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Disaster Recovery for Electronic Data

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Have you included your computer files in disaster planning?

To recover from any type of disaster, the best prescription is often done on the front end—with proper planning. But when it comes to disasters such as major earthquakes or hurricanes, there is only so much you can do to prevent damage. On the other hand, when it comes to your electronic data, there are many concrete steps you can take to safeguard your data. Unfortunately, many businesses do not take these steps in order to back up their data.

Before you begin to plan, you need to establish what types of data you possess and where it is:

  • Talk to IT and other departments to sort through all of the data that you possess. For some businesses, the data can be strewn all over the place. Sales contact information might be kept on a manager’s thumb drive while product specs are simply on an engineer’s local hard drive. Work out what you have and then give each subset of data a priority number.
  • Once the data is identified, appoint some staff members to be in charge of monitoring and caring for the data.
  • A next step is to review your current capabilities. Do you have any type of backup system for files, intellectual property or email?

Creating a sound disaster recovery plan is the next crucial step:

  • Think about the various likely types of disaster in your area and how they relate to your technical infrastructure. If you have an on-premises data center, make sure it has backup power and other safeguards.
  • Your data recovery plan should be flexible to account for changes in your business as well as new technologies. If you merge with another company or open a new division, would your IT staff be able to quickly integrate new data?
  • Replacement of hardware is an important part of your plan. Talk with your IT staff about the likely usable life of servers and computers and put them on a schedule for replacement in order to prevent failures.
  • Practice makes perfect!  Find ways to simulate the loss of data to properly test both your IT staff and any third-party vendors.

Over the course of business, it’s very likely you have heard about companies and services moving their disaster recovery needs “to the cloud:”

  • Cloud computing simply means that data and services are stored and powered by off-site servers, so companies don’t need on-premises equipment. It can cut down on costs and is able to provide storage on the fly.
  • Backing up your data to a cloud platform allows it to be securely accessed even if your company’s physical location is destroyed.
  • Do some research and pick a cloud provider that has its own backup data center. If they only have one, and it goes down, then your protection is limited!
  • Another option is to hire a company to pickup backup tapes on a regular basis and transport them offsite. But this method is outdated. Companies need information immediately following disasters. Unfortunately, retrieving data from backup tapes can take days.

With disaster recovery planning, it’s important to consider your data. As more and more companies become internet-based, their data and intellectual property is often many times more valuable than their physical assets.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Getting Back to Business After a Disaster

Monday, June 13th, 2011
Corp people at a desk looking over blueprints

You can get back to work following any disaster.

Your business has planned for any disaster. Fire extinguishers are frequently checked and positioned in the right area. You have a well thought out evacuation route with primary and secondary meeting places. But does your business have a plan for getting back to work after a disaster?

According to the Insurance Information Institute, up to 40 percent of businesses adversely affected by natural or man-made disasters fail to reopen. To be a part of the other 60 percent requires prior planning and a sound disaster recovery and business continuity plan.

Before you begin a disaster recovery plan, you need to take these steps:

  • Form an internal team comprised of individuals from several departments who possess deep knowledge about the business. (Include employees from several levels. You wouldn’t want only upper management involved.)
  • Build a list of critical processes and services that must be up and running after a disaster. Plans that have specific and tested tasks are critical. For example: “Product ordering available within 24 hours of the disaster.”
  • Review your rental agreement for specific terms regarding the landlord’s responsibilities. If your building burns down because of the actions of another tenant, what is your recourse?
  • Consider hiring an auditor to review your procedures. These professionals can determine if your plan is unrealistically optimistic or if it includes any logistical holes.

Key disaster recovery plan components to get your business back to work:

  • Establish procedures to let all employees know that a disaster has occurred. Ensure personal email addresses and cell phone numbers are available and frequently updated for key disaster implementation personnel.
  • Review the disaster to determine if the delay in business functions will be temporary or could last weeks. (The detailed disaster plan should have specific tasks based on the duration of the disaster.)
  • Store insurance documents and other critical documents both as scanned images on an off-site server and in hard copies stowed in a safety-deposit box.
  • Select alternative warehouse or inventory locations in case primary locations are damaged in a disaster.
  • Find alternative locations for business operations. Determine, in the planning stages, which employees need to be congregated together and which ones can work remotely.
  • Consider options for manufacturing products if your facility is damaged. Can you lease space from another facility that is under-capacity?
  • If your company produces non-perishable items that aren’t custom built, then you should calculate how many days or weeks you can fulfill orders using current inventory. If the disaster will put you out of commission for a month but you can only fulfill 10 days of orders, then you have a problem!

For many businesses, essential business functions can go on even if the organization’s facilities are determined to be unsafe. With cloud computing storing virtual data, real-time chat and other tools, many employees will be able to work from home or gathered together in small groups at remote locations.

Tips for protecting your company data and enabling seamless work productivity after a disaster:

  • Task the IT department with finding the best solution for off-site data backup. New advancements in cloud computing allow redundant systems to be set up quickly and inexpensively. Older tape-backup systems can be cumbersome to retrieve or lost in transport–putting your company’s data at risk.
  • Consider backing up entire applications and processes, not just data. Nearly every professional function can now be performed virtually.
  • Give employees the option to check email from home. Even if “working from home” is not currently part of corporate culture, providing access in advance may help your company in the long run, as employees with ready access to key documents and applications will be well prepared to work immediately following any natural or manmade disaster.
  • Protect your intellectual property. If you run a manufacturing company, you might use a proprietary process to make your product. Make sure this information is stored offsite and is not simply located in on-site computers or assembly machines.

For businesses, failure to plan concrete steps necessary for recovering after disasters can result in complete business failure. Creating a disaster recovery and business continuity plan is a worthwhile exercise to encourage your company to consider and manage worst-case scenarios.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.