Disaster Recovery Helpful Hints — Part 2

Our last helpful hint was centered on the importance of including employees in your BC/DR plan. In this post, we want to help you prepare your business so it can survive a disaster, no matter how big or small. Our advice is this: Realistically analyze the risks everyday and natural disasters pose to your business. 

Tip of the Month

Hope for the Best; Prepare for the Worst

In order for a DR plan to be effective in any scenario, it's important to determine the absolute minimum resources required to keep your important processes running and to meet any applicable regulatory requirements.

Make Sure You Have Access to Essential IT Assets

Back up your business-critical information and store it at an alternate site — out of harm’s way, if possible. Many business owners don't expect for their office to be destroyed, but that assumption is ultimately detrimental because critical information could be destroyed along with it. Prepare for a disaster to destroy all your files and information, and store backup copies of everything at an off-site location where you will be able to retrieve it.

Office equipment such as printers, copiers, computers and telephones should also be accounted for in a disaster situation. If your employees are going to work from an alternate site, make sure it is equipped with the technology they would have at their regular office. Without the technology to do their jobs, business could become stagnant, which could lead to extended downtime.

Make Arrangements for Non-IT Assets

Office space is the number one non-IT asset to make sure you have in case of a disaster. Your office may be inaccessible or unsafe to work from, in which case you will need a backup. A Mobile Recovery Center (MRC) can be sent to a location near the business in case of lost power, or it can be miles away from a business, out of danger's path. A Business Recovery Center (BRC) can be a temporary office in case of a disaster. When your office has been destroyed and the city is in ruins, a BRC provides a true office atmosphere for your employees to continue work.

Whatever type of facility you choose to use, make sure you plan how you will power it. If you are going to use a generator, how will you get the generator to the facility? In addition, how will you fuel the generator? These aspects need to be included in a recovery plan so your business can operate quickly after a disaster.

Last but not least, make arrangements for your employees. Just as we discussed in part 1 of this series, it is crucial to create a plan and include employees so they will know what to do before a disaster strikes. Employees keep businesses running, so try to assess and address potential issues while keeping your staff informed.

Obtain Backup Vendors

According to an APQC survey, almost 75 percent of 195 large companies surveyed recently got hit by an unexpected major supply chain disruption in the last 24 months.

Between your employees' safety, your business's safety and your personal safety, things are hectic during a disaster. The last thing you want to worry about is a critical vendor being out of commission. Make sure you are aware ahead of time who your backup vendors are and how to contact them in the event of a disaster. Determine which critical processes require outside parties and assess what their availability will be in the event of a disaster.

Check out our "What to Do When..." blogs for information on how to prepare for specific disasters.

[VIDEO] Lessons Learned From Disaster Recovery Expert Dianne Stephens

In our video "The Importance of Testing" our disaster recovery solutions engineers discuss the whys of testing. But when it comes time to test, what next? Disaster recovery specialist Dianne Stephens, who has worked with us on a Mobile Recovery Center test, discusses her experience in our latest video. Below are some testing best practices we've gleaned from our interview with Dianne.

Determine Business Continuity Concerns to Address During the Test

Every company has unique business continuity concerns, whether it's remaining compliant with federal regulations, maintaining access to supply chains or restoring crucial data.

When Dianne tested with us, her number one priority was making sure her client, a call center, had a functional workspace and voice and data connectivity. By testing in a Mobile Recovery Center equipped with voice and data technology, she was able to ensure that her client's business continuity needs were addressed.

Let the Professionals Field the Tough Questions

During a live test, it's likely that participants will have questions about the disaster recovery plan in general or the solutions specifically.

While your disaster recovery team may be well equipped to answer many of these questions, it's ideal to have a representative on hand who is familiar with your disaster recovery solutions to answer more technical questions.

For example, during the test Dianne conducted with Rentsys, she took full advantage of the Rentsys staff's technical knowledge to make sure that the call center personnel were able to seamlessly take customer calls. As a result, the test was completed successfully, despite a severe storm rolling through the area.

Inform Employees and Customers of Your Business Continuity Plan

Not only is testing essential to the success of your disaster recovery plan, but it also shows your employees and clients that you're proactive about remaining operational in the event of a business disruption.

By involving them in the testing process, you demonstrate to them that they are a valuable component of your business. In addition, allowing your customers and clients to carry out your disaster recovery plan in a testing environment gives them an opportunity to point out ways to improve your plan.

Do you have any other testing best practices to share? Let us know in the comments!

New Report Reveals Small Businesses Especially Vulnerable to Damage by Extreme Weather

According to a recent report by the Small Business Majority (SBM) and the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), small businesses are particularly at risk of damage from extreme weather due to their lack of access to capital and resources.

Small businesses are also at a disadvantage because the majority operate out of a single physical location, and 90 percent of their business is made up of the population within 2 miles from their doors. This causes these businesses to be especially vulnerable to loss and technological or telecommunications failures.

Storm brewing over power line, grassy field
Because of their increased risk, it would seem safe to assume that small businesses would take extra precautions to protect themselves from the dangers of severe weather.

Unfortunately, the report revealed just the opposite, stating that 57 percent of small businesses have no disaster recovery plans whatsoever. Of the 43 percent that have plans in place, 90 percent spend less than one day a month preparing or maintaining them.

Luckily, there are several precautionary steps that your small business can take to help curb the effects of extreme weather and other disastrous situations.

Define What a Disaster Means to Your Business

Often it is the small-scale disasters, rather than regional natural disasters, that will affect your business. An electrical fire, power outage, flooded office or failed hard drive with no backup can force you to send employees home and hang up your closed sign. When incorporating a disaster recovery vendor into your plan, make sure they give you the flexibility to define a disaster and the option to declare some or all of your recovery solutions.

Devise a Plan of Action

It’s important to plan for total destruction, because after a disaster, you and your employees may be unable to access your office building or the critical equipment inside. Because the majority of small businesses operate out of a single location, it’s smart to consider having a mobile workspace delivered that will help keep daily operations up and running. Business owners should also store files at an off-site location to protect vital information from being destroyed. 

Test Your Disaster Recovery Plan

Many small business owners fail to realize that testing their disaster recovery plan is just as imperative as creating the plan. By testing the plan and procedures at least once a year, you can fill in the gaps of the plan and identify additional recovery needs you might not have seen on paper.

For a more detailed checklist of what to include in your business's disaster recovery plan, check out our Business Continuity Plan Checklist.

Disaster Recovery From the Perspectives of Pixar and DreamWorks

Kid with Airplane
A toy cowboy and an overly confident spaceman taught us the value of friendship.

An old man and a boy scout taught us that the adventure never ends.

A dragon taught us that things aren't always as they seem.

A kung fu-loving panda taught us to look inward to find our strength.

All of these lessons came from the creative minds at Pixar Animation Studios and DreamWorks. These companies also have lessons to teach us through their different approaches to disaster recovery.

Pixar's Disaster Recovery Nightmare

In 2012, Pixar experienced a disaster recovery nightmare when its files, containing two months and hundreds of hours of work for “Toy Story 2,” were accidentally deleted.

“The command that had been run was most likely ‘rm -r -f *’, which commands the system to begin removing every file below the current directory,” said Oren Jacob, the associate technical director for “Toy Story 2.” This is commonly used to clear out a subset of unwanted files. Unfortunately, someone on the system had run the command at the root level of the project, and the system was recursively tracking down through the file structure and deleting its way out like a worm eating its way out from the core of an apple."

Backups were available, but unfortunately, they weren't up-to-date. By a stroke of luck, Pixar was able to recover the entire movie. Read the full story here.

Lesson Learned

You should not only regularly backup your data, but confirm through testing that your backup methods are working, because sometimes, technology fails us. 

DreamWorks' Disaster Recovery Dream Come True

DreamWorks is taking proactive planning measures to protect its animated movie files by partnering with the city of Glendale, CA — the state with the second highest number of earthquakes in the U.S. — to build a disaster recovery program called “Back to Business.” The program aims to provide a localized recovery for businesses affected by disasters. (You can learn more about it here.)

Lesson Learned

DreamWorks teaches us that businesses must be proactive in planning for the unexpected, because disasters can strike at any moment. It’s vital to have up-to-date backup files of business-critical data and to have a plan in place in the event of a disaster.

So even though Pixar and DreamWorks have taken different approaches to disaster recovery, they both teach us one thing: it's important to be proactive in finding a solution for backing up and protecting your data. What steps are you taking to protect your data?

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