Keeping Your Business Running After a Disaster

As the summer approaches, many are getting ready for warmer weather, school letting out and summer vacations. I am getting ready for afternoon thunderstorms, blistering heat, and hurricane season.  As the season approaches, I always take time to look at my company Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan.  You know, that little document that is hidden somewhere on the Operations Executive’s hard drive or buried 3 layers deep on the company SharePoint site. Now is a good time to review or test it before the next big storm is brewing off of the coast. Now would also be a good time to write one if one has never been written for your organization.  In this post, I’m going to give you several questions to ponder while reviewing, testing or writing the Business Continuity section of the plan.

What is Business Continuity?   According to Disaster Recovery Institute International (DRII), Business Continuity is “a holistic management process that identifies threats to an organization and the impacts to the business operations those threats, if realized, might cause, and which provides a framework for building organizational resilience with the capability of an effective response that safeguards the interests of its key stakeholders, reputation, brand and value-creating activities.”  That was a lot of words.  I have a simpler definition.  Business Continuity is the actions taken to keep the business running in the event of a disaster.  If I am a produce seller and a storm comes and blows away all of the oranges from my stand, what actions am I going to take to keep selling oranges? If I am a managed service provider and I lose power at my Network Operations Center (NOC), what actions am I going to take to continue providing services to my clients?

I want you to think in terms of people (employees and clients), processes and assets – in that order.

Let’s start with the people. This is the most important part of the plan.  Without people, the business does not operate.  Below are some questions that I want you to ask yourself about people in the Business Continuity Plan (BCP).

  • Who are the key personnel?
  • Where are the key personnel located in relation to the operations of the company and any potential disaster?
  • How are the personnel going to travel to work?
  • Do the employees need to travel to work?
  • Are there personnel in another location that can cover the business functions for a period of time?
  • Can the personnel temporarily relocate?
  • Who are the clients?
  • Where are the clients located?
  • Are the clients affected by the disaster?

Next are the processes. These are the day to day items that your people perform in order to make the business run to provide goods or services to the clients. This encompasses everything from how payroll is accomplished to how personnel are deployed to a client site. Below are some questions to consider about the business processes in the BCP.

  • What are the key business processes?
  • Can those processes be accomplished at multiple locations?
  • Can those processes be accomplished from remote employees at home?
  • Can those processes be altered or delayed without negatively impacting business?
  • Can those processes be accomplished with fewer employees for a short duration?
  • Who is charge of those processes?
  • Are there alternate decision makers on those processes?

Lastly are the assets to consider. These are things like buildings, inventory, IT, and tools.  They are important items and likely to be directly affected by a disaster.  Below are some questions to ask about these items.

  • Where are buildings located?
  • Is there access to them after the disaster?
  • Has the inventory been affected?
  • Does the inventory need to be replaced?
  • Are the suppliers affected by the same disaster?
  • How is the IT infrastructure affected?
  • Did the server room get destroyed?
  • Are there alternate locations for the IT infrastructure?
  • Are there services available in the cloud?
  • Has the internet service provider been affected?
  • Is there power available?
  • Can generators be easily brought in?
  • How are company vehicles and tools affected?

The whole point of a Business Continuity Plan is to keep the business running in and just after a disaster until the Disaster Recovery Plan can be executed and completed.  This could be a few days or few months depending on the disaster.  I hope these questions help you as you review, test, or write your BCP.

jeremy-niedzwiecki-1A proven leader, Jeremy Niedzwiecki has over 20 years in the IT industry. As the Director of Customer Support at ABS, Jeremy works to ensure that the ABS Customer Support team continuously provides the highest levels of support possible ABS clients.