Network disaster recovery is again top of mind as the windy return of hurricane season looms.
Having a solid disaster recovery plan for business continuity can make or break your company. Being prepared for network outages, downtime and the potential for a mass number of remote workers has become an imperative, not an option. But according to Verizon Business, which recently published a list of 10 tips to ensure business continuity in a disaster, there is still a great deal of work to be done. And while the majority of the tips seem to be common sense, Barry Zipp, Verizon Business executive director of managed business applications, said preparedness is still an afterthought for many.
Lack of readiness in the face of a disaster, Zipp said, can cause lost revenue, lower productivity, and damage to brand reputation, all things a company wants to avoid. But in an In-Stat/MDR report from last December, titled "Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Needs to Resonate Among U.S. Business," only about 28% of enterprises said they had fully implemented disaster recovery applications. In addition, 20% either had no plans or were unaware of any plans.
"Many have baseline disaster recovery procedures in place ... but only a minority of companies put in place a well-documented, comprehensive business continuity plan," Zipp said. "And it takes a really long time to put that plan in place. This is not something you can put into place during a crisis."
Jonathan Nguyen-Duy, manager of Verizon Business continuity services, agreed that the process is not simple or quick -- but it is necessary.
"It's about a year-long process," he said, adding that a year covers a plan of limited scope and not a full, comprehensive plan.
One of the hindrances, Zipp said, is that companies struggle to determine where to start and what steps to take when developing and implementing business continuity and disaster recovery plans.
But Verizon this week offered a set of steps that can be taken to ensure a smooth transition into disaster recovery and business continuity mode, Zipp said. And while the network is incredibly important when it comes to planning, many of the tips deal with prepping people within an organization for the worst.
According to Verizon Business, devising and putting in motion a disaster recovery plan require companies to:
- Be proactive and develop a comprehensive plan. Zipp said being proactive and having a plan to address both disaster recovery and continuity of essential business processes is the most important step. He said developing a plan in the midst of a crisis creates more chaos and is a recipe for trouble.
- Assess the risk. Companies should assess both networks and business models to determine risks, along with operational and financial exposures. Coordinated network and continuity planning are essential, Zipp said. Decisions should be based on the principles of risk management. Organizations should identify critical business functions and processes and deploy assets to ensure seamless operations.
- Partner with the best. Companies should choose business partners whose resources are readily available for rapid deployment to assist in recovery and continuity efforts.
- Protect critical networks, systems and applications. IT should inventory all critical network components and applications and assess any vulnerability. From there, it's best to determine the optimal place to locate services to reduce catastrophic outages and ensure rapid recovery response times. Options range from physical relocation of gear to outsourcing.
- Deploy networks engineered for maximum business benefit. Verizon recommends developing and implementing cost-effective networks that meet bandwidth requirements while also guaranteeing ROI.
- Build in redundancy to support critical operations. A combination of diverse network routing and the ability to duplicate mission-critical applications is vital to communications and the continuity of business operations.
- Use network-based services. Nguyen-Duy said network-based services are essential for the rapid restoration of service. Being able to quickly switch service from a disabled location to alternative sites has a positive impact on overall business continuity.
- Maintain user productivity, anytime and anywhere. Applications like report access, alert notification services, and conferencing can speed recovery time and protect employees. Multi-modal communications can ensure that organizations can stay connected.
- Train employees. According to Zipp, a company is only as good as its people. Companies must design an effective distributed work business model and ensure that employees have the training and tools to do their jobs from anywhere during a disaster. Verizon recommends performing skill-set assessments in order to learn the staffing requirements necessary to support continuous operations.
- Continually review, test and refresh. Once the plan is developed, it must be checked and rechecked. A disaster recovery and business continuity plan is a living document that should be routinely updated and tested throughout the year.
"Business continuity is definitely more process than product," Nguyen-Duy said. "The most overlooked factor is time. It takes time to deploy, to learn and get used to using the tools that enable business continuity."