Maybe 'Celebrate' Is Wrong Word, but Companies Must Consider Business Continuity

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Seven Recommendations to Improve IT Network Resilience

Improve your business continuity/disaster planning readiness with these recommendations

According to the Business Continuity Institute, this week is "Business Continuity Awareness Week." As a PR pitch I received about it noted, celebrating business continuity awareness is a little like celebrating keeping the lights on: You don't appreciate the value of electricity or a computing network until you lose it. Having lived through two weeklong power outages last year (one due to wind and another to ice), I can vouch for this.


So sadly, can the people of Japan, who are dealing with a huge disaster the likes of which most of us will probably never see in our lifetimes. Disasters definitely get companies thinking about business continuity, as IT Business Edge's Carl Weinschenk wrote last week.


Carl earlier wrote that the concept of business continuity is undergoing significant changes triggered by the end of the recession, the emergence of cloud computing and the explosion of data. He cited some survey findings from Back Up My Info!, which found, among other things, that 52 percent of companies do not regularly check their business continuity/disaster recovery preparedness. After interviewing some experts, Carl concluded that many IT organizations may neglect this important area because they are overwhelmed by an explosion of data.


A survey by CDW uncovered some similar uncertainties. While 82 percent of survey respondents felt confident their IT resources could sustain disruptions and support operations effectively, 97 percent admitted network disruptions had detrimental effects on their businesses in the last year.


The three most common causes of business disruptions over the past year were power loss, which caused a third of the incidents; hardware failures, which caused 29 percent of network outages; and a loss of telecom services to facilities (21 percent).


The survey contained some good news. It found many businesses are improving DR capabilities by updating their BC/DR plans (34 percent), extending BC/DR coverage to accommodate disruptions of 72 hours or more (23 percent) or updating plans for proactive measures ahead of forecasted interruptions or threats (22 percent).


CDW offers seven key BC/DR recommendations:

  • Conduct a business impact assessment: Work with leaders of each functional area to understand the prospective cost and repercussions of losing each category of data and application, and set priorities based on importance to operations.
  • Take steps to protect mission-critical data: Back up frequently, and consider upgrading to systems that reduce backup cycle times and reduce risk of loss.
  • Review power options: Add uninterruptible power supplies for critical servers, network connections and select computers, to keep essential functions running.
  • Create and document a disaster preparedness plan: Document configuration diagrams of hardware, software and network components to be used in recovery, including logistical details, travel requirements and activation/spending authority.
  • Leverage mobility: Identify all positions critical to continuity of operations and ensure they are trained and equipped to telework, even if they do not telework on a regular basis.
  • Consider telecommunications alternatives: The plan should include redundant connections, to cover against spot outages, and alternatives (wireless or satellite phones, wireless data cards) for use during larger telecom outages. Secure adequate network bandwidth to support any increase in remote access during emergencies
  • Test the plans: Activate complete business continuity plans at least once every 12 months to ensure that personnel and network systems are prepared. Capture results and update plans based on identified challenges. Conduct power outage tests more than once a year to ensure equipment is adequate and always ready.