Building Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plans

In the highly competitive world where businesses are driven and dependant highly upon technology, managing Crises and ensuring that business is not affected in the event of any disaster becomes a very important management objective.

No business can afford to be off the map for a few days and sometimes in businesses like banking and credit card etc, they cannot afford to be offline even for a few minutes for the financial losses will be huge. In case of companies depending highly on technology, the risk of failures and disasters can be very high. Therefore it has become imperative for all Organizations big or small to have some kind of plan to estimate the risk and to manage the risk in the event of any unforeseen event.

Types of Plans

A large Organization would necessarily need to have several plans in place. Each of these plans serve a different objective. However they may be overlapping in several areas.

Disaster Recovery Plan

In the event of any disaster, DR Plan deals with recovery of critical technology, processes and business operations to a pre identified alternate site.

Business Continuity/Contingency Plan

Provides for plan to resume minimum and critical business processes and ensure business operations continue in step down mode at an alternative identified site or at the same site depending upon the nature of disaster.

Crisis Management Plan

Deals with plan to manage the crises including dealing with public agencies, Staff and their families, legal procedures, managing the media, customers as well as facilitating recovery plans besides dealing with Government and other external agencies.

Steps involved in Developing Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity Plans

1st Phase - Strategic Management Decision

Developing and maintaining DR & BC Plans calls for strategic decision and support by the management of the Company. It is the Management that understands the impact or the risk associated with disasters and the consequent loss that the Company would have to suffer in unfortunate circumstances.

Having to mitigate the risk and plan for recovery would involve committing financial as well as human resources and other resources as required specifically for this purpose. Therefore the decision to plan and implement DR & BC Plans lies with the Management and hence it is the Management that would have to initiate such plans.

2nd Phase - Identification and assessment of Risks

The type of risks to the business can be varied including manmade disasters, events or natural calamities like floods and other such disasters. Depending upon the location and the local political, social and general conditions, a business organization might face threats in terms of terrorism, vandalism, robbery, lawlessness and other such local disturbances. There are several of the threats like fire, theft and burglary which can be generally estimated. However several other risks can only be gestimated depending upon one’s specific business process and location.

In terms of IT technology, additional risks of failure of hardware and software due to various reasons can be estimated and anticipated.

The 2nd phase of DR & BC planning involves identifying and assessing the possible impact of disastrous events. Planning at this stage calls for in depth understanding of the business process as well as general experience.

3rd Phase - Develop Recovery Plan & Implement the plan

Once the risks and threats are identified, planning to mitigate the risk and alternatives to manage the crises in the event of an occurrence of disaster would have to be drawn up. Such planning involves identifying alternate sites, resources, drawing up detailed task list of who should do what, when and how to get the disaster recovery up and going. Detailed planning can be worked out like a detailed project plan with all tasks identified and owners earmarked.

Implementation of the plan calls for forming the DR & BC Teams consisting of management as well as functional heads and participants from all operational levels and all functions. After the teams are formed, they are briefed and familiarized with the entire plan as well as trained on individual tasks. Trial runs and mock drills help assess the effectiveness of the plan, identify loopholes for correction and build preparedness in the teams.

4th Phase - Periodic mock drill and check to ensure readiness at all times

Disaster can strike at any point of time without warning. Therefore after the DR & BC plan is implemented, it is important to periodically revisit the plan with mock drills so that the preparedness of the teams is high at all times.

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