What will you do when the lights go out?

The real question is, are you going to have your organisation running around like a headless chicken or do you have a plan in place for when a disaster strikes?

Most small- and medium-sized businesses do not have proper disaster recovery or business continuity plans in place.

A medium-sized business is classified as one that employs up to 200 people. If you have 200 employees working in your business and you do not have a contingency and disaster recovery plan to ensure proper business continuity, you are not fulfilling your fiduciary duties as a director of a business to ensure the wellbeing of your business, its shareholders and all who work in it.

So, how does one go about setting up a disaster recovery plan?

At a high level I suggest you look at the following elements within your business:

Locations: the places that are critical to you.
Staff: the key staff in each location that are responsible in case of a disaster.
Assets: the assets in locations that enable your business to operate. These could be computer systems or your trucks and manufacturing systems.
Suppliers: who are the key suppliers to your business for both consumables and assets?
Service suppliers: who are your suppliers for services such as IT, insurance, building, etc.?
Assets are both of a physical nature such as stock, vehicles and plant, but also of a digital nature such as your accounting data, your payroll information, all the company emails and telecommunications. Without these digital assets your business cannot function in this day and age.

One then needs to look at all the possible types of failure that can occur at a location with specific assets and staff and determine a plan to implement in case this occurs so that your disaster recovery plan covers all possibilities.

For every potential disaster (which could be as simple as your delivery truck breaking down to your entire office complex burning down) you need to be able to activate a response team and resolve the problem. In reality, one is recovering from minor disasters in a business on a daily basis. The really big disasters, however, can be overwhelming and for these one needs a plan.

The key is to make a disaster recovery plan that is appropriate for your business and that you can execute fairly easily.

The disaster recovery plan needs to cover who will be responsible for what at which location to enable business to resume within maximum allowable downtime when a disaster occurs. It really is that simple.

Areas to cover in a disaster recovery plan for a simple office recovery include:

1. Identifying key staff and having all their contact details noted

2. Identifying key suppliers and having all their contact details noted

a. The IT service provider

b. The telephony provider

c. The hardware provider

d. The alternate premises provider

e. The website designer who can change numbers and contact details and put notices on the website

3. Identifying and storing critical documents off-site

a. Articles of incorporation, critical HR documents, building leases, tax returns

4. Noting all details required to restore critical company data from the off-site, online backup service provider

a. Company data on servers

b. Business critical data on individual machines

5. Noting all details of critical software and versions of software, where they are installed and product keys or serial numbers for re-activation

6. Who must do what?

a. Who is going to call the insurance company?

b. Who is calling the alternate location rental company?

c. All of these types of issues must be defined

7. Providing for alternative premises

a. Can some staff telecommute?

b. Can staff work from managers’ houses using ADSL in teams?

c. Do you need to have backup premises on standby?

8. Replacing of any servers

a. Rent or buy, who is going to get these up and running, virtual machines or on-premise servers?

9. Replacing all desktop and laptop machines

10. Replacing of other devices, printers, fax machines

11. Rerouting of telephony services

a. With voiceover IP services it is relatively simple to reroute telephony services to multiple locations and individuals

12. Providing of internet bandwidth

13. Messages on phone lines and notices on websites

14. Communication of the business continuity plan

a. Ensure that all staff are aware that a business continuity plan exists and what each of their roles in it entails.

15. Test the plan

16. Review and revise the plan

a. After testing

b. Once a year

We are currently working on designing disaster recovery systems for small and medium companies that will enable a ‘living’ disaster recovery plan to be built by a business that will enable them to recover their business when faced with a disaster.

Our vision is to create a disaster recovery solution that will cover all aspects of disaster recovery planning and enable a company to declare a disaster, which will alert all responsible personnel.


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