Anyone who has actually managed a business' recovery from a disaster knows that the most critical factor when it comes to business and operation continuity is having a plan in place before the disaster strikes. In an emergency, the most wasteful use of workers' time (and sometimes their safety), is in setting up makeshift IT triage—that is, on-the-fly access to data and applications after a disaster. Disaster preparedness means having, at the very least, the data and apps that are required to keep day-to-day operations already running in a remote location and ready to access. In short, IT contingency in wake of emergencies should be as seamless, as compliant with corporate security policies, and as easy for end-users to access as possible.
Easier Than Ever Such disaster preparedness is easier than ever for companies to deploy because of changing trends in technology. Almost three-quarters of the largest segment of business and the economy, SMBs, currently do not have an emergency contingency plan. Disaster preparedness can be implemented for lower costs than ever, thanks to technologies such as cloud computing and virtualization. Although no one can predict when, where, or what kind of disaster will strike, a good first step in disaster preparedness is in knowing what types of disasters an area is more subject to experience.
The problem, of course, is that IT may not be familiar enough with the inner workings of other departments in a business to know what's required in the time of disasters.
3 Steps For Disaster Preparedness Pre-Planning Pre-planning is a must before even documenting a disaster preparedness policy. Thinking about the disasters most likely to affect the immediate area (but also recognizing the need to plan for unexpected catastrophes). Scheduling inter-department meetings so that business processes outside the scope of IT are accounted for and included in the disaster preparedness plan. The next article in our series, "Outlining a Plan," details and documents how to draft a formal Disaster Preparedness plan, including identifying mission-critical data and systems, assessing the best plan for cost-effective and near seamless business continuity, and getting buy-in from the entire organization.
Business Continuity Planning Process Diagram - Text VersionWhen business is disrupted, it can cost money. Once all worksheets are completed, the worksheets can be tabulated to summarize:the operational and financial impacts resulting from the loss of individual business functions and processthe point in time when loss of a function or process would result in the identified business impactsThose functions or processes with the highest potential operational and financial impacts become priorities for restoration.
Completed worksheets are used to determine the resource requirements for recovery strategies.Following an incident that disrupts business operations, resources will be needed to carry out recovery strategies and to restore normal business operations. Recovery strategies are alternate means to restore business operations to a minimum acceptable level following a business disruption and are prioritized by the recovery time objectives (RTO) developed during the business impact analysis.Recovery strategies require resources including people, facilities, equipment, materials and information technology. Staff with in-depth knowledge of business functions and processes are in the best position to determine what will work. Equipping converted space with furnishings, equipment, power, connectivity and other resources would be required to meet the needs of workers.Partnership or reciprocal agreements can be arranged with other businesses or organizations that can support each other in the event of a disaster. Periodic review of the agreement is needed to determine if there is a change in the ability of each party to support the other.There are many vendors that support business continuity and information technology recovery strategies. External suppliers can provide a full business environment including office space and live data centers ready to be occupied. Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan for small businesses need effectual strategies to deal with and to recover from disrupting occurrences. It is apparent that disasters such as earthquake, floods, hurricanes and several other disasters inflict thousands of businesses to suffer heavy losses and many of them even get locked.
To view our complete multimedia package, visit our disaster recovery and business continuity supercast.

When Chris Formes became IT manager at Brookfield Homes, the $888 million public company didn't have a DR plan, so he hired a contractor to perform a threat assessment and design a recovery strategy.
At the House of LaRose, Brinegar went to management after the New Year's Eve outage and campaigned for a DR plan. Once the plan is in place, one of the most crucial decisions is whether IT has the expertise and resources to implement the project or if outside help is needed. Disaster recovery (without proper preparedness) may mean IT scrambling to find a place to set up a replacement server, take a copy of the data and applications from the damaged server, and then restore that data and re-install mission-critical apps to give end-users the alternative access they need to continue key operations. IT employees, who would setup these temporary disaster recovery fixes, may not be available or present to implement them, so redundancies need to be built in, and plans clearly documented, so that whoever needs to step in can do so. Cloud computing, virtualization, and the continuing increase of always-connected and relatively powerful mobile devices in the hands of end-users are all key ingredients in deploying a strong and effective disaster preparedness solution. In a recent survey conducted by Symantec of IT decision-makers in small- to-mid-sized businesses, only 26 percent have a disaster preparedness plan in place. At the highest level of failover continuity, the plan would have required a $200,000 hardware investment and $90,000 the first year in service costs. CIOs should make a case for DR investment so that the business owners can go after the funding. Forrester reports that most of the enterprises surveyed found that implementing a DR plan required more work than expected. If these companies needed a greater sense of urgency to get a disaster preparedness plan going, they only have to look at a study by the Insurance Information Institute, which found that 40 percent of small businesses never reopen after a disaster.
Businesses can do much to prepare for the impact of natural disasters including floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. Effective DR requires full testing once a year and after any changes have been made that affect the plan. In this first of four articles on disaster preparedness, we tell you how to start thinking about disaster preparedness and how to gather the information you will need to create an effective, efficient plan for recovering from whatever fate throws at you. Another excellent resource for library managers who are preparing for the worst is Disaster Planning, a How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians (Halsted, Jasper & Little 2005). This work contains a detailed step-by-step guide for creating a disaster preparation strategy, including a section on writing a disaster plan. Like the M25 Consortium of Academic Libraries website, it offers a customizable disaster plan template as well as a Disaster Mitigation Web Site Kit which allows managers to build an online version of the disaster plan (allowing for offsite access and easy revision and propagation) (Halsted, Jasper & Little, p.xx). While disaster recovery will always involve some on-fly decision making and adapting to realities on the ground, both of these can be made orders of magnitude easier by having contingency plans and systems already in place, and staff who are already trained how to implement them.
Often, such implementations in the wake of an emergency, are not properly configured, may be insecure, and may not meet required corporate compliances, such as HIPAA.
While economic woes could play a part in that lack of preparedness, the numbers convey that disaster preparedness is simply not at the forefront of many of these companies' priorities or budget allocation.
However, making the jump to a working disaster rebound strategy requires considerable planning.
Therefore, recovery strategies for information technology should be developed so technology can be restored in time to meet the needs of the business. The Business Continuity Resource Requirements worksheet should be completed by business function and process managers. Meetings with individual managers should be held to clarify information and obtain missing information.After all worksheets have been completed and validated, the priorities for restoration of business processes should be identified.

As an owner of a small business, it becomes unavoidable to protect critical units of your organization, including your IT server room, power utilities, and highly expensive and heavy equipments including employees and customers from injury within your business premises in an event of disaster. While DR planning may be more challenging for resource-strapped midmarket businesses than large enterprises, there still are basic ways to ensure a timely recovery and maximal continuity. At LifeGift, updating the DR plan as technology changes is easy; the company was pleased enough with CompuCom that it outsourced all of its IT to the firm. Periodic reviews are necessary to make sure changes to the IT infrastructure don't make plans moot.
Determine which natural disasters are more likely to impede business but don't neglect incidents that can happen anywhere or can be man-made such as a fire.
Team members should be encouraged to focus on specific areas pertinent to their designated roles and to become resident experts in these domains, perhaps authoring individual sections of the official disaster plan.
A required step in pre-planning a disaster preparedness strategy is meeting with all representatives of every department in an organization and finding out which key functions, information, and systems must be available in an emergency. The worksheet should be completed by business function and process managers with sufficient knowledge of the business. This information will be used to develop recovery strategies.Recovery StrategiesIf a facility is damaged, production machinery breaks down, a supplier fails to deliver or information technology is disrupted, business is impacted and the financial losses can begin to grow.
The first step is to conduct a detailed review of the vulnerabilities that IT and the overall business face by performing a business impact analysis (BIA). Testing carries some risk, requiring scheduled downtime and potential business consequences. Management realized it needed a better plan and contracted with CompuCom, a Dallas-based IT services firm, to take over DR planning. Gartner analyst Donna Scott says a BIA needs to be a joint project between business and IT.
Meetings should be regularly held until all decision makers and departments have identified the most critical businesses systems and processes that could have devastating effects on the organization if they go down. Midmarket CIOs are as likely as not to have overlooked drawing up a business continuity plan.
Publicly traded companies face Sarbanes-Oxley Act mandates for data retention, while private companies in industries as different as the wine business and finance must meet government regulations for record-keeping and service continuity. Almost half of midmarket firms have poor disaster recovery plans, according to one estimate. Then the motherboard on the company's Novell NetWare system burned out, triggering a cascade of server failures that brought business to a halt.
A BIA is focused on assessing the criticality of business processes and the applications used within them, as well as the impact when the applications and infrastructure are not available for varying periods of time. When Hurricane Rita was headed for Houston a couple of years ago, the LifeGift Organ Donation Center implemented its DR plan: The IT staff loaded equipment on a truck and drove it to Dallas. The BIA ranked LifeGift's most critical business processes as organ tracking and patient communication, establishing a 15-minute RTO for those apps, while accounting was given a 24-hour failover period.

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