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Seconds Away From Disaster… Without A Continuity Plan? Part III

Photo courtesy ©Wavebreak/Getty Images/Thinkstock
Photo courtesy ©Wavebreak/Getty Images/Thinkstock

Disasters are inevitable and in the case of a disaster, failing to plan may be planning to fail.

Continuity planning is displaced because most people believe disaster will never happen to them. Review part I in our series, Seconds Away From Disaster…Without A Continuity Plan, to uncover the critical first steps to create your continuity plan. In part II we reviewed FEMA recommendations and how to prepare your clients and team. You can review part II here.

Technology Recovery needs to be the central part in any continuity plan as it plays an increasingly important role in business stability. Because technology includes many components, recovery strategies need to be developed so technology can be restored in a timely manner to meet the needs of your clients. Keep your business operating by implementing manual workarounds while technology is being restored.

Include the following guidelines in your continuity plan to prepare for the unexpected:

  • Back Up Data

Critical to the restoration process is the ability to have your data available. Back up and store your data offsite to ensure you have access to vital records. This includes both digital and hard copy records. Many firms have implemented a paperless system through the use of cloud based storage systems. Don’t forget about data that is not stored electronically.

  •  Client Contact

Your physical location may be in ruins and nonoperational. Develop a plan to keep your clients informed throughout the restoration process. Client contact information needs to be available even if every computer is destroyed.

  • Telecommunications

Your telephone system is a very important part before, during and after a disaster. Research the features on your existing system to ensure you have the ability to access your system from a web browser. This will enable you to record important updates to keep your clients and community informed about your restoration progress.

  •  Service Agreements

Determine your obligations by analyzing your service agreements. Review leases and supplier contracts. In the event you need to relocate will your current vendor have the ability to meet your needs? It is important to determine which needs can be met through an existing vendor and to implement plan B to request services of a new vendor when existing vendors cannot fullfil your needs. Best practice tip; ask vendors for a copy of their continuity plan.

Putting Your Plan Into Action – Do I Really Need To Test It? Many firms ask if it is necessary to test a continuity plan. The answer is a big YES!

One of the largest gaps in continuity planning is failure to test your plan. Securing a comprehensive, multi-dimensional and ongoing BCP (Business Continuity Plan) testing program is the only way to achieve the level of confidence you need.

Business continuity plans move from a written document to an actionable plan by incorporating the following steps:

  • Develop testing exercises
  • Thoroughly review your BCP with all employees (you may want to plan for an orientation workshop)
  • Discuss employee readiness to ensure each employee is aware of their individual responsibilities
  • Train team members for individual tasks if needed
  • Conduct testing and document test results
  • Update your BCP to incorporate noted changes from your testing and exercises

While exercises are time and resource consuming, they are the best method for validating your plan.

It is important for your disaster recovery plan to reflect current information. Technology, systems and operations change over time, therefore your BCP needs to be updated on a regular basis.  Your assigned disaster recovery team should audit the BCP quarterly to identify gaps and make required updates. Firm management should be responsible to notify the Disaster Recovery Team of changes to present components in your firm to ensure your written plan is updated accordingly.

Drafting a continuity plan is a slow, methodical process. Use any of the resources we have provided or contact our office for further assistance.

Federal Emergency Management Agency 
Emergency Management Guide for Business and Industry

The American Red Cross
The Small Business Administration 
Open for Business
Emergency Preparedness & Business Continuity’s free download
RiskINFO’s Contingency Planning and Disaster Recovery site
Institute for Business & Home Safety

Question:    Does your firm have a continuity plan? Have you ever had to use it?

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