Business Continuity, Disaster Preparedness and Data Backups

by on November 10th, 2014
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While the points below may not fit any business perfectly they may be used as a framework for preparation should your organization be faced with a disaster. Collect any company information that could best improve your organizations endurance throughout a crisis and compile it into a document. It’s important to mention that while most, if not all, of your employees should have access to this information, caution should be taken with more sensitive information. Weigh the cost vs. reward of cataloging any information that may fall into the wrong hands.

Let us begin.

1. Identify the key threats to your business and establish a set of contingencies that best addresses them all. The key to moving forward while separated from key assets is not to have a separate plan for each scenario, but to create a general plan that is a good fit for any business interruption. While common threats like hurricanes, earthquakes and fire are generally first to come to mind, there are other threats that occur less frequently but can be far more damaging because they are less planned for, such as: power interruptions and blackouts, hazardous materials evacuations, terrorist attacks, industrial sabotage, human error and data corruption to name a few.

2. Create a team and implement the plan. While smaller businesses may be perfectly comfortable with one crisis management contact, larger organizations may require departmental or district team leaders to act as a coordinated Emergency Management Team.

3. List each of your company’s locations and the address information for one or more secondary locations to be used as an alternate workplace in the event of a lack of access.

4. Continuing operations in the face of adversity may come at a cost. In the interest of efficiency, list any products or services of those that you normally provide, which may have their production or fulfillment temporarily postponed in the event of a disaster – products or services which you may deem expendable given the right circumstances.

5. Intellectual Capital, or the knowledge of the workings of the company, can be as important as a physical location. You must ascertain who knows what about your operations and how that knowledge can best be passed along to where it is required. Adapting properly to a workforce shortage can make or break a successful crisis response. Ensure staff have been cross-trained as temporary replacements for other roles in the organization. Based on your minimum staffing requirements, list key personnel and which individual or department is capable of temporarily fulfilling the operations of others.

6. What means are required to bring your products or services to market: telephone, delivery services, internet or a representative? Do you have an alternate method of delivery in place for any level threat – and if so, what?

7. What are the minimum equipment requirements necessary to bring your product to market (i.e., trucks, telephone systems, website systems)? Based on the type of business interruption, can new vehicles or systems be secured and if so, who from and in what period of time? If your delivery method relies on a 3rd party is there another means to acquire the same service and have you discussed a failover to their system?

8. What computer data do you rely upon the most and is it protected? All businesses in our data-rich environment should have a secondary means to generate and access data. When backup servers or systems fail there should be an up-to-date local backup copy as well as an out of state remote backup. Instruct any employees that regularly access or generate data to make a list of all key applications that they affect or utilize on a day-to-day basis.

In the event of a disaster that interrupts a company’s use of its data, traditional data backup companies only offer a data dump. The majority of the files will not work without their corresponding software; a number of databases contained within programs will be unavailable; and continuing business as usual will be impossible without workstations.

In many instances, the purchase of an entirely new set of computer hardware and the painstaking reconstruction of the office computer network will be required to restore normal day-to-day business
operations.

Absorb.com has the unique capacity to virtualize a client’s entire office including all of their servers and software – their files are not only backed up, but accessible and functional. Day-to-day operations can resume within minutes of a disaster rather than weeks or months. To review this revolutionary data backup system, please visit www.absorb.com.

9. Are important physical documents stored in a fireproof crushproof safebox? An up-to-date Document Retention Plan or DRP is critical to business continuity during a crisis. As part of a Document Retention Plan it is crucial to determine which documents, (if not all) should be scanned and added to your companies local and remote data backup sets. Below is a list of documents that may or may not apply to your organization:

EIN#, ER#, IRS Determination Letter, IRS Form 1023, Current and previous Form 990s, Financial Statements, Current and previous audited financial statements, Bylaws, Mission Statement, Board Minutes and upcoming Agendas, Corporate Seal or other Intellectual Property, Blank Checks, Employee Records, Client Records, Vendor Records, Equipment or Location Lease Information, Computer Passwords.

10. The most overlooked and least understood player in our daily manipulation of data is our software. Just as you did in item 8 above, have employees reflect on their daily manipulation of data and make note of all key software applications. Find and store each software installation disk and list both the version that was installed and the current working version. If equipment is replaced and software reinstalled, critical software updates may have to be installed in order to access data properly. Also catalogue any username, password and vendor contact information. If possible inquire with Absorb.com about backing up entire working copies of your software systems.

11. More than likely your company’s online presence and email are managed by a third party. Make sure that the hosting and storage of this online data is located out-of-state to avoid interruption due to geographically localized disasters. Identify whether or not your email is stored at the host or downloaded to local equipment and make arrangements to archive this remotely.

12. Consider strategic alliances with vendors, suppliers and dare we say the competition. Discuss an extension of credit with vendors should funds not be readily available, review alternate means of securing supplies if you or a supplier suffer an interruption in service and lastly if you cannot provide a valuable service to a client, carefully weigh the outcome of them not receiving it at all, verses your providing it through a competitive source.

13. The human factor – Facilities, computer networks and machinery are only as good as the people that operate them and those people have lives and family outside of the relationship with their employer. Bank on having access to key employees during a widespread crisis and you will lose more often than not. What an employer can do is communicate and coordinate with employees to make sure that families are included in disaster preparedness and that employees have the resources necessary to manage both their personal and occupational responsibilities.

List emergency contacts such as:

Insurance Provider Policy Number and other recovery information:

Company Bank Information or Banking contact Name, Authorized Check Signers or individuals authorized to manage transfers of funds:

Primary IT Contact

Employees and next of kin:

Key Clients:

Key Vendors:

The competition:

Additional Notes:


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