Hot Dogs, Fireworks and Hurricanes

Carl Weinschenk

Summer is here, and it's time to go to the beach, fire up the barbecue and worry about hurricanes.


This year is a bit different, since a well-aimed hurricane-we've already had a near-miss-could further extend the slow-motion train wreck in the Gulf of Mexico.


Business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) are linked and recurring topics-old chestnuts to a reporter/blogger-but a subject that perhaps is worthy of special attention at this time of year. By definition, disasters are unpredictable. We can get a pretty good idea on when some will hit, however: There is a danger of ice storms and blizzards in the north in the winter, for instance. But they don't happen every year. The closest to predictable disasters are hurricanes (and perhaps tornados), which hit virtually every year in a relatively small geographic area.


The oil spill makes this a special case this year. The bottom line is that an unforeseen event-albeit one that BP apparently was inviting by its actions-is substantially disrupting the way the company does business. Of course, the dislocation would be more extreme if an ongoing crisis were occurring at a major company facility. In this case, however, the impact on the day-to-day activities of BP employees not directly engaged in fighting the spill probably isn't great. But it is food for thought: Unforeseen events can significantly disrupt the way a company operates.


In a more general sense, the spill is a reminder that things can get out of hand quickly -- and can't always be easily fixed. (Perhaps it can be said that a gallon of prevention is worth a barrel of cure.)


The oil spill aside, it is important that organizations review their disaster recovery and business continuity plans regularly. Companies that don't have such plans are flirting with disaster.

Hurricane season lasts into the autumn. There are a tremendous number of helpful links at Continuity Central. The page-which features news, regional forecasts, links to organizations and companies and other types of information, will be updated throughout the season. It should be bookmarked.

This feature at Insight in the UK
first describes some of the ways to not go about creating a DR/BC plan. The real value of the story is making the point that there are steps that can be taken that will aid in a crisis-but also will enable the organization to navigate non-crisis situations that pose serious problems nonetheless. Technologies such as virtualization can help mitigate the impact of personnel shortages, transportation glitches such as a rail strike, human error in the IT department and other more mundane events. The point is that taking some basic steps can help with these issues-and be in place for the unexpected mega-emergencies.

This case for a disaster recovery plan is rather persuasively presented at the start of a feature in Tech Journal South:

A University of Texas study revealed that half of the companies that lose their data through disaster never re-open, and of those who do re-open, 90 percent will be forced out of business within two years.

The writer proceeds to discuss replication strategies, efficient use of the data center and the sometimes overlooked value of the work force. CIO Innovation Asia adds that it is important to formalize the plan, carefully select alternative space, be green and be flexible.

Disaster recovery and business continuity is a fascinating topic. SMB blogger Paul Mah also just wrote about it. It is important to plan-but at the same time impossible to do so simply because an organization generally doesn't know what will hit them, and when. Some basics can be covered, however, and it is vital that organizations do so.

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