Friday, October 19, 2001

George Mindling Column 10-19-2001 - Business Disaster Planning

Business Disaster Planning

Not everything has changed since Sept. 11, when terrorists struck a devastating blow against the United States by attacking innocent civilians going about the business of leading their daily lives. The "business of business" continues, although for some enterprises with much less enthusiasm than before the attacks. What had been a hard, often lean piece of a business operating budget has suddenly become a major part of the operating expenses for many firms: planning for disaster.

Those of us in the disaster preparedness business have been involved with many new customers who had never considered the loss of their income due to someone simply opening a letter in their mail room. Unfortunately, the role of disaster preparedness for business has stepped far beyond hurricanes and floods. The loss of a business due to the yellow police tape is now a glaring reminder that the terrorists are striking at the very business core of our way of life.

While many newcomers to the business world consider the requirement for disaster planning "morbid," they soon find that not being able to see the overall operating picture of a cost center or profit center in the whole corporate plan will lead to obstacles that will prevent recovering the business to a level of profitability.

A simple business impact analysis, the first step in any recovery plan. will determine what the loss of any given component of a business means to the survivability of the business as a whole. Personnel plans are as important as relocation of facilities or recovering the computer room. A business recovery plan now considers the Information Technology and Systems functions as an integral part of the overall business recovery plan, not just the only or most important component of the plan. The corporate disaster recovery perception has now grown to accomplish all facets of a business, from inventory replenishment to contacting family members of employees as part of their integrated relocation plan.

At least one firm even has added planning for emergency care for employees' pets. Not being able to relocate a valuable team member because no one could take care of a cat seems like a trivial problem, but it has already happened.

Most major corporations have a "hot site" under contract for their computer services. A "hot site" has computer mainframes and server farms ready to run the customers software as soon as the customer arrives at the hot site with backup programs and data. Now they are actively searching for emergency facilities just for their office people, whether administration, sales or service.

Pretend on Monday morning you can't get in your office or building. Pretend the police or the FBI tell you no one is going inside your business for weeks. Make all of your employees stand in the parking lot for an hour, then tell them not come back to work.

It won't take long to get the idea it could happen to any of us. .

George Mindling © 2001

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