough to burn down your primary place of business. It’s all well and good to have a plan to get things back up and running but what sort of impact is that situation going to have on your employees, both those who will be responsible for getting things back up and running and those who don’t have specific roles for the recovery effort. Everyone is going to be stressed and there could be injuries or damage to personal property. When you’re making a plan, don’t overlook the people.

When you build a DR plan it’s also important to assign roles to the proper individuals. It might make sense on paper that a specific position should be responsible for one thing or the other, but in actuality it could be that a different person is far more suitable. That’s why it’s important to review your DR/BC plans from time to time and make sure they’re up-to-date. Even if you don’t have a plan for a specific type of disaster, having a business continuity plan means you’ve at least identified the most important aspects of your organization and are ready to bring them back up if something goes wrong.

As Shakespeare wrote in Henry VI “Wise men ne’er sit and wail their loss, but cheerily seek how to redress their harms.”

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By Kind Courtesy of Your Friendly Neighbourhood Cyber-Man.

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