Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Planning ~ Success Path

14 08 2012

As the name implies, disaster recovery planning means a process of developing procedures to recover from disaster, and bring back the life of productive assets, businesses, properties, systems, people, and the list goes on and on. People believe it to be a fact that if one does not benefit from it and of no value; one does not care too much about the matter. The issue does not have to be that way. The next neighbor may get hit with fire, and that may affect the near domain. There are so many things to consider concerning disaster recovery planning.  Many businesses have gone for so many years without looking back or take a step back and review and analyze the dynamic existing business process about what may happen. It only takes a second for a disaster to strike. On the other hand, there are companies with solid disaster recovery plan in place, but yet not effective. There are flaws and limitation, and organization needs to do something to get on the success path. Below are some of the challenges and the key steps to get on the right path to success.

Challenges

  1. Inadequate planning: One issue in disaster recovery planning is the inability to provide a thorough and comprehensive planning. Any company that fails to plan accordingly is planning to fail. Response team must develop comprehensive actions that take place before, during, and after a disruptive event. “A variety of concerns have prompted IT organizations to create a disaster recovery plan, with 69% citing natural disasters, 57% naming virus attacks and 31% specifying war and /or terrorism” [2].  This quote specifies that there are many risks that an organization faces when it fails to plan adequately for disasters. Disaster strikes often and probability of getting stroke by the disaster as a well prepared organization is the same as people not prepared well enough. The only difference is that if an organization has a thorough planning in place, and well executed, the recovery will not be as bad as the organization with no plan or fail to have a proper planning in place.  Many factors have to be taken into consideration. Every day events fill with incidents. Disaster may occur from having tumultuous weather, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, unrest civil war, political turmoil and or even natural disaster like floods. These create awareness within a dynamic technical environment, and the society as a whole. Organization needs to analyze these factors in relation to the business operational commitments.
  2. Lack of effective communication: Is not a smart idea to wait until the last minute when disaster occurs to define the roles and plan for communication. The earlier the better. In general, communication plays an integral part in business operation, either in engineering, information technology, logistics, medical, laws, or military defense operation. In business world, organizations that have a good communication plan in place are known to be more successful than other counterpart that lacks good communication plan. Snedaker (2007) stated, “Poor handling of the crisis communication piece results in an exacerbation of the existing problems and leads to further decline in sales and customer confidence” (p. 101) [3]. Based on the quote above, not knowing how to properly handle communication crisis within an organization can result in a disaster that may not be controlled in a short period.  This is why training and practices of any operational measure are essential part of business and how organization develops. There is a saying that “if you don’t use it you lose it”. The same concept applies to developing communication skills.  This is in relation to military environment in which each unit or command has in place, training plan that consists of general quarter for fire and flooding drill, flight and rescue operation drill, and other pertinent drilling scenarios. The members practice and practice, and practice until all members of the team are capable of performing assigned roles.  The reason for this is that the unit can get tasked to forward deploy to dessert at any time, and communication is the key to survive as it indicates attention to detail.
  3. Lack of top management full support: Management support of disaster recovery and business continuity planning is crucial. Unfortunately, not many organizations view disaster recovery as an operational subject. In a situation like this, disaster recovery team finds it hard to fully execute the plan, as it is not of organizational interest. Funding issue let many organizations down to pursue what may safeguard the business operation. Many top executives do not develop interest in disaster recovery and business continuity planning until the first disaster strikes and almost nothing left to continue the business operation. “So getting buy in at the top requires a Business Continuity professional to have better understanding of the concerns of Top Management and an ability to communicate any risk concerns in a language they are familiar with” [1].  In some cases, disaster recovery team will needs to convince top management in a very simple presentation along with justification that further explain the benefits and how to move forward in business and recover from disaster. Again, and unfortunately, that is just how things work with some folks in the business world.

Key Steps

  1. Gathering recovery planning team:  One of the key steps of disaster recovery and the first key step perhaps is identifying the members of the planning team.  This may go from security team, assessment team, and all the way down to damage control team. It is imperative that the members of the team work together and communicate effectively to achieve a common goal. Every member should learn each other’s role when assigning roles within a team. That way if a member is unavailable, other backup members can fill in that position and carry on the mission. As soon as the teams are set-up, the team management should start scheduling date and time on when to meet for activities, drill, rehearsals, and the likes. At this point the team should make sure the top management get involve, and have at least one executive take a role in team management. This will help process concerning funding for team training on disaster recovery planning. Main focus is to carry everyone along because safety is all hands.
  2. Evaluating the risk within and outside the organization: Risk assessment is one of the key steps that go toward disaster recovery and business continuity planning. Analyzing these risks will give the management typical ideas of what to look for before, during, and after disaster. Management should review everything from rules and regulations, laws, governing bodies, business processes, incident response procedures, safety guidelines to previous disasters. In addition to this, all IT infrastructures should be examined to determine the status of the business operation in relation to the outside parties. Management should engage with outside entities and establish effective communication.
  3.  Establishing guidelines and policies: There is a saying that “a town with no laws in place there is no sin”. Management must have some sort of control measures that all employees adhered to and follow diligently. These guidelines and policies must be thoroughly analyzed and reviewed from time to time to ensure up-to-date information. Management should develop guidelines and policies in a way that everyone can understand, as the purpose is to reach a common goal.
  4. Disaster recovery documentation: This is another important key step in disaster recovery planning. With the guideline and policies in place, management must set-up a define way of documenting all the key steps in DR/BCP planning. The team must document every step properly with details of each incident. In addition to this, organization must identify a team to manage, monitor, and maintain the documentation.
  5. Incorporating DR/BCP testing and ongoing training: Disaster recover planning requires testing to ensure functionality that what the organization put in place is functioning well to accommodate the needs. As mentioned earlier, training is crucial to any business operation. Top management capability of handling crisis within a working environment will help as well in the event of a disaster.
  6. Continuous Improvement: This step indicates the maintenance stage of the disaster recovery and business continuity planning. It is crucial to maintain momentum with planning process by making sure the management reassess and reevaluate the planning to meet up with the ongoing technological advancement and working environment. Change is inevitable, and the management should be flexible to integrate any changes that may affect the initial planning requirements.

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[1] Bird, L FBCI (2012) Business continuity – getting buy-in at the top. Retrieved from Disaster Recovery Journal website: http://www.drj.com/business-continuity-getting-buy-in-at-the-top.html

[2] Symantec Corp. (2007). Companies Exposed from Inadequate Disaster Recovery Planning, Testing. Retrieved from Symantec website: http://www.symantec.com/about/news/release/article.jsp?prid=20071016_01

[3] Snedaker, S. (2007). Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery for IT Professional. Burlington, MA: Syngress Publishing Inc.

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