Friday, July 20, 2007


Best Practices

If I had to distill the best practices of an effective DR and BC program, it would boil down to a short list of four concepts. Each concept directs you to pursue a course of action that contributes to a successful Disaster Recovery (DR) & Business Continuity (BC) program.

These four concepts are:
  • Work out a realistic vision of your organization’s survival objectives and develop your plan based on it. The key word is “realistic.” You need to know your organization's objectives are realistic because your plans need management's support.
  • Review and regularly refine your plans. Be proactive. Your DR and BC plans are meant to be living documents. They’re useless if they sit on the shelf. Review the plan internally as well as through the eyes of experts. Unearth shortcomings. Cover the gaps. America’s leaders don’t think it’s a question of “if” but rather a question of “when” before terrorism strikes at our heartland again.
  • Anticipate and adjust to your environment. Continuously. There are “big” changes like new regulations and new technologies and “small” changes like employee turnover and new phone numbers. Big or small, these changes must find their way into your plans.
  • Practice for the real thing. There’s no substitute for going through the exercise. It’s probably not possible to exercise all or even most of the plan but that shouldn’t stop you from doing parts at a time. Seek senior-level sponsorship especially for this next piece. Exercise your plan with as little advance notice as possible. Disasters don’t usually announce themselves—they just happen, don’t they? Practice benefits you an important way. It exposes your plan’s flaws. Most of the time, you’ll find it’s the people that “betrays” you. Their apparent apathy is behind their lack of preparation. This reminds me of a fire drill years ago at our office on the umpteenth floor of a high-rise. Nobody took the drills seriously—even the “old-timers”—until building management hired a retired fire chief to conduct the drill. In gruff tones and with piercing eyes, he told us how quickly the flames would spread and why we would probably not burn to death. The smoke, he growled, would kill us first.

There you have it. Four common sense concepts:
  1. Identify and fill in a realistic vision of your organization’s survival objectives. What are the goals and what will it take to achieve them?
  2. Review and regularly refine your plans. Don’t wait for a disruptive event to update your plan. Be proactive.
  3. Anticipate and adjust to your environment. Ensure senior management is involved. BC and DR are not IT concerns. They’re business concerns. IT just happens to be the one tasked with the program.
  4. Practice for the real thing. Flush out your deficiencies. You can bet there’ll be many. Hire a fire chief and then begin a regular disaster awareness and training program.
Good luck!

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